So, here's your all-Twitter version of the Brewers' Inbox. Use the form below to send more questions and we'll make this a weekly affair throughout the winter.
Are the Brewers actually making a run at Jose Reyes or is it all just smoke and mirrors? I don't see it happening.
-- @Spancock on Twitter
Initial reaction: I don't see it happening, either. Reyes is too expensive for a team already committed to so many other hitters and interested in locking up some more starting pitchers. He also carries injury concerns. The Brewers are hyper-aware of the risk inherent to megadeals (Carl Crawford, Joe Mauer, etc.). And Reyes does not address what Brewers general manager Doug Melvin called his primary offseason objective: bolstering the fifth and sixth spots in the lineup. The much more likely scenario is that the Brewers sign a name lower on the list of free-agent shortstops and direct resources to other spots in the lineup and the bullpen.
Secondary reaction: How can you rule it out? This is a team that traded for Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke in a two-week span last December, when nobody thought they had enough in the Minor League system to pull off a blockbuster. It's the team that kept Prince Fielder for 2011 when everybody expected Fielder to be traded. It's a team that has shifted to a win-now, spend (relatively) big philosophy over the past five years. And if Melvin and principal owner Mark Attanasio view shortstop as the biggest hole, then who's to say they won't think big again?
Is it a long shot? Maybe. But Melvin has pulled off too many surprises in the past few years to say it won't happen.
What are the Brewers' options at shortstop?
-- Mark O. (@velomark on Twitter)
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Unless you want Edwin Maysonet manning the position, the in-house options are few. Eric Farris played some shortstop last season, but he's a second baseman. Scooter Gennett has played some shortstop, but he's a second baseman, too, and it's moot because he is still some years away from the Majors.
Trading for a shortstop is very difficult. They just aren't available. So that leaves free agency, and there are actually some options out there. Besides Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, Rafael Furcal, Clint Barmes and Alex Gonzalez are all free agents who regularly played shortstop last season. Don't forget Yuniesky Betancourt, either. Yes, he can be maddening at the plate. But he also was somewhat productive (the only National League shortstop with more 2011 RBIs was Troy Tulowitzki), and Melvin has approached Betancourt's agent about returning at a lower price than his $6 million option called for. Melvin was told that Betancourt will gauge the open market first.
If you go for some sort of timeshare at the position, Jamey Carroll was of interest to the Brewers last July -- and he manned shortstop extensively for the Dodgers, although he appears close to a deal with the Twins. Jerry Hairston Jr. was excellent down the stretch for the Brewers in the outfield and at third base, and he can play some shortstop, too.
Is it just me, or is shortstop a much bigger hole to fill than first base?
-- @SecondHandStore on Twitter
Shortstop is a more difficult spot to fill because the options are wide open at first, in terms of moving a player from a different position. Shortstops and catchers are so specialized that they are difficult to find, which makes a star like Tulowitzki so tremendously valuable.
I'd argue the Brewers are in a good position at first base. You won't replace Fielder's production, short of signing Albert Pujols. But Mat Gamel has done nothing but hit in the Minor Leagues, and as Melvin said last month, it may be time to give him a chance to do it in the Majors -- not with a start here and there, but an everyday spot in the lineup. And if the opportunity to acquire a qualify first baseman pops up later this winter, the Brewers could scoop him up at a better price than they would pay now.
Who protects Ryan Braun in the lineup next year?
-- @sujeckis on Twitter
Who protected Fielder in 2011? Fielder was such a good hitter that it didn't matter if they had the ghost of Enrique Cruz batting in the five-hole behind Prince. Braun is a pretty good hitter, too.
If the question is, 'Who bats fourth in place of Fielder?' I'd make Rickie Weeks the early frontrunner, which would mean leaving Corey Hart at leadoff. But there's still way too much offseason ahead of us to start writing lineups.
Do you see the Brewers moving a member of the starting rotation this offseason to fill other holes/free up money?
-- Aaron C. (@ajbchampagne on Twitter)
Yeah, I could see it. The Brewers are one of the rare teams with all five starting-rotation spots spoken for, and they have Wily Peralta with another year of Minor League seasoning under his belt and Marco Estrada back as the swingman. I'd say that puts Melvin & Co. in a good position to at least listen to offers on a pitcher.
I can't believe I just wrote that about a Brewers GM.
Programming note: Visit brewers.com and MLB.com in the coming days for coverage of GM Meetings (Monday and Tuesday) and Owners Meetings (Wednesday and Thursday) from Milwaukee's Pfister Hotel. It should be a busy week.