"The agent makes more money, though," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin shot back.
The Brewers hope Hawkins still has a few years of mound work in him before he moves into a front office. The righty reliever passed a physical on Wednesday and finalized a two-year, $7.5 million contract, the terms of which were forged a week earlier in Indianapolis thanks in part to Hawkins' presence.
Hawkins, who turns 37 on Monday, decided soon after the regular season that he wanted to attend the Winter Meetings in person to meet with teams. Four of them showed serious interest last week in Indianapolis, including the Brewers and Hawkins' former team, the Astros -- who presented a final offer on the morning of Dec. 9 and required a quick answer. That deal was for one year with an option, and when Melvin upped Milwaukee's offer to two years, a deal was struck.
Hawkins gets a $500,000 signing bonus and base salaries of $3 million in 2010 and $4 million in '11. He can earn an additional $275,000 each season in bonuses tied to appearances and games finished.
"I do believe that whenever you meet with somebody in person, it helps with your negotiations," Melvin said. "It did come together real quick."
Said Hawkins: "I'm a firm believer in talking to a guy in person."
Originally, Hawkins wasn't scheduled to arrive in Indianapolis until Wednesday, the last full day of the Winter Meetings. He was settling into a dentist's appointment on Tuesday when his agent, Larry Reynolds, called and told him to catch the next flight.
He met in a makeshift conference room adjacent to the Brewers' suite at the Westin with Melvin, assistant GM Gord Ash, manager Ken Macha and pitching coach Rick Peterson, among others.
"I've [brought players to the Winter Meetings] before, but you have to be real careful and do it with the right guy," said Reynolds, who represents another one of the game's good guys in Angels outfielder Torii Hunter. "That guy had better be sharp and bring something to the table. When you've got a guy who has [Hawkins'] intellect and the charisma, you want to show that off."
Hawkins is the Brewers' third free-agent signing in as many days. His contract was formalized two days after the Brewers locked up left-hander Randy Wolf to a three-year deal and re-signed versatile infielder Craig Counsell. The Brewers are set to re-sign free-agent reliever Claudio Vargas later this week, assuming he passes his Friday afternoon physical.
Hawkins projects to slot in beside workhorse Todd Coffey as setup men to Brewers closer Trevor Hoffman, and Hawkins could fill in as closer on days Hoffman is unavailable. In 65 games last season for the Astros, Hawkins posted a 2.13 ERA, 19 holds and 11 saves. He worked 63 1/3 innings with 45 strikeouts and 16 walks.
Of the 15 earned runs charged to Hawkins, eight of them scored on the seven home runs he allowed. Of those seven, four came at cozy Minute Maid Park and another was at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park.
In 278 career innings for National League clubs, Hawkins has a 2.75 ERA. He posted a 1.71 ERA over the past two seasons with the Astros after the Yankees traded him to Houston midway through 2008.
"This team is exciting," Hawkins said of the Brewers. "I've been watching them the last couple of years and I've been very impressed. I know they had some injuries last year that hindered them from being the team they were supposed to be coming out of Spring Training, but injuries are a part of the game. If we can avoid those injuries this year, I think we'll be right there in the end."
With Hawkins and Vargas in the fold, the Brewers have a full bullpen. Right-handers Hoffman, Coffey, Hawkins, Vargas and Carlos Villanueva and left-hander Mitch Stetter should fill six of the seven relief spots, assuming the team carries a traditional 12-man pitching staff. Milwaukee is hopeful that right-hander David Riske will be back after he missed nearly all of 2009 due to Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery. The club, considering they gave Riske a three-year contract in December 2007 and have gotten little for that investment so far, would love to see him claim the other opening.
If Riske has a setback, it would leave the remaining spot for a number of candidates. The list includes 2009 holdovers John Axford, Chris Smith and Chris Narveson, plus Rule 5 Draft pick Chuck Lofgren, all of whom are already on the 40-man roster. The Brewers will also take a look at Minor League invitees like Mike Burns, John Halama and A.J. Murray. Narveson, Lofgren, Halama and Murray all have the benefit of pitching left-handed.
"I like our bullpen," Melvin said. "Obviously, you'd like to get another left-hander in there and Zach Braddock is someone who could come out of the system as a power left-hander.
"Our bullpen wasn't our major problem last year; it was more of our starters, [but] I believe that in today's game, the bullpen is just as valuable as the starters because they're pitching a lot more innings. There's not a lot of starters going seven innings anymore, so every game is a manager's nightmare. ... Someone like LaTroy can come in and be a workhorse."