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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pitching In With Some Speculation

The Fairly Detached Observers

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Last year the Brewers made the playoffs for the first time in a generation, but it required a bold mid-season move that added CC Sabathia to the starting rotation. This year Sabathia is gone and the Brewers still can’t count on pitching help from the minor leagues. Will they need an ’09 version of Sabathia, and who might that be?

Artie: The Brewers took 53 guys in the June draft and almost half were pitchers.

Frank: Twenty-five, including No. 1 pick Eric Arnett of Indiana University, who’s already signed up.

Artie: Why so many hurlers? Because the organization, by its own admission, is pitching-poor.

Frank: Partly because a couple of past No. 1 picks, Mike Jones and Mark Rogers, broke down with injuries.

Artie: To say nothing of Nick Neugebauer, who was supposed to be an all-star by now. But he’s buried in the past, and Arnett is the future, perhaps. What about the present?

Frank: For now, the Brewers are trying addition by subtraction. They dumped Manny Parra out of the rotation and into the minors after a disaster against the White Sox put him at 3-8 with a 7.52 ERA. Thanks to some days off, the team can afford to go “throwback” with a four-man rotation until June 28.

Artie: But who’ll be No. 5 then?

Frank: The candidates already here are Seth McClung and Carlos Villanueva. Both made starts last year, but both have done well in the bullpen this year. At Triple-A Nashville there are Tim Dillard, R.J. Swindle and Mike Burns.

Artie: Names that don’t set my heart a-racing. Just the way I feel about three of the current starters, too.

Frank: Yovani Gallardo entered this week at 6-3 and 2.88, so you must mean the veteran trio of Jeff Suppan, Dave Bush and Braden Looper.

Artie: Also known as the Mediocre Brothers.

Frank: Going into this week each of them had an ERA around 4.50 and their combined record was 13-10. Decent enough, I guess, for a team that hits like the Brewers.

Artie: That’s just it, though. The Brewers went 4-9 in the first two weeks of June because the hitting fell off. When that happens, I don’t see Suppan, Bush and Looper being consistently good enough to pick up the slack.

Frank: Over the long season, I think hitting can get them to the playoffs even with a so-so rotation. But winning in the postseason probably would take more.

Artie: Another Sabathia, in other words.

Where do the Brewers look this time?

Frank: Now that Randy Johnson has his 300th win, if the Giants stay pretty far behind the Dodgers they might deal him. He knows the “rent a lefty” role; in 1998 Seattle sent him to Houston and he went 10-1 to get the Astros to the playoffs.

Artie: But at 45, we can’t expect The Big Unit to approach what CC did. Right now he’s a Suppan-esque 6-5 with a 4.89 ERA.

Frank: Jake Peavy is on the shelf for a while with a bad ankle, but if San Diego doesn’t get hot he’ll be available. But what a cost! He’s guaranteed $48 million from 2010 through ‘12, with a club option of $22 million for 2013 or a buyout of $4 million. That’s at least $52 million for three seasons or $70 million for four. Are Mark Attanasio’s pockets that deep, considering he’ll have to shell out $12.5 million for Suppan next year?

Artie: Here’s a scenario: The Brewers go back to their trading partner of last year, the Indians, and grab another Cy Youngwinning lefty, Cliff Lee. He’s only 4-6 but his ERA is 2.88.

Frank: Let’s call up Lee’s contract figures… He’s a bargain, by baseball standards. A salary of $5.75 million this year and a club option for a mere $8 million in 2010. But he wouldn’t come cheap in a trade, especially after almost no-hitting the Cardinals on Sunday night.

Artie: I think the Brewers would make that move, whatever it takes.

Frank: We know Attanasio and Doug Melvin are willing to gamble. Trading for Sabathia, firing Ned Yost with 12 games left in the season—last year it was “the future is now,” and ‘09 is no different.

Artie: Tom Glavine is another available veteran, cut by the Braves while he was trying to rehab in the minors.

Frank: He didn’t pitch real well against youngsters. I think he’s done.

Artie: Pedro Martinez is still out there, but you’ve got to think there’s something wrong with him. Otherwise the Mets would have rushed to keep him.

Frank: For years now, there’s always something wrong with Pedro. How could you count on him, even for three months?

Artie: The Giants are stockpiled with good young pitching, and they need hitting. Boy, if the Brewers could get that Matt Cain, that would be sweet. He’s 9-1 and 2.39. Put a package together and grab that guy!

Frank: Back to our research… Cain’s contract is $2.9 million this year, $4.5 million next year and a club option of $6.25 million for 2011. But who would the Brewers have to give up? Prince Fielder?

Artie: That would be tough to swallow the way Fielder is hitting. But I wouldn’t mind if the Brewers gave up a chunk of their future in Mat Gamel.

And there’s always Bill Hall, if he has any trade value left.

Frank: Any other pitchers in mind?

Artie: I’ve seen rumors involving another Cleveland pitcher who’s near and dear to your heart as a Yankee fan.

Frank: You don’t mean…

Artie: Carl Pavano.

Frank: Oh my God! Pavano is the poster boy for “have one great season, cash in and then bomb.” He was 18-8 with Florida in 2004 and the Yankees signed him for four years at almost $40 million. For that they got exactly 26 starts—he missed all of 2006 and most of ’07 and ’08 with injuries, one of them a famous case of “strained buttocks.”

Artie: “Pain in the ass” sums it up for you, ain’a?

Frank: He was 9-8 with a 5.00 ERA in those 26 starts.

Artie: Less than $5 million per victory. What a deal!

Frank: Pavano’s making $1.5 million this year, so he’s cheap. But he staggered through five innings Monday night against the Brewers and gave up nine earned runs to Kansas City last week. He’s 6-5 and 5.73.

Artie: Suppan-esque again. Here’s another question. If J.J. Hardy, Jason Kendall and Hall don’t stop scuffling, what will be needed more: a reliable starting pitcher or another reliable hitter? Hey, Cleveland also has that Mark DeRosa…

Favre From Resolution

Artie: Michael Vick was officially cut by the Atlanta Falcons. If the NFL lets him play again, there’s only one team for him.

Frank: I fear to ask, which one?

Artie: The Cleveland Browns, of course. With the famous Dawg Pound section at their stadium, the marketing possibilities are endless! And they can use a quarterback; right now it’s Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson.

Frank: Brett Favre was going to tutor their QBs at training camp, but he might be with the Vikings by then.

Artie: “Might” being the key word, as always. Favre finally talked Monday night on HBO but essentially just said, “Stay tuned.”

Frank: ESPN said the Vikings gave him a deadline to decide on un-retiring but coach Brad Childress denied it. Now ESPN says a Minnesota trainer is helping Favre recover from his arm surgery.

Artie: It’s always “ unnamed sources.” I say they’re either Favre or his agent, Bus Cook. But when Cook talks in public, he never knows a thing.

Frank: I saw one reason why it all drags on. Last week the guys on “Pardon the Interruption” were guessing we won’t know anything for sure about Favre until August. Cut to commercial—and it’s Brett throwing passes in his Wrangler jeans! The longer people talk about him, the longer he stays marketable.

Artie: Cook knows that much. But not for attribution.