Brewers looking at infielders, but mum on Reyes

Brewers looking at infielders, but mum on Reyes

Brewers looking at infielders, but mum on Reyes
MILWAUKEE -- Whomever the Brewers acquire to play shortstop in 2012, whether it's free-agent prize Jose Reyes or someone else, club officials are determined to make their choice quietly.

General manager Doug Melvin declined this week to address the growing buzz that his club is a contender, even a leading contender, for Reyes, the 28-year-old former New York Met who won the 2011 National League batting title.

"Stuff gets out there," Melvin said.

He would not say whether any of that "stuff" was substantive. Talking about any player at this point, Melvin argued, would put the Brewers at a competitive disadvantage.

"I don't like to tip my hand on any of this stuff," Melvin said via telephone from Phoenix, where he has been meeting with his pro scouts. "Somebody finds out you have interest in some guy, and somebody in your division steps up and gets him. It's very competitive out there."

Reyes' representatives, headed by agent Peter Greenberg, have told they do not intend to comment about Reyes until he signs with a team.

Melvin did say that the Brewers had already made contact with several free-agent infielders, which cast a very wide net because of the team's current makeup.

That could mean shortstop, where the Brewers have a hole since declining Yuniesky Betancourt's option last month. With no internal candidates to fill that spot, the team will have to make a trade or tap a group of free agents that includes Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, Rafael Furcal, Clint Barmes, Jamey Carroll and Alex Gonzalez.

Melvin has spoken with Betancourt's agent about re-signing the player for less than the $6 million his option called for, and was told Betancourt intends to gauge the market. He has also spoken to agent Barry Meister, who informed Melvin that veteran infielder Craig Counsell, 40 and coming off the least productive season of his fine career, intends to play in 2012. Notably, Meister also represents Barmes, a player the Brewers inquired about before last year's Trade Deadline, when Barmes was with the Astros.

2011 awards takes a glance at each position entering the Hot Stove season.

SP: Plenty of mid-tier arms
RP: Closers flood market
1B: Pujols, Prince elite
2B: Thin but reliable
3B: Aramis the lone big bat
SS: Attention on Reyes
OF: Bargains available
DH: Ortiz the top target
Hot Stove MLBlog
Hot Stove Tracker

But "infielders" could also mean third base, where the Brewers have Casey McGehee coming off a down season and rookie Taylor Green as an unproven quantity. If they explored a free-agent market topped by former Cub Aramis Ramirez, then McGehee would be an option for first base, where the Brewers would have an even bigger hole should Prince Fielder sign elsewhere.

If they focus on shortstop, Reyes is the best and most expensive of the bunch. He reportedly was to meet with the Marlins on Wednesday and, despite some history of leg injuries, has the potential to demand a contract in excess of $15 million per year. That was approximately Fielder's salary in 2010, but it would not be a simple swap because of raises due to in-house players like Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart and Yovani Gallardo, plus arbitration-eligibles that include Shaun Marcum, McGehee and Nyjer Morgan.

Those seven players figure to account for more than $15 million in additional salary over last season.

So would a player like Reyes even fit? Again, Melvin was vague.

"You never know how any of them fit until they tell you what they want," Melvin said. "If they call up and say they have interest in your club, or you call up and say you have interest; until you know [what] the money is, you can't do anything. [Right now] everybody has interest in everybody."

It's been a whirlwind two weeks for Melvin, who was in the Dominican Republic last week for a grand opening of the team's new baseball academy there. He then traveled to Phoenix, where Melvin gathered his senior staff and pro scouts for meetings and Arizona Fall League games.

On Thursday, Melvin is scheduled to meet in Los Angeles with principal owner Mark Attanasio and manager Ron Roenicke for what Melvin termed "strategic planning." It's at this meeting, Melvin said last month, that the Brewers would finalize a plan related to Fielder, another free agent with whom they intend to at least make contact.

Then it's back to Phoenix on Friday, where Melvin will watch one of the Brewers' two first-round Draft picks start for the Peoria Javelinas. Left-hander Jed Bradley is expected to work two or three innings.

By Monday, Melvin will be back in Milwaukee for the start of general managers and owners meetings at the downtown Pfister Hotel.

General managers often lay the groundwork at the GM Meetings for the trades and signings consummated a month later at the baseball Winter Meetings. This year, that gathering is in Dallas from Dec. 5-8.

"Right now, it's a lot of phone calls with agents and catching up with other teams," Melvin said. "There's not a lot of substance to a lot of [the rumors]."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.