Newly signed Michael Olmsted could provide a lift for Crew.
While cutting ties with some of the mainstays from the 2012 bullpen in recent days, the Milwaukee Brewers have also added a bunch of new guys, mostly on minor league deals with invites to spring training. In no particular order, the Brewers have brought on board the following relievers: Jairo Asencio, Frankie De La Cruz (again), Michael Olmsted, and Arcenio Leon. Many expect GM Doug Melvin to get more involved with the free agent market and possibly land one or two truly recognizable relief pitchers to fortify the pen for 2013. The market features a long list of available relievers but all certainly have their flaws and warts, and one of the most egregious errors the Brewers could make would be to overpay for a supposedly reliable veteran reliever who then badly falters, either due to injury or that Achilles’ heel of bullpen pitchers: volatile performance. The Brewers have a limited amount of budget space for relievers, and they would be best advised to stay away from providing a lucrative deal for a free agent reliever, regardless of the temptation. Usually the way the market works is that the biggest names sign earliest and then later things balance out, and teams like the Brewers could be rewarded for staying patient and waiting their turn. There is a finite number of pitching jobs in the major leagues, and some guys who would puff out their chests right now may end up compromising on money issues later.
I like what Melvin has done so far. Olmsted looks to have some real potential as a power guy. De La Cruz is familiar to Brewers fans from his 2011 stint with the team, and he’s got the capability to be effective again in 2013. It’s hard to know much about the other two guys, Asencio and Leon, but adding pitchers like these at a fraction of the cost of major league free agents is a nice alternative. Granted, you can’t replace quality with quantity, but it’s a smart approach to bring in guys who may have been overlooked elsewhere and who will sign for small dollar amounts, and give them a try. The Minnesota Twins did this prior to the 2012 season and had pretty good results with the strategy. They brought in Jared Burton and Casey Fien on affordable deals, among others, and saw the bullpen regain some of the form the Twins were used to after dealing with bullpen implosions for a couple years. The main revelation here is that throwing crap at a wall and seeing what sticks is not the way to go; however, throwing well-considered paper airplanes and seeing which ones fly could work out favorably. The Brewers had a historically faulty bullpen in 2012 and Melvin has a grand task ahead of him to assemble a strong unit for 2013. I’m sure the club is doing its due diligence on just about every pitcher out there. They could also pick up a reliever via trade, but that’s usually not the best way to acquire relief pitching. To get a great reliever in a trade, the club would likely have to give up someone significant. Melvin should bottom-feed as best he can and find whatever’s available in the dumpsters of MLB teams, or even independent leagues. Sure, he may sign some major league free agents, but he’d be wise to keep his eyes on anyone on the planet who has some talent that could be harnessed for the Brewers. Going into 2012, I was optimistic but also a bit worried about regression when it came to guys like K-Rod and Axford. I think if Melvin brings a small army to spring training, especially a bunch of guys hungry for a shot in The Show, it all may come together better this time around.