The Milwaukee Brewers were smart to decline starting pitcher Braden Looper’s $6.5 million mutual option, freeing up a significant amount of money to plug various holes.
Looper led baseball in home runs, checking in at 194.2 innings of a 5.22 ERA. I don’t think serving up all those home runs are sustainable, so it’s likely he returns to a mid-4.50s ERA next year. Is that good enough to bring him back to Milwaukee?
After arbitration raises, the Brewers are looking at around a $65 million range payroll, leaving Doug Melvin $15 million to reach the payroll level of 2009. Assuming that the club is looking to save money (who isn’t these days?), let’s assume a $75 million payroll. That leaves around $10 million for a starting catcher, a bench and starting pitchers. (If the Looper option had been exercised, we’re looking at $4 million instead… what a difference a simple declined option makes.)
The Brewers have the option of bringing in a cheap catcher or promoting from within, so let’s set aside $3 million for a catcher and various sundries. Let’s see what we can do with $7 million to the rotation.
Right now, the Brewers have Yovani Gallardo, Jeff Suppan, Dave Bush, Manny Parra and Chris Narveson in their rotation. Talk about underwhelming. The Brew Crew needs a No. 2 and 3 if they hope to make the playoffs. While it’s probably not feasible to do just that, let’s give it a shot.
If the Brewers are committed to Casey McGehee at third base, doesn’t it make sense to trade Gamel? Jackson’s first half was a veritable mirage, but he can settle in just fine as a No. 3 starter — especially on this team. Jackson could jump over 200 innings pitched and provide you with Braden Looper-esque numbers while doing so. Jackson will likely command about $4 million in arbitration, which is why the struggling Tigers are looking to move him. The Brewers would take him on and have a pitcher locked up through 2011.
The only negative here is that losing six years of Gamel, who could turn into a solid third baseman, doesn’t seem worth Jackson alone in this environment. If the Tigers chip in $1 million towards Jackson’s salary and also ship Clete Thomas, that could work. The Brewers need a backup outfielder, and Thomas would fit the bill.
I’m still not entirely sure this deal is feasible, but let’s press on regardless. The Brewers rotation now looks like: Yovani Gallardo, Edwin Jackson, Jeff Suppan, Manny Parra, Dave Bush. Still need one more dude, with $4 million to go.
The remaining money is easily available to a pitcher that will sign a one-year deal, or a multiyear deal with a low base salary in 2009 that has escalators with a future uptick in salary that can be afforded thanks to Jeff Suppan and his $12.5 million salary entering free agency after the year.
A high-level name the Brewers could target is Rich Harden. Other (more feasible names) include Jon Garland, Brett Myers, Erik Bedard, Vicente Padilla, Jarrod Washburn… and yes, Looper. One of these names will certainly slide into the Brewers’ payroll range. Let’s assume Washburn at a slight hometown discount. The rotation is now Gallardo, Jackson, Washburn, Suppan, Parra.
May not be world-beating, but certainly enough to inject the team into the playoff discussion.
Unhappy with my Brewers rotation solution? Leave your own ideas in the comments!