Brewers remain in hot pursuit of pitching

Brewers in hot pursuit of pitching

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Brewers' contingent didn't just sit around Tuesday waiting around for an answer from Randy Wolf.

While Wolf's representatives mulled the proposal Milwaukee reportedly made Monday night -- multiple news outlets said it was for three years and something like $30 million -- Brewers general manager Doug Melvin met in his suite at the Westin with four or five agents about other pitchers. One of them, according to, was Gregg Clifton, the rep for left-handed starter Mark Mulder, and whether or not agent Scott Boras actually stopped by the suite, Brewers officials at least spent part of their day debating the merits of Mike Gonzalez, the left-handed former Braves closer who will cost his signing team a Draft pick because he's a Type A free agent who declined arbitration.

The Brewers have also talked about former Cubs closer Kevin Gregg, who is also a Type A free agent but wouldn't cost a pick because Chicago declined to offer arbitration. At the same time, the team is close to re-signing one of its own free agents, reliever Claudio Vargas.

Vargas and someone like Gregg or Gonzalez would help the Brewers solidify the innings in front of closer Trevor Hoffman, but it's the early innings of games that continue to dominate the discussions. To that end, the Brewers were waiting to hear back from agent Arn Tellem on Wolf.

Asked whether he had more than one outstanding offer to free-agent pitchers, Melvin said: "I would say that we have a narrow focus at this time on the starting pitching group. We have them ranked, we have them listed, because you have to be prepared.

"We've done our part," he added. "We'll continue to meet. We might meet again [Wednesday] with people."

Rumors that the Brewers were nearing a deal with Wolf spread quickly as midnight approached on Monday, the first day of these Winter Meetings. Since the Brewers are unlikely to offer the kind of length of contract or dollars that John Lackey is looking for, it made perfect sense that their top target could be Wolf, a 33-year-old who was 11-7 with a 3.23 ERA in 34 starts with the Dodgers last season after signing a one-year deal worth $5 million.

Wolf is another Type A free agent but the Dodgers didn't offer him arbitration. That fact made him more attractive to the Brewers.

The late-night reports said a deal with Wolf was imminent. Melvin wouldn't say whether that was the case.

"Deals aren't done until they're done," Melvin said. "I was telling Mark [Attanasio, Milwaukee's principal owner] the story today that in Anaheim a few years ago [in 1999, when Melvin was still the Rangers' GM] we swear we had Todd Zeile signed. All he wanted was a no-trade [clause] in the contract and we didn't want to give it, and then we finally gave it, but he and [his agents] went to dinner and they came back and told us they were going with the Mets, after we gave them what they wanted. I was ticked."

Without naming Wolf, Melvin said he thought there was a desire on both sides to leave Indianapolis on Thursday with a resolution. But he has not put a deadline on any offers.

Another left-hander on Milwaukee's radar for some time is Mulder, who could be a bounce-back candidate to help Milwaukee's starting rotation. Mulder has been limited to four starts since 2006 because of shoulder injuries and did not pitch at all in '09. He did work during a summer of rehab with his former Oakland A's pitching coach, Rick Peterson, who was hired by the Brewers earlier this winter. According to, Peterson was to take part in Tuesday's sit-down.

In the relief pool, Gregg or Gonzalez are among a number of names being debated by Brewers officials as they look to bolster a bullpen that will be without injured right-hander Mark DiFelice next season. The Brewers already have their closer in the all-time saves leader, Hoffman, who finalized a one-year deal in October to return for a second year in Milwaukee, and a reliable setup man in Todd Coffey, who posted a 2.90 ERA while leading the National League with 83 2/3 innings of relief.

The 31-year-old Gregg began last season as the Cubs' closer and went 5-6 with a 4.72 ERA and 23 saves while pitching in 72 games, his third consecutive season of at least 70 appearances. He suffered seven blown saves before the Cubs lifted him from the closer role in August.

Gregg would probably not be the right-handed specialist that DiFelice was. Right-handed hitters batted .257 against him in 2009 with 11 home runs in 144 plate appearances. Lefties only hit him at a .195 clip, with two home runs in 118 at-bats. For his career, right-handers have batted .252 against Gregg versus .277 by left-handers.

Gonzalez split closer duties in Atlanta last season with right-hander Rafael Soriano and posted a 2.42 ERA and 10 saves in 80 games. He's tough against hitters on both sides of the plate, holding left-handed batters to a .201 average and left-handers to .213.

The Brewers already have one in-house left-hander in Mitch Stetter, who had a 3.60 ERA in 71 appearances last year. Melvin likes the idea of having multiple relievers with closing experience, whether left-handed or right-handed.

"It helps. We did that with Solomon Torres [in 2008]," Melvin said. "If someone falters, you have somebody who's done it before."

Because of his focus on pitching, Melvin didn't get a chance to meet with the representative for Craig Counsell to discuss Milwaukee's initial offer. But agent Barry Meister is in Indianapolis shopping Counsell, and expects to meet with Melvin before the Meetings break up.

Melvin said that, as of Tuesday evening, he was not engaged in any active trade talks. But he did confirm that Mets officials had at least approached some of their Brewers counterparts about right fielder Corey Hart. A report from the New York Post in the wee hours Tuesday morning said the teams talked about Mets right-hander John Maine.

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