It's that time of year again. The time of year where everyone with a keyboard becomes a baseball expert and knows exactly where every free agent will sign.
But let's get real. No one knows anything, and it's because of teams like the Milwaukee Brewers that armchair GMs lose credibility.
Why are the Brewers so different than any other team? It could be a number of variables. They are aggressive, yet relatively quiet when searching for options via free agency and/or trade, and they have a big market mentality despite being in the smallest market in Major League Baseball.
Which brings me to the point of this article—what the Brewers should be doing right now to prepare for next season.
Tom Haudricourt recently reported that free agent starting pitcher Ryan Dempster and the Brew Crew are mutually interested in each other. It makes sense for both teams—Brewers need pitching, Dempster has made a nice home in the NL Central.
But pursuing Dempster would be a mistake for the Brewers.
First of all, Dempster will cost too much and he'll want at least three years, according to Haudricourt. Dempster still has some life left in his arm, but it could easily turn into another Randy Wolf situation.
Dempster had a solid season last year. Between the Chicago Cubs and later the Texas Rangers, Dempster posted some impressive stats. He went 12-8 with a 3.38 ERA, and collected 153 strikeouts over the course of 173 innings. His command was solid too, only giving up 2.7 bases on balls per nine innings.
But Dempster will turn 36 in 2013, and assuming he gets his three-year deal, he'll be with Milwaukee until he's nearly 40.
His age is simply too big of a risk. According to Fangraphs, Dempster's velocity decreased last season, and despite his numbers, an aging arm with lowering velocity should raise a ton of red flags for the Brewers, who have a long history of signing pitchers way past their prime.
The simple fact is that the Brewers shouldn't go after Dempster. Not when there are better options on the table.
Obviously, the best option is Zack Greinke. While the righty may be out of the Brewers' price range, there's no telling what Doug Melvin and company can do. Greinke loved Milwaukee, Milwaukee loved Greinke. A deal could be struck if Melvin forks over a little green.
Next up, you have guys like Anibal Sanchez and Dan Haren. Both are still better options than Dempster, but Sanchez will likely look for a deal that far exceeds his talent level, and Haren's injuries are hampering what could be an ace-like pitcher.
And then there's Edwin Jackson. He had something of a career year last season with the Washington Nationals, but he's asking for $15 million over multiple years. Like Sanchez, a great talent that is just asking for too much.
That leaves us with the man who I really hope the Brewers take a hard look at—Brandon McCarthy.
McCarthy has quietly been a very good pitcher over the course of his 7-year major league career (excluding his absence in 2010).
A red flag will be raised by the terrifying head injury he took when a line drive nearly killed him, but by all accounts, he's back on track and as healthy as ever.
In his past two seasons with the Oakland Athletics, McCarthy has pitched in 281.2 innings, pitched well enough for a 3.29 ERA, and struck out 196 batters, while only walking 49, good enough for a K/BB ratio of 4.00.
Injuries are a concern, sure, but McCarthy is worth the risk. He'll come at a massive bargain compared to everyone else listed in this article, and he'll be a nice No. 2 starter behind Yovani Gallardo.
Internally, the Brewers are pretty deep with starting pitching. Right now, the only sure spots in the rotation are Gallardo, and breakout studs Marco Estrada and Michael Fiers.
That leaves young guys like a reinvigorated Mark Rogers (2012 MLB - 7 GS, 3.92 ERA, 39.0 IP, 41 K) and top prospects Wily Peralta (2012 MLB - 5 GS, 2.48 ERA, 29.0 IP, 23 K) and Tyler Thornburg (2012 MLB - 3 GS, 4.50 ERA, 22 IP, 20 K) duking it out for one of the last spots.
Which free agent starter will most likely be a Brewer?
A glaring absence is Chris Narveson, who will be returning from essentially an entire season off due to injury. I think, especially with the release of Manny Parra, that Narveson will be the long relief pitcher in the bullpen, at least to start the season.
So there you have it. A thorough guide of what the Brewers should be thinking from a guy sitting on a couch. Dempster bad, McCarthy good.
There's no point in delaying and ignoring the youth in the farm system, either. A lot of these guys can be placed in relief roles with occasional spot starts to acclimate themselves to the majors.
As for the rest of relief pitching, I'm sure the Brewers will figure it out. They've been in contact with some solid names, and the addition of Michael Olmstead from the Boston Red Sox was absolutely brilliant.
If the Brewers can't get a deal done with a solid starter, or if they are even feeling lucky (and rich), they should go after Josh Hamilton. Anyone who says the Brewers should avoid him are nuts. Having a hard swinging lefty, arguably one better than Prince Fielder, batting behind Braun would bring this team to new heights.
Best case scenarios—sign Greinke to a long-term deal, or sign either McCarthy or Harren, along with Hamilton to club-friendly deals. Don't let Melvin and company fool you, these are things that can happen.
Just, please don't be sucked into a bad contract over Ryan Dempster.