MILWAUKEE -- At every winter stop, a Brewers fan would ask general manager Doug Melvin the same question, and it was usually the first one asked. Is there any chance the Brewers will look at re-signing Ben Sheets? The answer, every time, is the same.
"I don't anticipate so," Melvin says, just as he did Saturday at "Brewers On Deck." Then comes the caveat: "I don't see it happening at this time, at least." The Brewers' official position remains that they have not closed the door on Sheets and his agent, Casey Close. But the team is unwilling to give the 30-year-old right-hander the multi-year deal he is seeking, and might not even offer enough guaranteed money in a one-year deal to pique Sheets' interest. Proof of Melvin's open-door policy came just after the new year, when he reached out to Close. The call was prompted by two Boston Red Sox signings. First they signed Brad Penny to a one-year deal that pays a $5 million base salary with incentives that could add another $3 million. Then they finalized a one-year contract with John Smoltz that guarantees $5.5 million and could pay as much as $10 million with incentives. Melvin wanted to know whether Sheets and Close were open to a similar offer, and it appears they were not. According to Melvin, the men have not spoken since. Close has not responded to multiple inquiries from MLB.com this winter. Sheets' representatives reportedly tried to allay clubs' concerns about his injury history by releasing new medical information last week. If that's the case, they did not send that information to the Brewers. That led Melvin to this conclusion: "It doesn't appear that Ben will be back," Melvin said. Yet it is tempting to keep in mind that Sheets has pitched for the Brewers his entire career, and could be tempted to return if he does not find any attractive offers elsewhere. In Milwaukee he would be the team's No. 1 starter and would add depth to a rotation that currently has precious little. Brewers officials say they want to preserve payroll flexibility to make a move once the season starts, but the opportunity to land Sheets at a bargain price could be tempting.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.