COMMENTARY | The stove is getting ready to heat up for the Milwaukee Brewers and teams across Major League Baseball as the offseason is finally upon all 30 teams.
It's a time where general managers will be praised or crucified by their collective fan bases. With no actual baseball to watch until spring training rolls around next year, this is the time where GMs assess what's best for their team and work feverishly to assemble a team that will either help build for the future or contend the following season.
For a fan, especially one who follows the day-to-day activities and knows the organization from top to bottom, the thought has to cross your mind: What would I do if I was the general manager?
In reality, you would likely never receive such employment, but one can dream. Pretending I've been presented with an opportunity to be the general manager of the Brewers for a day in the place of Doug Melvin, here are five things I would do this winter:
Do what it takes to re-sign Corey Hart
There is reportedly a lot of interest in free-agent first baseman/outfielder Corey Hart this offseason. He failed to play a single game in his final year under contract with the Brewers due to multiple knee surgeries, but the 31-year-old Hart has expressed interest in returning to Milwaukee at a discount.
Hart has never played with an organization outside of the Brewers -- they drafted him in the 11th round of the 2000 MLB draft. Judging by this video, Hart's knees are doing just fine these days.
Some teams may be willing to offer more money to Hart than Melvin is comfortable matching. But considering the debacle that was Milwaukee's first-base situation in 2013, as well as the fact that prospect Hunter Morris isn't quite ready for The Show, I would do what it takes to bring Hart back, even if it requires offering a second year.
Shop Norichika Aoki for relief help
Right fielder Norichika Aoki comes at an incredible bargain. He will be entering his third year with the Brewers after they exercised his $1.5 million option for 2014, but that is his final year under contract with Milwaukee.
With the emergence of Khris Davis last season, the Brewers want to find a place for him to play. As of now, however, the outfield is set, so the logical step would be to attempt trading Aoki and moving Ryan Braun to right field.
The only position Davis can play is left field considering his throwing arm, and Braun is really in no position to refuse a switch to right. Many teams would be interested in Aoki's services considering his cheap contract, and if the Brewers could get some veteran relief help in return, it would be a beneficial move now and for the future.
In fact, shop a lot of players
There are some truly ugly contracts currently on the books for Milwaukee -- Aramis Ramirez, Rickie Weeks and Kyle Lohse are set to make a combined $39 million. Yovani Gallardo, along with Ramirez, could also be in the final year of his contract and will make $11. 5 million in 2014.
If the value in return for these players isn't there, then it isn't worth pulling the trigger. But just to find a way to get at least one of these names off the books -- especially Rickie Weeks -- would be a plus, even if the Brewers have to eat some of the money.
Stay away from free-agent pitchers
Milwaukee's starting rotation finished strong last season behind Lohse, Gallardo, Marco Estrada, Wily Peralta and Tyler Thornburg. There are also others in the mix like top prospect Jimmy Nelson and fire-baller Johnny Hellweg.
In other words, the Brewers already have plenty of options and don't need to overspend for another free-agent pitcher. In fact, they probably can't afford to do so. Milwaukee just needs to roll with what it's got and hope for the best.
Encourage development of young arms
This builds off the last point, but there's no better time for the Brewers to see what they have in pitchers like Nelson and Hellweg. The NL Central is loaded at the top, and even with a completely healthy team, Milwaukee will be hard-pressed to reach the playoffs in 2014.
The Brewers gave Peralta his shot this season and he is slated to be in the rotation once again next year. Nelson looked promising in his limited action, but the same can't be said for Hellweg. Even so, there are enough arms and enough talent for Milwaukee to put together a rather formidable staff. It just has to trust and develop those inexperienced arms.
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who is an avid follower of Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline, as a featured columnist on other sites and publications, and been a guest on multiple sports talk radio shows.
You can get the discussion going and follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_.
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