With Prince Fielder’s final season in a Brewer uniform over, how do the Brewers go about putting a team on the field that can make another postseason run in 2012? Obviously, Prince Fielder wasn’t the sole reason for the Brewers record setting season, but he’s not the only departure in the offseason. The bullpen will be losing a significant amount of talent, or one could say proven veterans with the departures of K-Rod, Saito, and Hawkins. Then there’s the holes at SS and 3B that need to be addressed as well. Piling on to this to do list is the career year Ryan Braun had in 2011. The Brewers slugger produced a whopping .332/.397/.597/.994 7.8 WAR season (almost 3 full wins above his previous career high).

Before I even get into handling possible regressions like Braun’s and the lengthening to-do list, I have to establish what the Brewers are working with in terms of their payroll flexibility for 2012. Without further gilding the lily, here’s my rough estimation of the Brewers obligations assuming everyone on their 40 man roster who doesn’t have a buyout is retained.

Name 2012 Salary
Zack Greinke $13.5
Rickie Weeks $10.0
Randy Wolf $9.5
Corey Hart $9.0
Shaun Marcum $8.0
Ryan Braun $6.0
Yovani Gallardo $5.5
Nyjer Morgan $2.0
Casey McGehee $2.0
Carlos Gomez $2.0
Kameron Loe $2.0
Manny Parra $1.5
George Kottaras $1.0
Josh Wilson $1.0
John Axford $0.5
Chris Narveson $0.5
Marco Estrada $0.5
Jonathan Lucroy $0.5
Mike McClendon $0.5
Brandon Kintzler $0.5
Tim Dillard $0.5
Taylor Green $0.5
Mat Gamel $0.5
Zack Braddock $0.5
Frankie De la Cruz $0.5
Mark DiFelice $0.5
Michael Fiers $0.5
Wily Peralta $0.5
Amaury Rivas $0.5
Cody Scarpetta $0.5
Logan Schafer $0.5
Eric Farris $0.5
Mitch Stetter $0.5
Martin Maldonado $0.5
Mark Rogers $0.5
K-Rod Buyout $0.5
35 Players $84.0

As you can see, the Brewers have very little money to spend on the 2012 roster. (+/- a couple million dollars) For the sake of our discussion, we’ll use $90 M as the Brewers 2012 Opening Day payroll so we have some kind of limit on what can be spent. Mark Attanassio may up the payroll to $100 M to sign the players he and general manager Doug Melvin want.

With that group of players, we can piece together what the Brewers’ 25 man roster currently looks like.

  • C-Lucroy
  • 1B-Gamel
  • 2B-Weeks
  • SS-Wilson
  • 3B-McGehee
  • LF-Braun
  • CF-Morgan
  • RF-Hart
  • C-Kottaras
  • IF-Green
  • IF-Farris
  • OF-Gomez
  • OF-Schafer
  1. Gallardo
  2. Greinke
  3. Marcum
  4. Wolf
  5. Narveson
  1. Axford
  2. Loe
  3. Parra
  4. McClendon
  5. Kintzler
  6. Braddock
  7. Estrada

It would be easy to throw up everybody available on the free agent market is going to be worth discussing. For example, Jose Reyes isn’t a realistic option at all to upgrade the SS position. The following are the players on the free agent market that I believe should be looked at by the Brewers.

1B Carlos Pena Jason Kubel Josh Willingham
SS Clint Barmes Rafael Furcal Alex Gonzalez Ramon Santiago
3B Kevin Kouzmanoff Jamey Carroll
RP Rich Harden Kyle Davies Ryota Igarashi Vicente Padilla Pat Neshek

You’ll notice that only Carlos Pena has played 1B in the majors on my list. I’d like to stress that these three are only considered as options at 1B if the Brewers are uneasy turning the reigns over to Mat Gamel. (I’ll get to him later) Carlos Pena provides good pop, above average defense, and a good OBP despite not batting over .227 the last 3 seasons. The only concern with him is the price tag  as he’s likely to get around $10 M again this offseason. Jason Kubel is a player who I believe would really excel offensively playing half of his games in Miller Park. He’s been able to keep his LD% around 20% as he’s continued to increase his FB%. It doesn’t result in the best results playing half his games in Target Field but more of those fly balls should clear the fence in Miller Park. The major concern is how his defense would be at 1B when he hasn’t played a single inning in professional ball there. If he’s average defensively and Miller Park has a favorable affect on his numbers, I think he can go a long way to replacing Prince Fielder’s production.

Josh Willingham has a batted ball profile similar to Kubel’s that should result in better production moving from the pitcher’s parks he’s played in throughout his career to Miller Park. The difference is he bats from the right side and will be highly sought after as a corner OF. I’m concerned about the years he’ll get going into his age 33 season. A 2 year $16 M deal is something I would do, but a 4-5 year $32-40 M is a risky proposition.

Like I said earlier, I didn’t include guys like Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins in the list of shortstops because they’ll get two much money for injury riddled speed players. One can already see the effect on Reyes defense as he’s been average at best since the leg injuries have occured. Clint Barmes and Rafael Furcal are the next best SS on the market. Furcal comes with major injury concerns but provides a much higher upside than Barmes. Salary is definitely going to be the deciding factor between the two. I still have a hard time believing Furcal doesn’t get a $7-8 M per year deal when Barmes could likely be had for around $5 M per year.

Alex Gonzalez and Ramon Santiago are on this list if both Furcal and Barmes get more attention than I believe they will or the Brewers sign Pena or Willingham to fill the 1B void. Gonzalez is essentially Betancourt with the bat, but he brings a very good glove to the table. (6 of the last 8 seasons he’s poste +5 or higher UZR) Santiago is a gamble as he hasn’t qualified for a batting title since 2003, but he’s younger than Gonzalez and would cost about $1.5 M.

The 3B market looks bleak this year, but Kevin Kouzmanoff and Jamey Carroll provide interesting solutions to the problem if the Brewers are uneasy about Green. When you look at Kouzmanoff’s offensive numbers, they don’t look all that great for a 3B. That’s before taking into account that he’s played most of his career in Petco Park and the Coliseum. It’s resulted in a pretty substantial split between his home and road numbers. He’s a career .240/.289/.375/.664 hitter at home and a .269/.311/.469/.770 hitter on the road. This is no guarantee that he’ll become an above average hitter in Miller Park, but if he doesn’t hit enough to play everyday he can easily slide into a platoon role with Taylor Green for a couple million dollars at most. Jamey Carroll doesn’t have the pop associated with third base, but he’ll provide the OBP that can’t be expected from Kouzmanoff. (Career .356)

The bullpen pitchers I’ve highlighted is a very interesting group to discuss. Rich Harden has always had filthy stuff, but he’s struggled to stay healthy as a starting pitcher. Many starters who have struggled with health have moved to the bullpen and found success. He doesn’t have the proven track record to cost more than the $1.5 M the Rangers paid him in 2011. Ryota Igarashi is a type of reliever (High K/High BB) that can find some sustained success with a drop in his BB rate. Think Jorge Julio, Derrick Turnbow, or even the current closer John Axford.

Vicente Padilla and Pat Neshek are two arms returning from injury that provide an interesting upside as well. Padilla provides good velocity as a reliever while Neshek’s delivery, assuming of course his velocity continues to return to his pre injury norms, provides a high K/low BB combination that could make him a very good set up man for Axford. Finally, I believe Kyle Davies could find new life as a reliever similar to Manny Parra. He already throws about 92 MPH and could pick up a few ticks if he only has to rear back for an inning or two.

Even though I’ve provided several options that I think are worth pursueing for the Brewers in the blog depending on whether they trust Gamel and Green, I’ll provide what I view the best choice without knowing if the Attanassio will raise the payroll significantly or not.

Lineup and Bench

  • C-J. Lucroy ($0.5)
  • 1B-Mat Gamel ($0.5)
  • 2B-R. Weeks ($10)
  • SS-C. Barmes (2 yr $8-10 w/an option if necessary)
  • 3B-K. Kouzmanoff (1 yr $1.5)
  • LF-R. Braun ($6)
  • CF-N. Morgan/C. Gomez ($4)
  • RF-C. Hart ($10)
  • IF/OF-J. Hairston (2 yr $3 M)
  • OF-N. Morgan/C. Gomez (N/A)
  • IF-T. Green ($0.5)
  • C-G. Kottaras ($1)
  • PH/DH-Russell Branyan/Jack Cust/Nick Johnson ($0.5)*
  • Total $40-41

Pitching Staff

  • Y. Gallardo ($5.5)
  • Z. Greinke ($13.5)
  • S. Marcum ($8)
  • R. Wolf ($9.5)
  • C. Narveson ($0.5)
  • J. Axford ($0.5)
  • K. Loe ($2)
  • R. Harden($1)
  • M. Parra ($1.5)
  • M. Estrada ($0.5)
  • Z. Braddock/M. McClendon/B. Kintzler/T. Dillard ($0.5)
  • P. Neshek/R. Igarashi/K. Davies/V. Padilla ($0.5)**
  • Total $44

25 Man Total $84-85

40 Man Total $91-92

*I didn’t even explain this portion of my lineup because it hinges on so many things falling in place before it can happen because Gamel will essentially become this as he’s out of options.

**Ideally you can bring one of the four in for the major league minimum and the a couple others in on spring training invites.

 

Thank you for reading my first installment  of Life After Prince! In part 2, I’ll break down why I structured the roster this way including my picks as the PH/DH in addition to introducing the Greinke and Marcum extension options.