Brewers lose out on LA-bound Hairston

Brewers lose out on LA-bound Hairston

Brewers lose out on LA-bound Hairston
DALLAS -- The Brewers only had one formal offer on the table as the Winter Meetings began Monday, and it was spurned. Versatile veteran Jerry Hairston Jr., Milwaukee's starting third baseman in the postseason and the team's primary target so far in free agency, agreed instead to a two-year deal with the Dodgers.

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke reacted demonstratively when he was told the Dodgers and Hairston were close to a deal. Hairston was a terrific fit for Milwaukee, considering he can play everywhere from shortstop to center field, and that he was an experienced presence in a clubhouse that will be without key figures Craig Counsell and Mark Kotsay.

"That's his decision," general manager Doug Melvin said. "When they're free agents, they get to decide that. You just have to try to find somebody else."

Hairston, 35, hit .274 during the season after a Trade Deadline deal from Washington to Milwaukee, filling in first in center field for an injured Carlos Gomez and eventually hitting his way into the everyday lineup at third base. Hairston moved ahead of slumping Casey McGehee, and batted .333 with a team-high eight runs scored in the postseason.

There was better news Monday on the bullpen front, where the Brewers must restock a group hit hard by free agency. Melvin met Monday with the agent for left-hander Zach Braddock, who missed much of 2011 while being treated for unspecified personal issues. Braddock is doing well, agent Jeff Berry told the Brewers, and will report early to Maryvale Baseball Park to prepare for Spring Training.

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The Brewers need relief because LaTroy Hawkins, Francisco Rodriguez and Takashi Saito are all free agents. The club expects Rodriguez to seek an opportunity to close for another team, but it has been in contact with representatives for Hawkins and Saito about returning for another season.

Melvin said he had yet to make either pitcher a formal offer. He is still examining the options on a portion of the market -- setup relief -- that typically develops late. Saito, for example, signed with the Brewers around Christmas last year.

"Money-wise, that's something [Melvin] and Mark [Attanasio, Milwaukee's principal owner] are going to have to figure out, what the budget is going to be," Roenicke said. "But I know Saito certainly is a lot less money, and I would like him back. I think Doug would like him back."

Melvin also met Monday with agent Dan Horwitz, but said he simply ran through Horwitz's list of clients. It includes some notable relievers like Octavio Dotel (most recently of the Cardinals), Todd Coffey (Nationals), Jason Isringhausen (Mets), Chad Durbin (Indians) and Michael Wuertz (A's).

Dotel, 37, has received inquiries from the Reds, Cardinals, Tigers and Mets, an industry source told's Jesse Sanchez, after posting a 3.28 ERA in 29 games with the Cardinals in the 2011 regular season and a 2.61 ERA in 12 postseason games. He would not cost his new team a Draft pick.

"I don't want to say who we have interest in and who we don't have interest in," Melvin said.

The Brewers are also actively seeking a shortstop this week, and Melvin planned to meet Tuesday with the agent for Yuniesky Betancourt. The Brewers made Betancourt a free agent earlier in the offseason when they bought out his $6 million option.

Melvin has also had contact with reps for Jimmy Rollins, Rafael Furcal and Alex Gonzalez, among other free-agent shortstops. Rollins reportedly wants a five-year contract, which would be out of the Brewers' reach. If his price falls, the Brewers could pose a threat to the Phillies' efforts to sign their longtime leadoff man.

"Getting Betancourt back definitely is a possibility," Roenicke said. "Alex Gonzalez is there. Furcal is there. It's not like there's nobody there. But in our system, we don't have somebody to play shortstop every day, so we need to go out somewhere and get somebody."

Melvin said he didn't expect the Brewers to go home Thursday with their shortstop situation settled. He said free agency remains the most likely solution.

"I think it would be tougher to trade, because we don't have the inventory to trade," said Melvin, who is unwilling to break up his five-man starting rotation. "We've lost nine players [to free agency] off the 25-man roster."

The biggest of those free agents is first baseman Prince Fielder. The Brewers technically remain in the mix for Fielder, though Melvin said as of Monday afternoon he had no meetings planned with Fielder's agent, Scott Boras.

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.