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Brewers on the hunt for a shortstop

Brewers on the hunt for a shortstop

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Brewers on the hunt for a shortstop
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers general manager Doug Melvin revealed on Monday what created the buzz linking his club to free-agent shortstop Jose Reyes:

"One phone call," Melvin said. "No numbers."

Asked whether there would be more phone calls, or perhaps a face-to-face meeting between Melvin and agent Peter Greenberg during this week's General Managers Meetings in Milwaukee to begin exchanging some numbers, Melvin said that he has not decided.

Chalk it up to Melvin laying the groundwork to fill one of the most noticeable holes on his roster, and the most high profile of what is sure to be a number of connections between Melvin and available shortstops in the coming weeks.

Melvin may have laid more groundwork on Monday, when he had lunch with Paul Kinzer, who represents free-agent shortstop (and Brewers-killer) Rafael Furcal. And Melvin reiterated that he has been in contact with Jaime Torres, the agent for shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, who filled the position in Milwaukee before Melvin declined Betancourt's option last month.

2011 awards
MLB.com 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
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Hot Stove MLBlog
Hot Stove Tracker

Furcal, 34, is intriguing partly because of the damage he did against Milwaukee in 2011. Five of the eight home runs he hit during a season split between the Dodgers and Cardinals came against a Brewers pitcher.

Kinzer pointed out that Furcal's teams have made the postseason in 10 of his 12 seasons -- the Braves, Dodgers and Cardinals. Furcal was part of a July trade that helped the Cardinals reach -- and win -- the World Series, though he batted only .217 in the postseason.

"I've told a couple of general managers that you can look and see the energy level with the Cardinals from the time [Furcal] got there -- he's got intangibles that don't show up in the analysis," said Kinzer. "Another thing is, he's been hurt the last few years, but so have the other top shortstops, and nobody out there has his playoff experience."

Does Kinzer believe the Brewers are interested?

"I would think anybody who needs a shortstop and who is a contender has to look at him," he said. "Like I said, he brings the intangibles. The other guys haven't won the championships. ... He might miss a few games during the year, but when he's on the field, he's a difference-maker."

Betancourt batted .252 with 13 home runs and 68 RBIs for the Brewers in 2011, and he is "very interested" in returning, according to Melvin. The Brewers have not ruled out bringing him back if the price is right, but they want to gauge who else is available first.

Melvin was the first of his colleagues to appear in the Pfister Hotel lobby on Monday for the start of the General Manager Meetings and Owners Meetings, and he reserved a suite to use for sit-downs with agents or executives from other clubs.

In addition to infielders, the Brewers need late-inning relievers to set up closer John Axford. Melvin has already been in contact with representatives for veteran relievers LaTroy Hawkins and Takashi Saito, both of whom are coming off solid seasons in Milwaukee.

"We probably are going to be late in signing players," Melvin said. "I don't know if there's bargains at the start. ... Tell me an early signing that's a good deal."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.

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