MLB Free Agents 2012: 5 Players Milwaukee Brewers Will Target at Winter Meetings

Alec DoppCorrespondent IDecember 2, 2011

MLB Free Agents 2012: 5 Players Milwaukee Brewers Will Target at Winter Meetings

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    Next week (Dec. 5-8), the baseball cosmos will shift its collective focus to the 2011 MLB Winter Meetings, where many of the top available free-agents from the 2012 class are likely to ink brand new deals.

    Between the apparent need for a veteran shortstop and eighth-inning setup man, GM Doug Melvin and the Milwaukee Brewers aren't likely to be big players at this winter's meetings (unlike last winter). However, there are needs that will be addressed and noteworthy names that could be acquired.

    Here are five names Melvin and the Brewers will target at next week's crucial meetings.

    Alec Dopp covers the Milwaukee Brewers as a featured columnist at Bleacher Report. Read his blog, Brewers Rumors, and follow him on Twitter @alecdopp.

Rafael Furcal

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    The Brewers are in serious need for a seasoned shortstop this winter, and up to this point, Rafael Furcal has dominated the rumor-mill.

    At 34 years old, Furcal is a shell of his former self when it comes to production and efficiency at the plate. However, his veteran presence and steadfast glove in the field make him one of Melvin's top targets this offseason.

    Outside of the Cardinals, who are more than likely contemplating re-signing Furcal this winter, the market hasn't been too stringent, and doesn't look to be. He may not be Melvin's first choice, but expect the Brewers to at least make an offer during or shortly after next week's get-together.

Frank Francisco

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    Outside of finding an upgrade at shortstop, there's no doubting that Melvin's No. 2 priority is to find a power reliever who can adequately replace Francisco Rodriguez next season.

    Former Texas Rangers closer Frank Francisco could catch Melvin's eye, as he's proven to be one of the best strikeout relievers in all of MLB over the past few seasons.

    With the Blue Jays, Francisco garnered a 3.55 ERA while striking out 53 in 50.1 IP. He also notched 17 saves to go with a 9.41 K/9 ratio in 2011.

    The market shouldn't be too demanding for his services, so if the Brewers aren't able to lock him up next week, they should be able to compete for him shortly thereafter.

Jerry Hairston

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    If not for the acquisition of Jerry Hairston at the trade deadline last season, who knows how the Brewers' season would've ended.

    Acquired from the Nationals, the 35-year-old veteran utility-man extraordinaire batted .385 with four RBI and a .961 OPS in 11 postseason games as the full-time starting third baseman with Milwaukee.

    Reports suggest Melvin has already offered Hairston a one-year deal to return as a Brewer next season, however the price and duration have not yet been disclosed.

    Obviously, Hairston will look to explore his options with such a high demand for quality infielding gloves this winter. His time for beating around the bush won't last too much longer. Expect the Brewers to offer him a new-and-improved deal at next week's meetings.

Aramis Ramirez

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    With the uncertain future of Casey McGehee at third base and Prince Fielder likely on his way out, now could be the time for the Brewers to act and sign a prominent name to bolster their lineup. Aramis Ramirez might be that chief addition.

    Ramirez's agent, Paul Kinzer, has said that at least four or five teams are seriously interested in signing the former Cub this winter. Could the Brewers be one of them?

    According to sources, Milwaukee could very much be a potential destination for Ramirez.

    Last season, the long-time Cub batted .306 with 26 HR, 93 RBI and a .510 SLG. He's reportedly seeking a four-year deal or three-year deal with an option. While the Brewers may or may not be willing to bestow such a contract, Ramirez remains a top target for Milwaukee at next week's meetings.

Jimmy Rollins

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    I'm not sure if there's any one player more qualified to fill Milwaukee's shortstop void than Rollins.

    Even at 33 years of age, the long-time Philly can still swing the bat with great efficiency (.268 BA, 16 HR, 68 RBI last season). He's also relatively volatile on the basepaths, notching 33 stolen bases last season with Philadelphia, which would work wonders in Ron Roenicke's aggressive-style of running on the basepaths.

    More importantly, though, his seasoned glove would be a sumptuous add-on to Milwaukee's infield. Yielding a .988 FPCT and 2.9 UZR last season, Rollins was still one of the top defensive shortstops in all of baseball.

    Reports have shown Rollins is looking for a five-year deal this offseason, which is probably out of Milwaukee's price range. However, Melvin has said he intends on touching base with Dan Lozano, Rollins' agent, on a possible short-term deal.