Brewers put relief help on back burner
GM Melvin wants to settle first base before bolstering bullpen
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Brewers general manager Doug Melvin would ideally add two experienced relief arms to the bullpen, but said he was focused on settling first base before moving to the relief market.
"We don't want to go and spend money on bullpen help and then we find, 'Oh man, we could have had this guy at first base instead,'" Melvin said Monday. "That all interacts with each other. We're not in a situation where we can go and do what we want on two or three spots and worry about it later."
The Brewers already have about $68 million in 2014 payroll committed to eight players -- Ryan Braun, Yovani Gallardo, Tom Gorzelanny, Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy, Kyle Lohse, Aramis Ramirez and Rickie Weeks -- and are projected to spend another $5 million on Marco Estrada and Juan Francisco in arbitration. That leaves 15 players to sign. Last year's Opening Day payroll was in the neighborhood of $85 million.
If the budget permits, Melvin's preference is for experienced relievers who have closed games, but it's a short list. So far, the club hasn't discussed bringing back John Axford or Francisco Rodriguez, both of whom fit the bill. The Brewers have checked in about former Cubs closer Carlos Marmol, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Other free agents with closer experience include Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, Fernando Rodney and Chris Perez.
The Brewers already are set with closer Jim Henderson and setup man Brandon Kintzler, each of whom had breakthrough seasons in 2013. Gorzelanny underwent shoulder surgery last week, but should be ready for Opening Day. Other in-house options include right-handers Rob Wooten, Donovan Hand, Michael Blazek and Alfredo Figaro, plus a stable of young starting pitchers who could shift to relief (Hiram Burgos, Mike Fiers among them).
"We have some bodies we like, it's just a matter of experience versus non-experience," Melvin said. "It's not a matter of having to go out and having to get four guys. Maybe two veteran status-type guys."
Gorzelanny recovering from shoulder surgery
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Brewers left-hander Tom Gorzelanny underwent shoulder surgery last week, assistant general manager Gord Ash revealed Monday.
Gorzelanny, who did not pitch after Sept. 2, underwent what Ash described as a "cleanup" of the joint and is expected to be rehabbing until mid-March. Because he is ticketed for a bullpen role, the Brewers think Gorzelanny will have enough time to be ready by Opening Day.
"He wasn't really progressing from that shoulder issue he had toward the end of the year, so he asked for a second opinion with [Mets medical director Dr. Richard] Altchek," Ash said. "Dr. Altchek recommended what I would in layman's terms classify as a little cleanup of the acromion, which is a little bone in your shoulder."
• The Norichika Aoki-for-Will Smith trade is not quite complete, Ash noted with a chuckle Monday. He is still in contact with Royals assistant general manager Dean Taylor about the status of Aoki's interpreter, Kosuke Inaji, who is a Brewers employee with a contract through 2014 that coincided with Aoki's. Ash said he "fully expected" the teams would work out a transfer.
• The Brewers have yet to commence contract discussions with their arbitration-eligible players, Estrada and Francisco. According to MLBTradeRumors.com's projections, Estrada will cost about $3.5 million and Francisco about $1.5 million.
• Weeks is making "very good" progress in his rehab from hamstring surgery, Ash said. The Brewers' athletic training staff had hoped to examine Weeks this week, since the Winter Meetings are in Weeks' hometown, but Weeks traveled instead to California for Braun's wedding. Weeks has been running, and Ash has "no concerns" about Weeks being ready for the start of Spring Training.
"We haven't physically seen him yet, that's the only thing," Ash said. "But the reports have all been positive."
The Brewers have also received good reports about third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who nursed a knee injury throughout the season.
• The Brewers have an opening on the 40-man roster, but Melvin said the club was unlikely to make a selection in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft. Club officials will go over potential picks again Tuesday.
• Outfielder Mitch Haniger was named to the Arizona Fall League's all-prospect team. He led the league with 24 RBIs, tied for second with eight doubles, third with 12 extra-base hits and fourth with 28 hits in 100 at-bats.