Are The Brewers Just a Couple Of Moves Away?

Onan CocaContributor INovember 14, 2009

CHICAGO - JULY 03:  Jeff Suppan #37 of the Milwaukee Brewers throws a pitch against the Chicago Cubs during their MLB game on July 3, 2009 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Do you think Jeff Suppan wakes up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night thinking "I am why the Brewers cannot win..."?  I doubt it.  If he does lose sleep at night though, he shouldn't.  It's not his fault... it's GM Doug Melvin's.  Melvin is the man who gave the then 31 year old Suppan a 4 year $42 million dollar deal, and it will be a crushing blow to the Brewers this season as they will be forced to pay Suppan almost $13 million for sub par pitching.  His stats for last season? 161 IP, a 5.29 ERA, a 1.69 WHIP, a .309 BAA, 74 BB to 80 K's.  Basically his numbers were horrendous, the simple fact is that Jeff Suppan is no longer a major league caliber starting pitcher and his $12.75 million salary will cost the Brewers a possible playoff spot.

Melvin recently declined to pickup Braden Looper's $6.5 million club option (a wise move)... his reasoning was that it would save the Brewers $5.5 million.  Melvin was right, there will be better pitchers to be had in free agency for cheaper dollars.  However, the $5.5 million he just saved will be meaningless ... unless he can get out from under Suppan's contract. 

The Brewers had a payroll of about $80 million last year, the numbers will probably be less this year—but let's be positive and say they will be the same as last - $80 million.  That means that Jeff Suppan will make roughly 16 percent of the Brewers payroll... it is generally not a good idea for a mid-market team to spend that much of its payroll on a player who shouldn't even be playing.

If I am Doug Melvin I make it my top priority to trade Jeff Suppan ASAP.  How far would I go?  I would even eat up to half of his bloated salary to get him out the door right now.  So does Melvin have any options available to make this dream a reality?  I think he might find some fools...er, I mean GM's... who could be convinced to take Suppan on.

The Washington Nationals are looking for a veteran 5th starter to help mentor their young guns and word is they like Livan Hernandez for yet another year.  The problem with that is they will be competing with the Arizona Diamondbacks for his services, as they D-backs wouldn't mind seeing Livan round out their rotation again. 

Melvin should give both the D-backs and Nats a call and offer them Suppan and some cash on a silver platter.  How much cash would it take?  I have no idea, but as I said Melvin should be ready to pay up to $7 million of Suppan's owed cash... at the very least it could save the Brewers upward of $5 million more.  Suppan could be seen as a better option than the oft pummeled Livan who is about to turn 637 (in Latino years which seems to be about 5-7 years more than American years).

Other options: Cardinals, Pirates, Mariners, MetsRangers, and the Royals.  No doubt Suppan would not be the first (or even desired) option of any of these teams, but when scraping the felt for pitching... beggars can't be choosers.  The Cardinals are losing Joel Pineiro who will become too expensive for the Cardinals. 

The Pirates have some young guns in the fold and may be looking for a mentor type, similar to the Nats.  The Mariners actually have a couple of starters who are actually worse options than Suppan (like Carlos Silva), and might be a good fit to swap a bad contract( can anyone say Suppan for Silva?).  The Mets are always looking for pitching and Omar Minaya loves guys like this as evidenced by last years use of the aforementioned Livan Hernandez, Tim Redding, Elmer Dessens, etc., etc., etc. 

The Rangers are also in need of a starter to round out the rotation and may have interest in a stable innings eater like Suppan.  While the Royals should run full speed from a pitcher of Suppan's price and ability, Dayton Moore has proved himself to be completely capable of actually trading the Brewers some value for Suppan and his bad contract!  Seriously, the two sides could actually find some common ground if the Brewers toss in enough cash.

In addition I would non-tender Dave Bush, and move Manny Parra into the bullpen where he belongs (unless a trade partner becomes available somewhere).  These moves along with Looper's buyout would save the Brewers a little more than $15 million dollars... it would also open up 4 holes in the rotation (though some would argue those holes were their even with the pitchers they had last year).  Along with the recent acquisition of Carlos Gomez and ridding themselves of Mike Cameron and JJ Hardy's sizeable contracts, the Brewers have purchased themselves some nice flexibility for the upcoming year.

IF (and it's a BIG IF), we can be optimists and say that the Brewers can move Suppan (while eating half of his salary), decide to non-tender Bush and move Parra (anywhere else)... what next?

How about this...

The Brewers have a true Ace in Yovanni Gallardo so let's slot some support in for him.  My first move would be an attempt at bringing back Ben Sheets on an incentive laden contract... the kind of deal that could make him some very serious money if he pays off.  If Sheets balks I would look at Erik Bedard or Rich Harden to fall in behind Gallardo.  With the flexibiltiy the Brewers have created one of these guys should be a very real possibility for them. 

Now for pitcher No. 3—I would concentrate on the 3rd tier pitchers in the Free Agent market, specifically; Joel Piniero, Randy Wolf, or Jason Marquis.  I would offer a three year deal worth somewhere between $21-$25 million.

Let's finish this off with pitchers No. 4 and No. 5.  Scroll down another tier to the guys who are the workmen of the league, the pitchers who get no pub but take care of the dirty work at the bottom of the rotation, namely; Doug Davis, Jon Garland, Brad Penny, Todd Wellemeyer. 

One more group the Brew Crew might want to take a look at are the reclamations; Brett Myers, Mark Prior, and Freddy Garcia.

If the Brewers can get one of these guys from each group, I think they could set themselves up to compete in the weak NL Central pretty easily.  My rotation for the Brewers would look something like this:

1. Yovanni Gallardo  2. Ben Sheets  3. Randy Wolf  4. Todd Wellemeyer  5. Brett Myers

With the rock solid Brewers offense, this rotation could pay off huge for the Brew Crew... so head's up Brewers fans, there may be something to cheer for yet!