Brewers take action for pitching on Day 3

Brewers take action for pitching on Day 3

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Brewers' veteran general manager Doug Melvin got aggressive to meet his top two Winter Meetings priorities on Wednesday.

Melvin came to Indianapolis focused on free-agent starter Randy Wolf and picking from a pool of power-armed late-innings relievers, and he came away Wednesday with a three-year deal with left-hander Wolf and a two-year agreement with right-handed setup man LaTroy Hawkins. Both contracts are pending physical exams, so Melvin was technically barred from discussing either player when he met with reporters.

"There's a sense of accomplishment," Melvin said. "But there's still work to do."

The Brewers don't expect to finalize either deal until next week.

In both cases, Melvin's aggressive approach helped seal the deal. He extended a three-year offer to Wolf on Monday that reportedly includes a club option for a fourth season and guarantees $29.75 million when no other club was known to have made Wolf a hard offer. Then the GM offered two guaranteed years and $7.5 million to Hawkins to lure him away from the Astros, who were only willing to offer one year and a vesting option, and the D-backs, who wouldn't go beyond one year.

It's not the first instance of Melvin being aggressive this winter in pursuit of a pitcher. He opened talks with closer Trevor Hoffman in September and had a deal essentially in place by the time the season ended, preventing the all-time saves leader from hitting the open market. Hoffman's one-year, $8.5 million contract was announced the morning after the season finale.

Melvin helped sell Wolf with a visit late last week to Wolf's home in Los Angeles. He used a similar approach to convince then-free agent Jeff Suppan to sign with Milwaukee in December 2006, when Melvin and Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio had dinner with Suppan in L.A. Their four-year, $42 million offer didn't hurt that courtship either.

In an interview with Sirius XM Radio, Wolf said he appreciated the personal touch.

"I'm excited to reach this deal and I'm excited with the possibility and the future with Milwaukee," Wolf told Sirius XM. "It was really cool that Doug Melvin came out to L.A. and visited me and made it well known that I was his priority and he really wanted me there. 

"That's a good feeling as a free-agent pitcher, or any ballplayer really, when you have a team that really wants you there and wants to win and feels that you can help the team do that.  That's a good feeling."

Wolf will slide into Milwaukee's starting rotation behind ace Yovani Gallardo and ahead of left-hander Manny Parra. The Brewers still have Jeff Suppan for one more season, and arbitration-eligible Dave Bush will be back unless the team opts to non-tender him on Saturday.

The Brewers will probably continue to monitor the market for starting pitchers, but don't have the budget for another splashy signing. By locking up Wolf relatively early, they can pounce late on a pitcher who's available at a discount and looking for an opportunity. Wolf signed such a deal with the Dodgers -- a one-year contract with a $5 million base salary -- before Spring Training earlier this year.

In the bullpen, Hawkins could join Todd Coffey (another player eligible for arbitration) as a setup option to Hoffman. The Brewers are also close to re-signing Claudio Vargas, who was excellent out of the 'pen down the stretch.

"A two-year guaranteed deal is something he's talked about trying to find for the last three or four years, and he found it at what we think may have been the 11th hour," Astros GM Ed Wade said. "We thought we were closing in on getting a deal done. We had talked about a year and a vesting option and they actually came back and asked about a clean one-year deal and we made our proposal, but we got trumped on two-year."

Wolf and Hawkins have been linked before. The Astros traded for Hawkins and Wolf within eight days of each other in late July 2008.

"In a span of a couple of hours, the Brewers took our two trading deadline deals of 2008 and put them into their pitching staff," Wade said. "Guess it helps validate what we did back then, but it may not help us in April facing those two guys."

The Brewers will probably acquire a few more new faces before April. Melvin finally met face-to-face with Barry Meister, the representative of free-agent infielder Craig Counsell, to discuss the offer Melvin made last week.

He also plans to continue dialogue with Gregg Clifton, the agent for left-hander Mark Mulder. Mulder has been linked to the Brewers for months because of his ties to pitching coach Rick Peterson -- they were together in Oakland and reunited as recently as last summer when Mulder needed help with his mechanics. Melvin doesn't expect any finality to negotiations until January at the earliest.

Mulder has been limited to four starts since 2006 because of shoulder injuries and the Brewers are trying to convince him to take a Minor League contract with an invitation to big league camp.

The next decision for Melvin and his staff comes Saturday, the deadline to tender contracts to unsigned players. Melvin said he would debate those decisions in the coming days.

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