Considering the Brewers finished with the sixth-best record in the big leagues, Milwaukee faces as many or more roster decisions than anybody. And many of those are related to free agency, which begins in earnest after the World Series.
The obvious names include starting pitchers CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets, both of whom are expected to suit up for other teams beginning in 2009.
Sabathia, although he left the door cracked open with his comments after the Brewers' season ended against Philadelphia in four games of the National League Divisional Series, is expected to leave because Milwaukee doesn't figure to have near enough money to match the astronomical offers that are expected to come his way after his fantastic second half with the Brewers.
Sheets is just too big of an injury risk for a small-market team to invest much time or dollars in. But because pitching is at such a premium, he will no doubt get overpaid by somebody.
It's doubtful that Gagne, who was a major disappointment—especially for the $10 million, one-year deal he got—will be back. That also goes for Durham, who was a nice pickup before the trading deadline, because of his age and injury issues. And money says that Branyan isn't high on the priority list, especially as the ultimate all-or-nothing offensive player on a team with too many of those.
Shouse and Mota are likely to be brought back for the bullpen mix, although youngster Mitch Stetter could easily take over Shouse's role. However, having both would be beneficial if general manager Doug Melvin can't find any other left-handed options.
I'm sure the club would love to bring Kapler back, but that's contingent on just how serious his shoulder injury is and how he recovers. Lamb produced as a pinch hitter and would give the Brewers a badly needed left-handed stick off the bench or in another platoon situation should that scenario arise again.
Cameron delivered what the Brewers expected: above average defense, homers and strikeouts. The problem is whether they can afford those attributes next season, especially for the $10 million club option price ($750,000 buyout) that could be spent better elsewhere. But that means finding another outfield option.
Torres saved the Brewers' pen when he took over the closing duties from Gagne, and his club option is "only" $3.75 million ($300,000 buyout). He would be nice in his original role from the sixth through eighth innings.
Counsell ($3.4 million club option with $400,000 buyout) will always be a valuable clubhouse presence and defensive anchor. His situation is affected by so many variables, including if team officials think hot-shot prospect Alcides Escobar is ready to take over at shortstop and whether the rumors of J.J. Hardy being traded become reality and/or if he'd accept a move to another position. Those scenarios also hinge on what happens with Bill Hall and Rickie Weeks.
Catcher Jason Kendall's name was scratched from this list when he reached his 110th start (he ended up with an amazing 149), thus kicking in a vesting option for 2009.
Among the others from the 25-man roster who could conceivably become free agents include right fielder Corey Hart, pitchers Seth McClung, Manny Parra and Carlos Villanueva and backup catcher Mike Rivera.
Only Rivera has much of a chance of actually reaching that status, and he's a good bet to be invited back, although as little action as he saw, he obviously would take a look at other options.
Fielder is expected to get a huge raise from his $670,000, probably to the $8 million to $10 million range. However, a lot depends on whether Fielder truly wants to stay in Milwaukee and how outrageous super agent Scott Boras gets in his demands. Many feel that he's a prime candidate for a trade depending on how negotiations go on any long-term contract.
Hart also could be in line for a big jump, although his poor finish may have cost him some bucks. Hardy enjoyed another topnotch season and deserves a nice payday, and Bush should garner a good raise.
The guess is that Coffey, signed off waivers from Cincy late in the year, will be signed and join the bullpen mix. It's anybody's guess as to how much longer the organization is willing to wait for Weeks to break out. And Capuano, coming off a second Tommy John elbow surgery, could agree to start the year in the minors and prove he's back.
And you thought that was the end of the laundry list? Nope. Here are the names of other potential free agents in the Milwaukee system, a number that was reduced by four when Nashville pitchers Joe Bateman, Lindsay Gulin, Sam Narron and Chris Narveson agreed to deals and were invited to spring camp. Also gone are relievers Randy Choate and Derrick Turnbow, who declared as free agents in late September.
Players on 40-man major league roster
Pitcher Mark DiFelice
Utility player Joe Dillon
Utility player Hernan Iribarren
First baseman Brad Nelson
Relief pitcher Luis Pena
Players on minor league rosters
Pitcher Troy Cate, Nashville
Infielder Ozzie Chavez, Nashville
Pitcher Nestor Corredor, Helena
Infielder Callix Crabbe, Nashville
Pitcher Derrick Ellison, Brevard County
Infielder Michael Garciaparra, Huntsville
Outfielder Jay Gibbons, Nashville
Pitcher Mike Jones, Huntsville
Pitcher Rafael Lluberes, Brevard County
Catcher Eric Munson, Nashville
Pitcher Erasmo Ramirez, Nashville
Pitcher Juan Sandoval, Huntsville
Pitcher Jason Shiell, Huntsville
Outfielder Mel Stocker, Brevard County
Pitcher Nic Ungs, Nashville
Infielder Chris Woodward, Nashville