High price of relief worries Brewers

High price of relief worries Brewers

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers general manager Doug Melvin took mild offense to a sports radio talker on Friday who said the club had "shut it down" in terms of trying to make another trade to bolster the bullpen.

"We haven't shut it down," Melvin said. "They're saying we're not trying to get any relievers. But the cost of relievers is high and I like our team very much. I like our bullpen.

"It's clear," he added, "that I'm not going to trade [shortstop prospect] Alcides Escobar or [third base prospect] Mat Gamel for a reliever. I'm not going to sell a premium player. You have to trade for value."

Melvin does not want to fall into the trap that snared contending teams in the past. He specifically mentioned the Rangers' 2003 trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez to the Marlins for right-hander Ugueth Urbina. Now Gonzalez is an All-Star for the Padres. He also mentioned the Indians' 1998 deal that sent Brian Giles to the Pirates for left-hander Ricardo Rincon. Two years later, Giles made the first of his two All-Star teams.

But Melvin defends the deal he made with the Padres last season, when he sent three pitching prospects to San Diego for setup man Scott Linebrink. The Brewers did not make the playoffs even with Linebrink, but they did reap two early Draft picks after Linebrink signed with the White Sox.

Melvin already acquired starter CC Sabathia and infielder Ray Durham this month in high-profile trades, and while the Brewers could benefit from an additional bullpen arm before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, Melvin is not willing to sell the farm to get one.

He laughed off the latest rumors on Friday that the Brewers had shown interest in Mariners left-hander Jarrod Washburn and Pirates left-hander Damaso Marte. Washburn is a starting pitcher and would not be a clear upgrade over any of the six players currently in Milwaukee's rotation. Marte could make sense, but the asking price is too high, Melvin said, because Marte is a Type-A free agent who, like Linebrink, would fetch premium Draft picks.

The way Melvin sees it, some other GMs and baseball officials are acting like agents, overstating the number of teams interested in their players to drive up their value.

"Everybody is trying to get the price up," Melvin said.

Other top-flight relievers linked to the Brewers in media reports include A's closer Huston Street and Orioles closer George Sherrill. The Brewers had scouts at A's games both in New York last weekend and in Tampa earlier this week, but Oakland is demanding three quality prospects, according to a National League scout, who said Milwaukee could be interested in some of the A's other bullpen arms. The Orioles, meanwhile, want a shortstop in exchange for Sherrill, who is 31 and in his first year as a full-time closer.

Melvin told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel for Friday's editions that he is not willing to deal Escobar or current Brewers shortstop J.J. Hardy for Sherrill.

"Certain positions are hard to find, and shortstop is one of them," Melvin told the news paper. "We've got a good one in the big leagues and a good, young one in the Minor Leagues. Unless [the Orioles] change their mind, I don't see anything happening."

Melvin also has questioned how badly the Brewers need relief help. Salomon Torres is 18-for-19 in save chances since taking over the closer's role from Eric Gagne in mid-May, and Gagne put together back-to-back encouraging outings during the team's 7-0 road trip. David Riske has a 3.60 ERA in 11 outings since a stint on the disabled list, and while Carlos Villanueva did not pitch in Milwaukee's four-game sweep at St. Louis this week, he has a 2.20 ERA since moving from the rotation to the bullpen.

"The sense I get," said the scout of the Brewers' current outlook, "is that they are saying to teams, 'We're probably not going to call you, but if you think you have something interesting, give us a call.'"

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.