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Milwaukee Brewers Decline Options on Rodriguez and Betancourt: Fan Reaction
The Milwaukee Brewers declined the $17.5 million option on pitcher Francisco Rodriguez and the $6 million option on shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt(notes) October 30th, and both players became free agents. The Brewers also have six other players who are free agents, and will have some decisions to make as to who is worth signing.
The option decline for Rodriguez is no surprise. K-Rod wants to be a closer and it was understood he would be leaving after the season. The move with Betancourt is understandable. Despite having a good postseason with his bat (.310, 1 HR, 6 RBIs) his defense all season was a liability with 21 errors and a .965 fielding percentage. He also committed two errors in the post season as the Brewers' defensive weakness proved costly.
As far as replacing Betancourt with a free agent, the options are limited. I don't see the Brewers making offers for the Mets' Jose Reyes(notes) or the Phillies' Jimmy Rollins(notes), and Rollins has indicated he likely will return to Philadelphia anyway. A possible option would be the Braves' Alex Gonzalez(notes). His numbers on offense were not great (.241, 15 HR, 56 RBIs) but about the same as Betancourt's (.252, 13 HR, 68 RBIs). Gonzalez would be an improvement on defense; he committed just 12 errors in 149 games and it is an absolute must for the Brewers to improve their defense.
Others on the free agent list include infielders Craig Counsell(notes) and Jerry Hairston Jr.(notes) Counsell still has a good glove, but he hit just .178 and at 41 years of age, I don't believe the Brewers will keep him around just as a defensive replacement in the late innings. Of the two, I would like to see Hairston retained. He can play several infield positions as well as the outfield, and has better numbers on offense. Outfielder/first baseman/pinch hitter Mark Kotsay(notes) is also a free agent who I would not object to resigning him if it can be done at a reasonable price. He hit .270 last year and is a good left handed bat off the bench.
Besides K-Rod, relievers LaTroy Hawkins(notes) and Takashi Saito(notes) are also free agents. Both pitched well in 2011 after returning from injuries. Hawkins turns 39 in December and Saito will turn 42 in February, so Milwaukee may want to see what's available elsewhere. However, it would not surprise me if at least one of them returned. Milwaukee had several relievers who missed all or most of the season with injuries (Mitch Stetter(notes), Brandon Kinsler, Manny Parra(notes)). I'd prefer that the Brewers try to shore up the bullpen through a combination of trades and free agency signings (including retaining Hawkins and or Saito if necessary) rather than waiting to see if the injured pitchers can contribute.
The biggest name on the free agency list for Milwaukee is of course, first baseman Prince Fielder(notes). Milwaukee will make an effort to keep him, but it's assumed he'll sign somewhere else for more money than the Brewers can afford. If he does leave, there should be more money available to pay free agents to fill some of the club's needs, and the Brewers have shown that they are not afraid to spend money within their means.
Mark Hudziak has been a fan of the Brewers since the team moved to Milwaukee in 1970. He is a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.
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