Winter Meetings end without deal for first baseman
With Hart heading to Seattle, Brewers continue search after quiet week
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Brewers general manager Doug Melvin had one final sit-down with Mets GM Sandy Alderson before departing the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort on Thursday, continuing a search for a first baseman that was not resolved during these Winter Meetings.
"You filter through all the things. That's what happens a lot of times here," Melvin said. "If you don't accomplish things, at least you bring them to a head or eliminate ideas or thoughts that you might have come here with."
One idea -- re-signing Corey Hart -- was eliminated this week. He spurned the Brewers' offer for a more lucrative contract with the Mariners.
Hart was the Brewers' top Winter Meetings target, but not the club's only target. Melvin did not dismiss the notion of pursuing a deal with the top available free-agent first baseman, James Loney, whose representatives reached out on Wednesday. The Pirates and Rays have also reportedly had talks with Loney, and the asking price is high.
"We'll continue," Melvin said, "but there's a point we need to make a decision. There's a point they need to make a decision, too."
The Brewers are also active in trade talks about first basemen, including those discussions with Alderson and the Mets that began back at the GM Meetings last month. The Mets have a surplus, with arbitration-eligible Ike Davis and Lucas Duda both popping up in rumors. The Mets this week asked the Brewers for right-hander Tyler Thornburg, but the 25-year-old is currently ticketed for Milwaukee's fifth starter slot. The Brewers have some other relatively advanced pitching prospects, so talks have continued.
Davis will turn 27 in March after earning $3.125 last season, has three years of arbitration eligibility remaining, and is projected to cost about $3.5 million next season. He is a left-handed hitter -- a good fit for the Brewers since second baseman Scooter Gennett is the only projected starting position player who bats from that side of the plate -- and hit 32 home runs with 90 RBIs in 2012, but he slumped so badly in '13 that he was demoted to Triple-A for a stretch. Davis batted .205 for the Mets with a .326 on-base percentage, nine home runs and 30 RBIs in 103 games.
Asked about the chances of a trade vs. a free agent signing, Melvin said, "They're both possibilities."
He is remaining patient, but only to a point.
"There won't be anything today," Melvin said moments before Alderson knocked on the door. "The next couple of days, maybe we could see. ... I like our team. I like the idea that we have guys at every position [but first base]. Our focus is on one area, and it's just unfortunate that the availability is not as great as what you would like it to be."
Deals done: For the third straight year, the Brewers did not make any moves during Winter Meetings week.
Rule 5 Draft activity: Selected left-handed pitcher Wei-Chung Wang from the Pirates' Triple-A roster in the Major League Phase of the draft, and center fielder Kevin Mattison from the Marlins and third baseman Vinnie Catricala from the A's in the Minor League Phase. Wang was an interesting pick, a 21-year-old with a good fastball and one season of professional experience, who was only available in the Rule 5 Draft because of a technicality. The Brewers see lots of upside if they can figure a way to keep him on the roster in 2014.
Goals accomplished: Groundwork. Even though Hart did not give the Brewers the answer they wanted, at least the matter is resolved and the team can move on to other options at first base.
Unfinished business: First base has been the Brewers' priority since Day 1 of the offseason, and it remains so. Once that is settled, the Brewers can determine how much money they have left to pursue relief pitching, preferably players with closing experience. There was contact this week with former Cubs closer Carlos Marmol's agent, for example.
Team's bottom line: "Sometimes, the timing, we don't control that all the time. I guess you can if you want to overpay or you want to do something stupid, like things that happen early sometimes. I think we'll get somebody. I'm not overly worried at this time, but that's my demeanor, I guess." -- Melvin, on staying patient in his search for a first baseman