Throughout the winter, the Milwaukee Brewers stayed in touch with the agent for Alex Gonzalez, letting it be known they would love to have the veteran shortstop back in 2013.
Gonzalez, who turns 36 this month, was the team's starter at short last season before blowing out his right knee sliding into second base in early May in San Francisco. He was lost for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, forcing the Brewers to scramble to fill that position.
The Brewers picked up 22-year-old shortstop Jean Segura in late July in a trade that sent ace Zack Greinke to the Los Angeles Angels. A few weeks later, Segura was summoned from Class AA Huntsville and installed as the starter at short.
The Brewers saw enough from Segura to commit to him as their No. 1 shortstop for 2013, and hopefully beyond. However, they sought a veteran backup to provide insurance at the position, and thus they stayed in contact with Gonzalez, who had recovered from his knee injury.
Gonzalez was looking for a guarantee of more playing time, however, and kept looking around on the free agent market. When nothing better came along, he finally accepted an offer from the Brewers that will pay him $1.5 million in 2013 with another $1 million available in incentives.
The Brewers could not make the agreement official because Gonzalez had to travel from Venezuela to Milwaukee for the requisite physical examination. The team also had to clear a 40-man roster spot for him.
Still, the Brewers are thrilled to have an experienced backup at short should Segura not be up to the task of everyday rigors in the major leagues. Gonzalez took the deal knowing that Segura was targeted as the No. 1 shortstop.
"We remain committed to Segura," general manager Doug Melvin said before the agreement with Gonzalez was completed.
A solid clubhouse influence, Gonzalez could prove invaluable as a mentor to Segura, who never has played at the Class AAA level. Gonzalez was popular among his teammates last year, and it was a big blow when he was lost with the knee injury.
Gonzalez had been playing winter ball in Venezuela, including some action at third base. Though he has never played any position in the majors other than shortstop, the Brewers believe he can back up at third base and second base.
With Gonzalez on board, that likely leaves just one other utility infield spot to be won in spring camp. Jeff Bianchi, who played short at Class AAA Nashville last season and saw some action with the Brewers, will vie for that role along with Taylor Green and non-roster invitees Donnie Murphy and Bobby Crosby, seeking to make a comeback after two years away from baseball.