The news that 33-year-old left-hander Randy Wolf has signed a three-year deal with Milwaukee worth $29.75 million broke this morning.
ESPN's Buster Olney cited a Major League Baseball source close to the team and player. And so Milwaukee made one of the first more significant pitcher free agent signings this offseason.
The urgency Doug Melvin showed in pursuing one of the better pitchers available on the market is easy to understand based on the mediocre performance the Brewers' pitching staff delivered in 2009. The team ranked second-to-last in ERA among all major league clubs fighting for that position with the Baltimore Orioles.
The high expectations fans had for the Brewers were shattered soon after the All-Star game, when the rotation lead by Yovani Gallardo started showing signs of fatigue, and the individual performances of players down the pitching order started to sink.
After the season ended, the Brewers allowed Braden Looper to walk away, and decided to pursue other options. The future of the rest of the now former starters of the Brewers is uncertain at this point.
Manny Parra, Dave Bush, and the overpaid Jeff Suppan will wait and see what deals the Brewers will make this winter to see if they will even have a shot at a starting job in Milwaukee next season.
Many would say that the Brewers are spending too much money for the former Dodger left-hander Wolf. An association with the contract Suppan was signed to can be reasonably drawn, and the hope will be that Melvin will not be forced to eat another high price tag contract in the next three years if Wolf does not deliver.
But, the Brewers needed to do something to repay the dedicated team supporters who for a second straight year passed the 3 million mark for attendance. If nothing else, fans can now be satisfied that their team pursued and signed one of the better hands available out there.
And while I agree with the signing, the Brewers hopefully noted that Randy Wolf carries a 5.95 ERA in games at Miller Park to the team. His overall 2009 season ERA was 3.23 and his win/loss record was 11-7.
I found an interesting stat in the comments section of an ESPN blog that showed the following salary-to-performance numbers:
Zambrano: 18.75 mil/year ERA 3.77
Santana: 18 mil/year ERA 3.13
Oswalt: 14 mil/year ERA 4.12
Lilly: 13 mil/year ERA 3.10
Arroyo: 10.5 mil/year ERA 3.84
Dempster: 9 mil/year ERA 3.65
I looked the numbers up and they are valid.
So one can argue that the Brewers are right in the range for Wolf and did not overspend too much on the aging southpaw. But doubts will always exist, and Wolf will have to prove people wrong next summer.
I suspect that Wolf will be a third starter for Milwaukee, and depending on later signings Bush, Suppan, and Parra will fight for some of the remaining spots in the rotation:
I also would not be surprised to see Hart and Parra get traded for another starter to fill the number two starting role.
But for now, fans should be content to see Milwaukee being aggressive in signing a player that they targeted. If the trend continues, the Brewers can hope that the power available in the batting order can be complemented by a good pitching staff, and that they will be able to return to the playoffs for a second time in three years.