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Brewers not planning to pursue top-end starter to replace Gallardo
When news first broke Sunday that Yovani Gallardo was likely headed to Texas, there was speculation as to which path the team would take to fill the rotation spot left open in Milwaukee. The trade could mean the Brewers were committing to Jimmy Nelson as a part of this year’s starting rotation, or it could be a way to free up payroll and make a run at signing James Shields or trading for one of Washington’s surplus of starters.

Gallardo was owed $13 million in his final season before free agency, but as it turns out, the priority of the deal for Milwaukee wasn’t to save that cash. The club ended up sending $4 million to the Rangers as part of the deal, in part to cover the $1 million escalator in Gallardo’s contract that kicked in because of the trade, and presumably to ensure a better return in prospects. Tom Haudricourt, who covers the team for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, talked to Doug Melvin on Monday and tweeted a few takeaways pertaining to the future of the Brewers rotation.

The language regarding Jordan Zimmermann’s availability is especially interesting in the aftermath of the Max Scherzer signing and the ensuing conflicting reports of what the Nationals plan to do regarding their incredible starting pitcher depth. On the one hand, the Nationals could move Tanner Roark—the same guy who was a five-win pitcher by bWAR last season—to the bullpen and preserve its super rotation, a notion reflected by Haudricourt’s tweet and reported to be the "early word" heard by MLB Network’s Joel Sherman.

But then there’s Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, who tweeted on Sunday that the Nationals have talked with multiple teams about potential Zimmermann trade proposals during the past few weeks. Morosi followed up with a tweet indicating the club was willing to shop Stephen Strasburg, a report that was echoed on Monday by USA Today’s John Perrotto.

Hopefully we’ll get more clarity on what the Nationals plan to do with their embarrassment of riches in the coming weeks, but as for the Brewers, it appears that they won’t be making a splash in either free agency or via the trade market. Melvin went on to tell Haudricourt that the team is more likely to target a pitcher with experience as a spot starter to provide a safety net for the rotation and that the money saved by trading Gallardo is expected to be used to help bolster the bullpen.

No ace sticks out within Milwaukee’s collection of starters, but it features a trio of solid mid-rotation hurlers in Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza and Wily Peralta, along with Mike Fiers, whose minor-league numbers and periodic flashes of brilliance in the majors suggest he has some upside despite largely relying on deception and elevating his 90 mph fastball. Then there’s Nelson, who scouts have been wavering back-and-forth on during the past year or so with regards to his ultimate role. The former second-round pick has missed plenty of bats during his ascension up the minor-league ladder, but he’s dealt with command issues and the changeup still lags behind his fastball/slider combination.

During the second half of last season, Nelson got his first extended taste of the big leagues after the Brewers finally decided they had seen enough fly balls leave the park with Marco Estrada on the hill. But Nelson didn’t fare much better than the current Blue Jay, posting an ERA north of 5.00 in 12 starts (albeit driven largely by a .344 BABIP). Despite struggling in run prevention, Nelson’s peripherals during that span were encouraging; he posted an average strikeout rate and managed to keep the free passes to a minimum. With Gallardo gone, he’ll get a second shot to prove he can stick in the big-league rotation.

Astros in “serious discussions” with Ryan Vogelsong
The other notable move that went down on Monday saw Dexter Fowler pack his bags for Chicago and Luis Valbuena and Dan Straily head south for Houston. Valbuena was the more interesting piece acquired by Houston with Straily expected to be one of possibly five pitchers duking it out for the final two spots in the rotation come spring. The competition for those final spots could get even more crowded, with Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reporting Monday that the Astros are in “serious discussions” with free agent Ryan Vogelsong.

After a horrendous 2013 campaign, Vogelsong’s 2014 season resembled that of the league-average pitcher he had been the two years prior. Vogelsong’s fastball velocity bounced back a full mile per hour in 2014 (although it was still a tick below what it was from 2011-2012) and his peripherals returned to essentially his 2011-2012 levels.

Vogelsong

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

Contact%

BABIP

2011

179.2

18.5%

8.1%

8.2%

83.0%

.280

2012

189.2

20.1%

7.9%

8.2%

82.8%

.284

2013

103.2

14.4%

8.1%

13.4%

97.0%

.320

2014

184.2

19.4%

7.4%

8.8%

82.6%

.294

The most notable stat that fails to line up between Vogelsong’s 2011, 2012 and 2014 campaigns was his actual run prevention, which finally caught up to his fielding-independent numbers last season.

Vogelsong

FIP

ERA

RA-9

2011-2012

3.68

3.04

3.36

2014

3.85

4.00

4.19

Vogelsong’s 2013 was practically a lost season but there’s little reason to believe that his true talent has shifted drastically since he first burst out on the scene for the Giants. The greater risk is tied to the fact that Vogelsong turned 37 last July, but given the rather quiet market for his services this offseason, he should come at a fairly cheap price and no more than a one- or two-year commitment.

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