Clean slates can be an enlightenment for players who were held on too long by original teams – and was necessary for former Brewers’ prospect Mat Gamel.
The 28-year-old first baseman was claimed off waivers by the division rival Chicago Cubs Thursday after enduring two injury riddled seasons with Milwaukee.
Aside from two lost seasons – the writing was on the wall prior to the 2013 season when Milwaukee exhausted his last remaining minor league option. Brewer officials were faced with the decision of “use him or lose him” scenario.
Faced with high expectations following the loss of All-Star first baseman Prince Fielder in free agency – Gamel had large shoes to fill entering the 2012 season.
However, his season was cut short after he attempted to catch a foul ball in San Francisco and resulted in a season-ending ACL tear.
It was deja vu for Gamel during 2013 Spring Training when he re-injured the same ACL.
“Use him or lose him”
Time flew by for Gamel in the matter of two seasons where he went from potential Fielder replacement to an afterthought due to the development of Nashville’s Hunter Morris and a position switch by Corey Hart.
When Gamel was lost for the season in 2013 – it was his final minor league option. Any decision by Milwaukee would inevitably lead him to a different franchise.
Given his past potential in the minor leagues where he possesses a career .304 batting average with 105 home runs and 503 RBI – there would be no way he would clear waivers if Milwaukee attempted to get him back to minor leagues with his present roster status.
The issue for Milwaukee was they recalled him when rosters expanded in September 2008 and then subsequently optioned him to Nashville to start the 2009 season. They exhausted one of three minor league options when the decision was made.
Milwaukee ended up recalling the third baseman in 2009 when the Brewers were ravaged by injuries to Rickie Weeks and had Casey McGehee manning third base through the duration of the season.
While he produced exceptional numbers belting five home runs and collecting six doubles with 20 RBI in 61 games, Milwaukee sent him back to Nashville midway through July.
Given his limited action with Milwaukee in 2010 and 2011 – the Brewers exhausted his last two minor league options.
Brewer officials moved him across the infield to first base in 2011 after Milwaukee deemed him a defensive liability at the hot corner. Gamel ended up playing 102 of his 107 first base appearances with Nashville in 2011.
In the eyes of the casual fan still hurting from the loss of Fielder, Gamel was essentially set up to fail with Milwaukee in 2012.
Just three weeks into the season he incurred his season-ending injury May 1 and has not made a Major League appearance since.
Following nearly two full seasons of inactivity and Milwaukee’s urgency to find a viable and productive option at first base, the Brewers were faced with no option other than to allow him a fresh start elsewhere.
With the inevitable addition of Hunter Morris to the 40-man roster along with 2013 Minor League Player of the Year Jason Rogers – there was no room for him.