Melvin and the Indians agreed to send Matt LaPorta to Cleveland and the Brewers made the playoffs for the first time in 26 years. Mat Gamel, along with Alcides Escobar, became 1A and 1B in the farm system's top prospect ratings.
Coming into the 2009 season Mat Gamel was viewed by some as a left-handed hitting Ryan Braun: a tremendous hitter with great potential but a butcher in the field at third base.
When Bill Hall was unable to handle full-time duties at third base, Gamel was called up to the Brewers and began to see sporadic action. Gamel had a promising start with the team hitting a home run and driving in three runs in his first start with the team on May 18 against the Cardinals.
Over the next two months, Gamel rotated between starting and coming off the bench, never receiving regular playing time. He was eventually sent back to the minors until rejoining the team after September call-ups.
Due to his extended time sitting on Milwaukee's bench, Gamel will spend his offseason in the Venezuelan Winter League to make up for all the at-bats he missed during the season. However, his 2010 status on the team is still up in the air with many possible options.
Gamel has primarily been a third baseman, but he could be moved to any number of positions depending on what direction the Brewers decide to go in this winter.
Gamel could stay at third base and platoon with Casey McGehee or given the chance to win the job outright. He could also see a position change to either first base or the outfield. The Brewers could also trade him, either alone or in a package, to acquire a starting pitcher that the team desperately needs.
Melvin hinted at his end of the year press conference how the team views him and what the possible outcome of everything might be. When one takes a look at all the possibilities, it becomes pretty clear on what to expect over the next few months.
Let's take a look at all the possibilities.
Gamel platoons at third base with Casey McGehee if:
The Brewers feel McGehee doesn't heal properly from minor offseason knee surgery. Although management feel he'll be fine and were quite impressed with his play this year. The two would offer a great righty-lefty duo until one of them prove worthy of handling full-time duties at the hot corner.
Gamel becomes the full-time third baseman if:
The Brewers decide it's better for them to trade McGehee than Gamel. McGehee should and will be given strong consideration for Rookie of the Year. He also just turned 27, almost four years older than Gamel. His trade value will likely never be higher than it is right now. The team could decide that McGehee's success may have been a one-year wonder and trade him in a package for a starter.
Gamel changes positions to first base if:
Prince Fielder is traded for a marquee starting pitcher in return. Although this is the least likely scenario, it still could happen. Both Melvin and assistant GM Gord Ash commented at their end of the year press conference they don't see any way they could get equal value in return for Fielder. Gamel's bat projects quite well as a first baseman and some of his defensive liabilities could be covered up.
Gamel moves to the outfield if:
The Brewers feel Gamel's bat is too valuable to trade. Mike Cameron could return in 2010 but it is far from a certainty. Should he depart, Corey Hart could move to center field and Gamel could man a corner outfield spot.
This is a scenario that many fans are in favor of, but management doesn't seem to go along with that thought. When asked about the move at his press conference, Melvin had a very telling response, "I don't see that. I don't think so."
Gamel starts the year in Triple A if:
The Brewers feel he has too much upside to trade, and they plan a future position change for him. Gamel has shown his bat is ready for the major league level, but his defense (regardless of positions) still needs work.
It's hard to imagine this taking place since the Brewers seem to have no interest in Gamel changing positions. If they did, he would be doing so in winter ball, and there has been no indication from anyone involved of this taking place.
Gamel is traded this winter if:
He and JJ Hardy return a good starting pitcher to the Brewers' rotation. It is now very clear that Hardy will not be with the team in 2010. An awful 2009 has taken away much of his trade value, but he still has two years before he hits the free agent market.
Teaming him with the six years of service time until Gamel reaches free agency could land the Brewers a pitcher to slot behind Yovani Gallardo in the rotation. Starting pitching is the biggest need for the Brewers and trading away one of their top prospects may be a sacrifice the team makes.
So what will become of Mat Gamel for the 2010 season? Brewer fans should anticipate his departure from team this winter. The most likely time for a trade would be at baseball's winter meetings that will take place in Indianapolis in early December.
While it will be hard for many fans to rationalize the thought of trading two top prospects in a year-and-a-half, they need to remember that the Brewers won't get a rental player in return like they did when Matt LaPorta was traded. A trade involving Gamel will see a very good pitcher that will help the Brewers far beyond just the 2010 season.
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