Offseason, Day One: Decision Time

As noted by Adam McCalvy today, the Brewers have seven players eligible for free agency now that the World Series are over, as well as two players — Braden Looper and David Weathers — who have options that need to be addressed within the next 10 days.

Mike Cameron, Jason Kendall, Frank Catalanotto, Craig Counsell, Felipe Lopez, Corey Patterson, and Claudio Vargas are the eligible seven, and odds are the Brewers are planning to at least keep a few of those players on their 2010 roster. The question then becomes which players to pursue, and which players to wish best of luck in their future endeavors. Of course, even if the Brewers attempt to re-sign them, they’ll have to compete with 29 other teams.

So, who should the Brewers keep? Let’s go player-by-player here.

Cameron — I’m a fan of Cameron…anyone who is a returning visitor here probably already knows that. Even at his age, he’s a fantastic defensive centerfielder — probably the best the Brewers have seen in a long time. He provides a great amount of offensive value for his position, too…not that many centerfielders are going to give you 20-25 home runs a year. The issue with Cameron is the pricetag. He made $10 million in 2009, and while most metrics would say he was worth it, a small market club has to consider cheaper alternatives if the loss in production isn’t too much. Cameron’s been a great influence on the team’s young players, but perhaps it’s time to thank him for his two years and look for alternatives.

Kendall — At the risk of sounding like Tim McCarver, as much as I like Cameron, that’s how much I dislike Kendall. He was at least tolerable in 2008 when he was throwing out runners left and right, but he reverted back to recent history in 2009, hitting just as poorly as ever while seeing a decrease in his ability to keep basestealers at bay. With the way Jonathan Lucroy has performed in the Arizona Fall League, the Brewers may consider letting Kendall go and letting Lucroy and Rivera split time behind the plate in 2010.

Catalanotto — He was perfectly serviceable this year as a bench player and occasional pinch hitter, but guys like him are a dime a dozen at the major league level. While Cat didn’t make much in 2009, there are younger options out there that could give the Brewers the same amount of production. Preferably they would replace Cat with someone who can serve as a potential platoon mate with Jody Gerut in center if Cameron doesn’t return.

Counsell — For $1 million, I don’t think you’d find a better veteran utility man. Here’s to hoping the Brewers can convince him to come back on a similar deal for 2010 as a hometown discount. It’s incredible how much his hitting improved once he dropped the gimmicky batting stances. With the Brewers’ history of infield injuries, bringing Counsell back should be a priority.

Lopez — Assuming he ends up being a Type A free agent, offer him arby and let him field offers from other clubs. Sure, there’s the possibility there’s not much market due to a Type A valuation, but the worst case scenario is the Brewers end up with a guy who can fill in at nearly every infield position and could become valuable as a trade chip if another team runs into injury problems during spring training.

Patterson — God no. That’s all.

Vargas — I wasn’t a fan of bringing him back into the fold at the trade deadline, but he wound up being a pretty solid piece of the bullpen down the stretch. As long as the price isn’t too high, I’d consider bringing him back as next year’s long reliever, with a possibility of being an emergency starter. The only issue I see is that there likely won’t be room for both him and Seth McClung on the roster.

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