The calendar says it's still 2009, but my Inbox was full of questions about the New Year. Everyone likes a good holiday list -- here are a couple of them for you to check out while you're trying to find your computer mouse under all of that wrapping paper:Do you think there is a chance that general manager Doug Melvin is done adding players for next season?
-- Olivia H., Glendale, Wis.
Not likely, because everything points to a Mark Mulder signing, and I think Melvin will remain on the lookout for starting pitchers available in cost-neutral trades, bench players on the free-agent market and pitchers in general for depth.
But given the team's payroll constraints, Melvin is probably done adding big-name players for next year's team. If he decides to prolong his holiday vacation in Spain until the start of the season, here's how the Brewers could put together a roster:
RHP Yovani Gallardo
LHP Randy Wolf
RHP Dave Bush
RHP Jeff Suppan
LHP Manny Parra
RHP Trevor Hoffman
RHP LaTroy Hawkins
RHP Todd Coffey
LHP Mitch Stetter
RHP Claudio Vargas
RHP Carlos Villanueva
RHP David Riske or LHP Chuck Lofgren or LHP Zach Braddock
George Kottaras, Matt Treanor, Jonathan Lucroy or Angel Salome
1B Prince Fielder
2B Rickie Weeks
3B Casey McGehee or Mat Gamel
SS Alcides Escobar
Reserves Craig Counsell and Adam Heether
LF Ryan Braun
CF Carlos Gomez
RF Corey Hart
Reserves Jody Gerut and Trent Oeltjen
The bullpen looks solid, and last week's addition of Treanor gives the Brewers lots of options behind the plate. The other areas probably have room for improvement.
The starting rotation is fine if you believe that Parra and Suppan will bounce back and that Bush will be healthy, but there is little depth. The Brewers entered last season very high on Seth McClung and Villanueva as Plan Bs, but neither worked out when called upon. After that experience, I'm guessing that Melvin will do everything he can to make sure he has a slew of reinforcements.
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Right now, that group is headed by left-hander Chris Narveson, who did perform well in September as a starter. Melvin also has signed former big leaguers John Halama and Kameron Loe, and re-signed Mike Burns, to Minor League contracts. Chris Capuano will be two years removed from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery by May. Look for Melvin to make more additions here.
The starting infielders and outfielders are solid, though the Brewers are putting a lot of faith in youngsters Gomez and Escobar. The bench is where I'm guessing Melvin has some moves up his sleeve. Counsell is as good a backup as you can get in terms of defensive versatility and pinch-hitting, but Heether remains a relative unknown. Likewise, Gerut is a good fourth outfielder if he hits the way he did late last season, but there's little depth after that.
There's still plenty of offseason left, so let's not inscribe the roster in stone just yet.
I love the decision to bring in Gomez and permanently promote Escobar. With those two playing every day, what does the batting lineup look like? Gomez, Escobar and Weeks can all run; who leads off? Weeks projected as a middle-of-the-order hitter in the Minor Leagues, and a good one. Given the alternative speed, do we finally drop Weeks in the batting order?
Christopher M., Racine, Wis.
Melvin said Gomez fits better in the bottom half of the order for now, and I doubt very strongly that manager Ken Macha will hit the rookie Escobar atop the order, so it appears very likely that Weeks will hit leadoff again in 2010. Melvin, in fact, is very comfortable with Weeks in that spot and has a slew of statistics to support the "Weeks as run scorer" argument. The GM also mentioned potentially trying Zaun in the two-hole because he's a left-handed bat (at least against right-handed pitchers, he is) who puts the ball in play.
So here's one way they could do it:
1. Weeks 2B
2. Hart RF or Zaun C
3. Braun LF
4. Fielder 1B
5. McGehee 3B
6. Zaun C or Hart RF
7. Gomez CF
8. Escobar SS
If Escobar hits .300 like he did last September, I could see him as another option for that two-hole.
It could make a lot of sense for Macha to revisit the pitcher's spot. Gomez or Escobar could fit nicely in the nine-hole as a sort of extra leadoff hitter, especially since you have Weeks' extra-base potential in the one-hole.
We're way ahead of ourselves here, but I'm sure Macha has already sketched out a few ideas. How would you set it up?
Braddock has electric stuff as he is dominating hitters in the Minors. He was once a starter, but now I see he is pitching in relief. My question is, is he a future frontline starter or a future shutdown closer in the Majors?
-- Paul L., Fall River, Mass.
It looks and sounds to me like the Brewers plan to break him into the Majors as a reliever while reserving the right to turn him back to a starter later on. Braddock's name has been mentioned often by club officials as a bullpen option for 2010, though it seems more likely that he'll begin the year in the Minors. Everyone who has seen him agrees that he has the pure stuff to compete in the Majors.
Adam, not so much a question about the Brewers but about the park. I live in Milwaukee and I drive past Miller Park every day. It's December -- why has the roof been open since the end of the season?
-- Andrew S., New Berlin, Wis.
The grass needs sunlight, even in the winter when it's not growing. Gary Vanden Berg, the Brewers' longtime head groundskeeper, explained this and so much more in a post at John & Cait Plus Nine, an MLBlog maintained by front office staffers John Steinmiller and Caitlin Moyer. When you're not reading Brew Beat or following me on Twitter (@AdamMcCalvy), I highly suggest you give them a look.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.