Money makes the world go around, so they say. As the offseason draws nearer to a close with pitchers and catchers reporting on Friday, there has been one theme I’ve noticed that seems to apply to the current state of the Milwaukee Brewers: money is tight. The Brewers have been shrewd in their moves this offseason, acquiring first baseman Adam Lind (filling their biggest offseason need) and his reasonable contract in exchange for the under performing Marco Estrada and his bloated arbitration salary. They shipped Yovani Gallardo and some cash to the Rangers for three prospects, cutting payroll while opening up a spot for super-prospect Jimmy Nelson in the starting rotation. Despite Scooter Gennett and Lind’s platoon issues, the Brewers chose not to pursue any more bench help than what they already have in-house, trusting that young (and cheap) guys like Luis Jimenez, Hector Gomez, and possibly even Shane Peterson will be able to step up in bench roles this season. The Brewers were linked to Jonathan Papelbon for the better part of a month, though talks have apparently fallen apart due to concerns about Papelbon’s expensive contract.
Despite the signing of Neal Cotts to a reasonable contract, the Brewers haven’t done much else to address their losses in the bullpen. Minor league flyers on Dontrelle Willis and Chris Perez could be shots in the dark that pay off, but they are long shots to stick in Milwaukee based on their lack of production over the past few years. It’s even more unlikely that if they made the team, they could match the performances that the Brewers got from the now departed Francisco Rodriguez, Zach Duke, and Tom Gorzelanny. While K-Rod remains a free agent (and I would say is likely to end up in Milwaukee now that the Papelbon deal seems dead), the market for strong relievers is stretched pretty thin this deep in the offseason. With money being as big of a concern as it appears to be for the Brewers, one player they should pursue is former Brewer reliever Mike Adams, who could likely be had on a minor league deal.
Mike Adams has been a stellar performer throughout his career. The 36 year old righty (37 this season) has pitched in parts of 10 seasons over his major league career, making 409 appearances between the Brewers, Padres, Rangers, and Phillies. Adams has posted a tremendous 2.41 career ERA, with his ERA+ 65% better than league average over his career. Adams’ career FIP of 3.09 and SIERA of 3.02 suggest even though his results have outperformed his peripherals to some degree over his career, he is still a very strong reliever regardless. He has dominated both lefties and righties over the course of his long career, holding each to a wOBA under .268 in a pretty even amount of appearances.
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Adams has generally had strong command over his career, with a 2.8 BB/9 mark covering his 407.1 career innings. With the exception of 2013, he has been pretty strong at limiting home runs as well, with only 0.7 HR/9 over the course of his career. He’s transformed into a pretty strong ground ball pitcher over his last two seasons with the Phillies, inducing grounders at roughly a 55% clip since 2013, which fits in well with the organizational philosophy. He picked up an extra mile on his fastball last season, though his 90.1 MPH rate is still a little bit slower from his heyday with the Padres. With this small bump in velocity, Adams saw his K/9 rate jump to over 10, his first time averaging over a strikeout per inning since 2011.
For a guy who has posted a solid 3.50 ERA over the past two seasons in Philadelphia, you’d think Adams would be drawing more attention on the free agent market. However, the knock on Adams lately has been an inability to stay on the field. He has pitched in only 50 games over the past two seasons, missing time after undergoing right shoulder surgery in July of 2013. Injuries continued to dog Adams last season, and he even went as far as to say he feels he “stole” money from the Phillies after failing to live up to the $13 mil contract he signed before 2013. Before his tenure with the Phillies, Adams had pitched in 60+ games for three straight seasons and was considered one of the top setup men in baseball.
Money is tight around Milwaukee, and we need to accept that the Brewers are unlikely to make any more “big” moves this offseason. While I think a K-Rod signing will end up becoming a reality (much to my chagrin), the Brewers should be looking to make some under-the-radar type additions as we draw nearer to Spring Training. Given that he has dealt with injury issues over the past two seasons, Mike Adams is a pitcher the Brewers could likely get on a minor league deal. Give him a Spring Training invite, load up the incentives for appearances, and throw an opt-out clause in there for good measure. Despite dealing with injuries, Adams’ results have shown that when healthy, he can be a valuable member of a major league bullpen. With a long track record as one of the best setup men in baseball, Mike Adams would be low-risk, high-reward signing for the Brewers that could pay off in in a playoff appearance.