Restocking The Pen: Brewers Placing Priority on Lefty Reliever at Winter Meetings

by Kevin Kimmes

Jon Morosi of reported via Twitter this afternoon that The Brewers are placing priority on acquiring a left handed reliever this week at the winter meetings. While this should come as no surprise to anyone, especially due to the non-tendering of their last bullpen lefty Manny Parra on Friday, it does raise some discussion regarding which of the available lefties may be the correct choice for a rebuilding Brewers pen.

1) Sean Burnett – Age 30 – 2012 Team: Washington Nationals

Burnett has been a mainstay in the Nationals bullpen after arriving there from Pittsburgh in 2009. In 2012, Burnett posted a 2.38 ERA with a K/9 of 9.1, BB/9 of 1.9, and a WHIP of 1.235 over 56.2 innings in 70 appearances. Over 6 professional seasons he has an ERA of 3.58, K/9 of 6.6, BB/9 of 3.6 and a WHIP of 1.341.

While it was originally reported that Burnett may be looking for a 4 year deal, his agent Jim Munsey shot this down. Most likely Burnett will be looking for a deal similar to that offered to lefty Giants reliever Jeremey Affeldt earlier this offseason (3 years/$18 million).

Other suitors for Burnett currently include Milwaukee’s division rivals, The St. Louis Cardinals, as well as his former team the Washington Nationals.

2) Randy Choate – Age 37 – 2012 Team: Miami Marlins/Los Angeles Dodgers

Choate began his 2012 campaign with the new look Miami Marlins only to be traded to Los Angeles in the later part of the season as part of the Hanley Ramirez deal. While Choate showed ability in Miami (2.49 ERA, 3.2 BB/9, 9.6 K/9 and a 0.987 WHIP) the wheels seem to have fallen off in LA. While with the Dodgers his numbers climbed to 4.05 ERA, 6.9 BB/9 and a WHIP of 1.650. Add to this a falling K/9 of 7.4 and you have to believe that Choate either got tired, or just flamed out post trade.

While it has been made clear that the Brewers are looking to go with a smaller 2013 payroll (2012 saw a record 100 million spent), I don’t feel that cheaper here is necessarily better. Choate is 37 years old, and if what was seen in LA last year is any sign, Choate may no longer have what it takes to make a full strong season, something Milwaukee will need since they believe they can make a run in 2013.

3) Mike Gonzalez – Age 34 – 2012 Team: Washington Nationals

Last season, Mike Gonzalez didn’t find a team to play for until May. What a difference a year makes. After posting an ERA of 3.03 with 9.8 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 in 35 2/3 innings of work, Gonzalez has attracted quite a few potential suitors for 2013. As of this writing, 10 teams have expressed interest in Gonzalez including Milwaukee and his former team Washington.

It is believed that Gonzalez will be seeking a 2 year deal. Washington has made it clear that they would like to reacquire both Gonzalez and Burnett if possible.

4) J.P. Howell – Age 29 – 2012 Team: Tampa Bay Rays

The youngest of the five potential pitchers, Howell had a season similar to that of Gonzalez. Howell posted an ERA of 3.04 with a 7.5 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in 50.1 innings of work. He has been a part of the Tampa Bay organization since 2006 and missed the entire 2010 season due to shoulder surgery.

It is believed that a handful of teams are currently interested in Howell including the Brewers and Angels.

5) Tom Gorzelanny – Age 30 – Team Washington Nationals

Our final candidate is also our third former National. Gorzelanny was non-tendered by Washington this week setting the stage for his free-agency. He posted a 2.88 ERA with a 1.319 WHIP, 3.8 BB/9, and a 7.8 K/9 over 72 innings in 45 appearances.

While he was used as a long relief man in Washington, it is believed that he will be looking for a starting spot with whichever team happens to sign him. Based on this, it is unlikely that he would be the best fit for Milwaukee.

The Winter Meetings kick off tomorrow and will keep you in the loop with all of the latest Brewers news as we begin the march to 2013.

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