Crew names Groopman director of int'l scouting

Former Royals director of baseball operations hired amid Ohtani buzz

Crew names Groopman director of int'l scouting

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers have a new director of international scouting, and not surprisingly, he comes from the world of analytics.

Mike Groopman, whose hire was first reported by the Kansas City Star, is a former Baseball Prospectus contributor who had worked in the Royals' front office for the past decade, most recently as director of baseball operations. In that capacity, Groopman oversaw the analytics department he helped build, skills he will now apply to the international arena, Brewers general manager David Stearns said.

"I think Mike has a unique profile," Stearns said Tuesday on the final full day of GM Meetings in Orlando, Fla. "Even though his upbringing in the game was through an analytical bent, he's had a wide range of experiences in the game. ... That includes extensive subjective evaluation, combined with a robust knowledge of the analytical side of the industry."

The Brewers have beefed up their international scouting operation on both the amateur and professional side, according to Stearns, including hiring a full-time scout -- former Royals pitcher Bryan Bullington -- in Asia last year. The Brewers made a splash last offseason by signing first baseman Eric Thames to a three-year contract after the slugger posted three huge seasons in South Korea.

This year, the top player potentially coming out of Asia is two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani, whom the Brewers have scouted, Stearns said on Tuesday. Assuming Major League Baseball, the MLB Players Association and Nippon Professional Baseball can strike an agreement to bring Ohtani to MLB, he would be a terrific fit for the Brewers, whose top offseason priority is starting pitching, and whose affinity for left-handed power at Miller Park paid off last winter with the acquisitions of Thames via free agency and third baseman Travis Shaw via trade.

Despite a close working relationship with Ohtani's U.S. representatives from CAA Sports -- agent Nez Balelo also reps Ryan Braun and Jimmy Nelson, as well as former Brewers outfielder Norichika Aoki, who came to Milwaukee from Japan -- there would be significant financial obstacles to a Brewers bid.

Because he desires to come to the States now, at 23 years old, Ohtani would be subject for the rules restricting spending on international players under 25. The Brewers have already spent more than $4.7 million of their $5.5 million hard cap since the 2017-18 international singing period began July 2, leaving less than $800,000 for a player like Ohtani.

Other clubs could offer more. According to reports, the Texas Rangers have the largest percentage of their pool remaining, about $3.5 million. A handful of other teams reportedly have more than $1 million left to spend.

Of course, Ohtani could supplement his income with endorsements, which is one reason many in the game expect him to land in a large market like New York, Los Angeles or Chicago. Seattle officials, including GM Jerry Dipoto, have also made public their desire to sign Ohtani, saying "he deserves" all of the recent attention.

The Brewers will continue to pay attention, too.

"Every single team is going to at least kick the tires," Stearns said. "To the extent that becomes a reality this offseason, I think we would be in the same boat."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.