The Milwaukee Brewers' primary goal this winter will be rebuilding a bullpen that ranked last in the majors in three important categories: earned-run average (4.66), blown saves (29) and losses (33).
There was some natural attrition with the free agency of setup man Francisco Rodriguez and long reliever Livan Hernandez. The Brewers had no intention of trying to resign either veteran.
A major focal point of the retooling is a trio of arbitration-eligible relievers -- right-handers Jose Veras and Kameron Loe, and left-hander Manny Parra. Because the arbitration process will give all of them significant raises that club officials believe will exceed their value and productivity, it is unlikely any of the three will be back in 2013.
The Brewers made their first move in that direction when they notified Veras of their intention to outright him from their 40-man roster. Veras was not about to accept an outright assignment at this stage of his career, and he instead became a free agent.
On surface, Veras' numbers seemed OK. He was 5-4 with a 3.63 ERA in 72 appearances, with 79 strikeouts in 67 innings. However, he also issued 40 walks and retired only 45 of 72 first hitters faced, often frustrating manager Ron Roenicke by extending innings and games.
Veras was acquired last December in a trade for third baseman Casey McGehee.
Many more changes will come in the bullpen. Closer John Axford and setup man Jim Henderson likely will be the only returning relievers who saw considerable action with the Brewers in 2012. Brandon Kintzler, effective after a September call-up, also is in the picture.
"We have to fix the bullpen," team owner Mark Attanasio said in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "We were last in the majors (in three categories). That has to be fixed. We've done a lot of work to see what the options are there.
"The one thing that appears to be the most random in baseball is the (production of) individual bullpen pitchers. From year to year, that varies the most."