With the World Series mercifully over, we turn our attention to the hot stove. Teams currently have until Thursday to negotiate exclusively with the 148 players who filed for free agency. For the Brewers, that includes Prince Fielder, Mark Kotsay, Craig Counsell, Jerry Hairston, Jr., Yuniesky Betancourt, Francisco Rodriguez, LaTroy Hawkins, and Takashi Saito. Do not expect many, if any, of those players to reach a deal with the Brewers by that time.
Two pieces of news relevant to that free agent morass the Brewers are about to embark on. First, the Brewers today announced that they had declined options on Rodriguez and Betancourt. Both were prohibitively expensive in different ways; the former financially and the latter in terms of number of wins his retention would cost the 2012 team. Yet because of a weak free agent market for shortstops – or, more accurately, a weak market in the Brewers’ price range – front office officials have left open the possibility of bringing Yuni back at a cheaper price than his $6M option. You had to sense this coming when Doug Melvin and Ron Roenicke defended Betancourt at their end-of-season press conferences. That doesn’t lessen the blow if the team has to deal with another offensively and defensively challenged shortstop in 2012.
That brings me to the second piece of free agent news: the Red Sox announced today that they had picked up SS Marco Scutaro’s 2012 option, depriving the Brewers of one potential cost-effective infield component. I blogged about Scutaro here, indicating that the Brewers should pursue him as a cheap upgrade to Betancourt, but it appears the Red Sox recognized Scutaro’s versatility and effectiveness as well. With Rafael Furcal likely to remain with the Cardinals after a World Series run, the list of available shortstops beyond Jimmy Rollins and Jose Reyes is becoming quite unappealing.
One bit of housekeeping news: This is the first post in Cream City Cable’s Offseason 2012 series. This series will focus on Brewers’ trade and free agency rumors, and will include a position-by-position review in the coming weeks. Each post in the series will have the Offseason 2012 tag for easy searching. Stay tuned; the stove is just warming up!