As Brewers’ General Manager, I would grade Doug Melvin a B+. Now I’m sure that some will figure that this is way too high but being a MLB GM is quite a complex assignment in this day of high salaried free agents, risky long term contracts, arbitration and evaluating prospects.
It’s like putting together a new jigsaw puzzle every year, trying to fit all the right pieces together. It’s like plugging a hole using a sieve. It’s like trying to balance the national budget when spending a billion dollars a day.
Moves are made based on a number of criteria, the most important for a team in a market like Milwaukee is, of course, money. Without a salary cap, the revenue streams between top and bottom are as wide as the National Debt.
Many critical off-season decisions need to be made. It would be much easier if all the decisions could be made at once, then you would limit your costly contracts while still improving the team.
But this is the real world and risks need to sometimes be made. Limit your mistakes and you’ll be around a lot longer. Make boneheaded moves every year and you’re in the unemployment line trying to survive on meager benefits and living on a diet of Beenie Weenies.
The genesis for this particular topic stems from an idea that my daughter threw at me the other day. Why not, she asked, pick up Pedro Martinez? He pitched well enough in the WBC to prove he still has something in the tank. This future Hall of Famer said that he would be willing to play for any club so long as the salary begins at a million a year. Quite a bargain today.
The point she was trying to make was that while long in the tooth, Pedro would still be a better risk than the Brewers recent signing of Braden Looper for $5 million a year. This all makes economic sense.
The problem is Melvin’s recent moves have left him with no wriggle room. Last year when Francisco Cordero decided to go to Cincinnati, Melvin wasted $10 million on a washed up Eric Gagne. When Gagne couldn’t make it past May without imploding and being banished to the DL, everyone knew what a colossal mistake it was. Strike one?
This year, when Solomon Torres retired and there was no better alternative, he signed Trevor Hoffman who will, you guessed it, open the year on the disabled list.
The Brewers bullpen may be worse than their rotation, which is saying a lot. The substitute closer, Carlos Villanueva, was hardly giving the club any confidence with a horrendous spring. There’s an old Chinese proverb that says “Behind every man is another man”. Obviously not referring to the Brewers bullpen. Strike Two?
Then there was the questionable signing of the aforementioned Looper. True, he has been a durable pitcher albeit mainly mediocre since becoming a starter. This is the best he could do for $5 million? Already saddled with the ridiculous $12.5 million Jeff Suppan will be paid this year and stubbornly refusing to negotiate with Ben Sheets (maybe he knew about his aching elbow?), the Brewers go into the season with one of the more challenging rotations in the league. That’s two starters we’ve taken off the Cardinals’ hands. Will it be Kyle Lohse next year when he proves that last year was a fluke? Strike Three or Wild Pitch?
The crux of the matter is that even though Melvin can be calculating, his recent panic attacks have denied the club the opportunity to sign a pitcher like Martinez for even a year because the club has a history of not eating contracts (not even Derrick Turnbow’s.)
“….all men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong, and repairs the evil. The only crime is pride.” – Sophocles
Will someone mention this to Melvin?