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Turnover on the bench?

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Mark Kotsay

Milwaukee Brewers' Mark Kotsay reacts to his game-winning walk off hit in the ninth inning against the Cincinnati Reds, July 8, 2011, in Milwaukee. The Brewers won 8-7.

More often than not, bench players aren’t looked at as being vital parts of a team and for good reason. They don’t play everyday (barring injury).

But, down the stretch for the Milwaukee Brewers veteran utility player Jerry Hairston proved his worth for the team, taking over at third base for Casey McGehee and playing well as the Brewers advanced to the National League Championship Series.

In his after season press conference, Brewers general manager Doug Melvin indicated he was going to reach out to Hairston and his representatives about returning to Milwaukee.

But how could the rest of the Brewers bench shape out for 2012?


Who was there?

Wil Nieves started there, but George Kottaras took over for the majority of the season.

Will he be back?

It’s possible. Kottaras was decent in his role (.252/.311/.459) on offense, but struggled throwing out runners on defense (14.2% runners thrown out). He’s arbitration eligible and one article projects him to get $800,000.

Any in-house options?

Martin Maldonado. Considered to be the best defensive catcher prospect in the Brewers system, he was on the major league roster for September and could be given the shot to backup Jonathan Lucroy. Otherwise, there doesn’t appear to be many other options.

Out of house options?

Always. Backup catchers are usually available in the open market and for as much as they’d be needed (Lucroy played 136 games last year) they shouldn’t have to spend much.

- Henry Blanco (.250/.330, 8 HR, 12 RBI, 45.8% caught stealing last year)

- Ramon Castro (.235/.307, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 20% caught stealing)

- Gerald Laird (.232/.302, 1 HR, 12 RBI, 20% caught stealing

My opinion?

If they don’t keep Kottaras the Brewers will probably try to do what they did last year with Wil Nieves (Although hopefully for them, more successfully) and find a veteran backup that can help mentor the young Lucroy. Blanco would make sense for me in that way, but I’m not sure what he would want for money. He turned down his side of a $1.15 million dollar option, so he may be looking for more money. That kind of coin is probably out of the budget for the Brewers for a backup backstop.


Who was there?

Craig Counsell, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Josh Wilson.

Will they be back?

I wouldn’t doubt it if Hairston was. Counsell probably will flirt with retirement after a tough 2011 season (.178/.280 in 107 games). Wilson was a waiver pickup.

In-house options?

If Taylor Green isn’t starting, he could be an option off the bench with the ability to play third base and second base.

Out of house options?

If Hairston doesn’t resign, they could make a run at a utility player like Willie Bloomquist, Aaron Miles or Nick Punto-type veteran with the flexibility to play around the infield.

My opinion?

As I said in an earlier blog, I don’t think the Brewers will deal Casey McGehee (mostly because his value is low), so I’d think both McGehee and Green would be on the 25-man roster to start the season, taking up one bench spot for the infield. Hairston appeared to enjoy his time in Milwaukee and could be a candidate to return. If he does, he’d be the top utility guy off the bench, possibly getting starts in as many as four different positions (2B, SS, 3B and CF).


Who was there?

Carlos Gomez (played against LHP) and Mark Kotsay

Will they be back?

I’ve already addressed Gomez, but Kotsay could return. He handled himself well with the bat (.270/.329, including a .293 average with a .356 on-base percentage as a pinch-hitter) but at this point is a liability as a defender in the outfield.

In-house options?

Logan Schafer could be an option (I talked about him in my OF blog), otherwise doesn’t look like much is close to the majors yet.

Out of house options?

Plenty of veteran backup OFs available (Reed Johnson, Endy Chavez, Kosuke Fukudome, etc.) if the Brewers would choose to go that route.

My opinion?

As I’ve said, I think Gomez is back as the platoon-mate to Nyjer Morgan and late-game defensive sub. If the Brewers choose to keep that platoon going, Schafer could get the other job, but the team could also look for more of a power-threat off the bench, which isn’t Schafer. Kotsay could return, but they could also go with the under-the-radar veteran route, something Melvin has done in the past with Kotsay, Gabe Kapler, Gabe Gross and many others.

Next time: All five back in the rotation?


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