I finally got a moment to myself, so I cleaned a bit and came across my “Top Ten” decisions for Brewers’ GM Doug Melvin and staff during the ’09-’10 off-season. Here’s what I came up with: 10. Should they exercise the option on starter Braden Looper: Doing so almost certainly would guarantee him a spot in the starting rotation, or at least first dibs at it. Can Looper improve enough in ’10 to warrant a roster spot. 9. What to do about Jeff Suppan? Slightly more important than what to do with Looper is ‘what to do with Suppan?’ Suppan’s 5.29 ERA was only slightly better than Looper’s 5.22, but the Crew is on the hook for Suppan’s salary this year…can Suppan bounce back, or should he go to the bullpen? 8. Should Dave Bush be offered arbitration? Bush’s 6.38 ERA is the worst of the three, so moving him to the bullpen is more likely than Looper or Suppan. But unlike Suppan and Looper, the Brewers’ can just walk away from Bush by simply not offering him arbitration (even if Melvin decides not to exercise Looper’s option, Looper has the right to exercise the option for $6 million). Simply letting Bush go opens up a spot in the 25-man and in the rotation, something the Brewers’ will need to do if they want to bring in two more starters. 7. Should they deal Corey Hart? Rumors that the Crew would love to trade the former All-Star outfielder for a starting pitcher have proven fruitless…especially since Hart has floundered for the past 1½ seasons, and has had at least two injuries during that timeframe. Still, if the right deal comes along, the Crew could part with Hart…except then they’d need to find another starting right-fielder and cope with the loss of Hart’s speed and range in right-field. 6. Who should they hire as pitching coach? This decision was made a few days ago with the hiring of Rick Peterson, but this decision will impact whether or not the managerial staff can get more out of their current stable of arms, or if they’ll need to go elsewhere. It will also impact who starts–and when–and how long each starter goes, plus which pitches they throw and when. Peterson seems to have the credentials, so only time will tell if he can improve this staff. 5. Should they re-sign Mike Cameron? There are really two issues here: Can they find someone as good as Cameron or better for less money and is the money there or not. Cameron’s .342 OBP was 5th best among starters, but was not overwhelming. Still, the Crew may have their hands tied if a suitable replacement cannot be found. The decision may prove popular with many returning players…but his lack of run production is still the main issue. 4. Who should be the starting shortstop? All signs point to Alcides Escobar taking over for J.J. Hardy, but is Melvin ready to cut ties with the popular Hardy and roll the dice with a rookie? The decision, either way, will impact both the defense and offense in every game in 2010. 3. Who should be the starting catcher? Does Melvin pursue Kendall, or sacrifice his experience in calling games in hopes of improving upon his .331 OBP? Other options include Mike Rivera, Jonathan Lucroy, and Angel Salome…plus free agents. Is the goal to get better hitting, better game calling…or both? 2. Who will be the starting third-base man? Melvin turned Casey McGehee into lemonade last year, and is now faced with the decision of whether to stick with McGehee and hope he was not a one-year wonder, or give top rookie Mat Gamel his chance? Melvin knows that it would likely not work to keep both…especially since both would command great interest in a trade for a pitcher. 1. Should the Brewers spend the big money on a free agent pitcher and, is so, whom? For a team such as the Yankees, this would likely not be an issue. But for a small-market team like the Brewers, the reality is that should the Crew spend $15-$18 million on a John Lackey, Jerrod Washburn, or Ben Sheets, there will be less money available for other free agents. Additionally, if the signing proves to be another Jeff Suppan type signing, the heat will be on Melvin to re-sign. If they decide to go after someone–and whether or not that turns out to be successful in getting the Crew back to the playoffs–is the biggest decision facing Doug Melvin over the next few months. Well…there you have it. What do you think?