Opening Day is now just six days away for the Milwaukee Brewers, and with just four spring training games remaining before the teams heads north, the final roster decisions are coming down to the wire. The Brewers’ had a very busy day of transactions today, bringing clarity to just about every spot on the roster. Starting the day with 34 players remaining in big league camp, the Brewers announced they had made the following cuts through a series of tweets:
C Juan Centeno-age 25 season, claimed off waivers from the Mets last winter. Has appeared in 14 big league games over the past two seasons, posting a .225/.279/.225 line in 43 plate apperances. Solid minor league track record, with a .298/.345/.355 slash in 120 games at AAA, and has thrown out 40% of would-be base stealers in his eight year minor league career. Optioned to AAA (2/3 options used).
C Nevin Ashley-age 30 season, signed to minor league contract this past offseason. Spent seven seasons in Tampa Bay’s organization before bouncing around with Cincinnati and Pittsburgh in the last two seasons, topping out at AAA over his nine year career. Not particularly adept with the bat, posting only a .687 OPS in 780 plate appearances at AAA, though he has thrown out runners at a career 36% rate.
OF Matt Long-age 28 season, signed to minor league deal in the winter. .286/.365/.455 career minor league slash in 2989 plate appearances over the past six seasons, stealing 120 bases and hitting 60 home runs. Experienced at all three outfield positions and second base, and has dabbled at third base and shortstop as well.
RHP Ariel Pena-age 26 season, acquired in Zack Greinke trade. After years of being miscast as a starter and struggling with his control (6.4, 5.0, and 5.3 BB/9 in his three seasons in the Brewers’ minor league system), Pena was outrighted off the 40 man roster this winter and converted to full time relief. The early results were encouraging, as Pena walked only one batter in 9.1 innings pitched this spring, giving up three runs and striking out six, and found himself back in the good graces of GM Doug Melvin.
RHP Rob Wooten-age 29 season, 13th round draft pick in 2008. Has pitched in 67 games (62 innings) for the Brewers over the last two seasons, showing strong peripherals (2.94 K|BB, 0.3 HR/9, 49% GB rate, 2.87 FIP), while getting less than stellar results (4.35 ERA, 10.0 H/9, 0.0 WAR). Optioned to AAA (2/3 options used).
UTIL Jason Rogers-age 27 season, 32nd round draft pick in 2010. Has done nothing but impress with the bat after being a low round draft pick, putting together a .287/.367/.457 line with 61 home runs in 513 minor league games before making his big league debut last year. Former minor league player of the year is able to play in the outfield and infield corners, and was doing his best to win a bench job with the Brewers by posting an .817 OPS this spring. Optioned to AAA (2/3 options used).
1B Matt Clark-age 28 season, signed to minor league deal last July. Forgotten prospect who put up strong numbers behind Adrian Gonzalez and Yonder Alonso in San Diego, Clark quickly established himself after signing with the Brewers with 16 home runs and a .976 OPS in 53 games for Nashville last year. Earned his first big league cup of coffee last September, hitting three home runs in 31 plate appearances for Milwaukee. Pushed hard for the final roster spot after putting together a .930 OPS and three home runs this spring. Optioned to AAA (1/3 options used).
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With Wooten going down to AAA, the Brewers’ bullpen is officially set, with Michael Blazek and Tyler Thornburg earning the final two spots in the bullpen. This is a somewhat curious move in my opinion, as both Blazek and Thornburg can function as long-relievers while providing insurance for a relatively thin starting rotation. Doug plans on both being employed in long-man roles, rather than allowing one of the two to be a starter in AAA. Jim Henderson, though still technically with the big league club, will not make the team, but the decision as to whether he begins the season in the minors or on the disabled list is being delayed until Friday.
With Rogers going AAA, the Brewers are set to begin the season with Hector Gomez and Luis Jimenez as the primary backup infielders. Matt Clark, who seemed destined to make the team as a power hitting lefty pinch hitter, will instead join Rogers at Colorado Springs, where both of them can receive regular playing time. Brewers’ new first baseman Adam Lind has a noted injury history, so having depth behind him is a priority for Milwaukee.
The Brewers final bench spot has come down to a battle between Logan Schafer and Elian Herrera. Neither provide any value offensively, with the lefty swinging Schafer posting a 66 career OPS+ and the switch-hitting Herrera with an 81 OPS+. Both have decent speed, and while Schafer is considered a plus defender in the outfielder, Herrera is able to play all three outfield positions as well as second base, third base, and shortstop. Schafer is on the 40 man roster, while Herrera was outrighted this past offseason and is in camp as a non-roster invitee. I think the Brewers made a mistake by not going with someone with a little more offensive potential, like Clark or Shane Peterson, for the final roster spot. Doug Melvin apparently favored defense for the last spot, however, and I believe that Schafer will win the spot in the end given his 40 man roster status.
In addition to the flurry of cuts made today, the Brewers also brought a familiar face back into the fold. Chris Perez by Milwaukee just days ago, after the Brewers informed him he wouldn’t make the team. Perez wanted a chance to search for a major league job, however it now appears that there were no big league gigs available for the former closer.
Perez figures to mix in with the back end of the Sky Sox bullpen to begin the season, and has opt-out clauses on May 1st and June 1st in order to pursue other big league opportunities should he not get the call with Milwaukee.