Milwaukee faces uncertain times regarding the first base position following the free agent departure of long-time fan favorite Corey Hart.
While the Brewers have a few players who can play the position, either none have proven themselves to be viable options or are not ready to make the leap to Milwaukee from a development perspective.
Brewers’ General Manager Doug Melvin was unsuccessful in seeking external solutions to fill the position, including Logan Morrison and New York Mets’ Ike Davis.
In addition, the team gauged the free agent market but determined Tampa Bay’s James Loney was priced too high for the Brewers’ budget.
Reports from Ken Rosenthal of CBS indicated the New York Mets were in search of young and controllable pitching beyond three seasons and inquired about former number one prospect Tyler Thornburg.
Consequently, Melvin ceased discussions with the Mets and later told reporters the young starting pitcher has the early edge on nabbing the Brewers’ fifth spot on the starting rotation.
Thornburg does not become arbitration eligible until 2017 and could be under team control until 2020.
There was skepticism about Davis’ ability to play consistently after a dismal 2013 where his batting average dropped 22 percentage points from .227 in 2012 to .205 in 2013.
Additionally, Davis’ power numbers declined from a career high 32 home runs the previous season compared to nine in 2013.
Plate discipline continues to be an issue and there is a noted decline in his ability to keep his strikeouts down after he average nearly one per game in 2013 when he fanned 101 times.
In contrast, his ability to reach base safely dropped substantially from an On Base Percentage of .351 his rookie season of 2010 to .326 in 2013.
It should not be a surprise the Brewers declined to discuss adding Thornburg to the deal when the 25-year-old pitcher went 3-1 with an earned run average of 2.03 in 66.2 innings for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2013.
What it all boiled down to was the Brewers’ desire to maintain the strength of a pitching staff that endured numerous injuries through the duration of the 2013 season and failed initial outings by Milwaukee’s third ranked prospect Johnny Hellweg.
Former Marlins’ outfielder Logan Morrison was another alternative but Milwaukee could not initiate enough dialogue due to the Brewers’ intense mission to retain Hart while talking with the Mets about Davis.
Both focuses lead Seattle to fly under the radar and snag Morrison and resulted in Milwaukee seeking free agent solutions.
Loney sought too much
First baseman James Loney made it known he was seeking a three-year contract with more than five million annually.
With Milwaukee looking down on the farm for potential options within three years, the team was hesitant to go beyond two years.
The 29-year-old former first round selection of the Los Angeles Dodgers has been fairly consistent through the majority of his career – but not enough to warrant the contract extension of three years and $27 million the Rays gave him.
Since Loney’s initial season in 2006 with the Dodgers, his OPS has regressed from .901 to .778 in 2013.
There also was a noted bidding war on Loney among teams including Milwaukee’s NL Central Division rival Pittsburgh.
Furthermore, Milwaukee had no significant free agent options and flirted with the idea of giving former Texas Ranger and Philadelphia Phillie Michael Young an opportunity,
Discussions with Young reportedly never went beyond the initial greeting and could be fair to speculate on how interested Milwaukee was in the 37-year-old former All-Star.
Now the Brewers are looking at the limited internal solutions in the minor league system, including Sean Halton and two former Minor League Players of the Year.