Besides first base, the Brewers have holes to fill in their bullpen and possibly in their starting rotation.
There are plenty of options when it comes to starting and relief pitchers every year, but it comes down to a question of which players will fit the Brewers’ needs.
Below is a list of three relief pitchers and two starting pitchers that the Brewers could consider adding during this off-season.
Jesse Crain: Crain is a relatively unknown player to most fans, but many middle relievers are. Crain would be an excellent addition to the Brewers bullpen because he would not cost Milwaukee a lot of money. He has played the last three seasons with the Chicago White Sox where he hasn’t posted an earned run average above three. This past season, he had a sub 1.00 ERA before injuring his right shoulder. This injury led to Crain missing the season, which is why he wouldn’t cost the team as much money. However, the risk appears to be worth the potential reward. Crain will only want a one year deal and experts project his salary around $4 million. He would be a great set up man for Jim Henderson and could close games if needed.
Manny Parra: The former Brewers starter has now been converted to a full time reliever and has become a very effective left-handed relief specialist. The Brewers could use another left- handed reliever and Parra would be a cheap, yet effective, candidate forthat position. Last season with the Cincinnati Reds, Parra was incredibly effective against left-handed hitters. In 24 innings, Parra posted a 1.13 ERA and 32 strikeouts while holding opponent batters to a .167 batting average. When used the correct way, Parra would give the Brewers a boost in the bullpen, especially against lefties. Parra will probably ask for a one to two year contract with minimal money, making him an excellent option for the Brewers to bring back.
Francisco Rodriguez: Yet another player that could be reunited with the Brewers is righty Francisco Rodriguez. K-Rod pitched like he was five years younger this season than when he was in Milwaukee. He posted a 1.08 ERA in 24 and 2/3 innings, before being traded to the Baltimore Orioles at the trade deadline. Once in Baltimore, Rodriguez became less effective, posting a 4.50 ERA in 22 innings. Rodriguez probably won’t return to Baltimore and likely won’t get another closing job that he wants. K-Rod has shown that he is willing to pitch in the eighth inning, and the Brewers could use a trustworthy set up man. If Rodriguez is willing to take a pay cut, he could end up in Milwaukee for another go around with the Brewers.
Paul Maholm: If the Brewers look to add a starter to their rotation, Maholm may be an inexpensive option that could pan out well. Maholm started his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates and was traded from the Chicago Cubs to the Atlanta Braves last season at the trade deadline. Maholm was effective after the trade,
but when returning this year for his first full season he didn’t perform up to expectations. Dealing with injuries during the season, Maholm posted a 4.41 ERA in 153 innings and was kept off the Braves playoff roster. Maholm has potential to be a number three starter for a contending team. If the Brewers notice this potential, they could get Maholm to sign a discounted one year contract that would allow him to show his worth to other teams.
Ryan Vogelsong: After the San Francisco Giants declined its $6.5 million option on Vogelsong, he was granted free agency and his story has been well documented. After struggling to begin his major league career, he went to play in Japan in the Nippon Professional Baseball League. Returning to professional baseball in 2011 with the Giants, Vogelsong had his best professional season, winning 13 games while posting a 2.71 ERA and being named to the all-star team. 2012 was also a successful year for Vogelsong, but 2013 was a challenge. Vogelsong posted a 5.73 ERA in 103 and 2/3 innings. Vogelsong isn’t young, he will be 36 on Opening Day 2014, but he is still worth a flier. If the Brewers do take a risk on Vogelsong, it will be a cheap one that has potential to really pay off in the long run.
Whatever the Brewers decide to do in the offseason, realistically they are only a couple of pieces away from being a contender in the National League Central Division.