Brewers will need more star power in 2014
In his year-end wrap up on Tuesday at Miller Park, Milwaukee Brewers general manager Doug Melvin addressed a number of topics concerning the team and its future, but an important part of both is getting better production out of its "star" players in 2014.
While Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura now count in that category going forward after their All-Star campaigns, Melvin was no doubt referring to the quartet of All-Stars that did not perform up to their career standards – for whatever reason – in 2013.
"For the past two years we've talked about younger players and I expect, for us to get better, for us to perform, our star players have to perform," Melvin said. "They have to come to the forefront. Our star power wasn't there this year to perform to help us. I'm not going to be pointing fingers but it's just the facts.
For us to perform better we have to get more out of our veteran players in that regard, from a performance standpoint but from a health standpoint, too. That was an issue. You take a 3-4 hitters out of the lineup like we did. As much as we missed them this year that is going to have an impact on your club. But we do have to play better."
Here is a look at four former All-Stars that struggled last season:
Opening day age: 35
2013 salary: $10 million
2014 salary: $16 million
The 2014 campaign will be the third baseman's 17th in the major leagues, and he will turn 36 on June 25. He battled through a variety of injuries, most notably a knee he injured back in spring training. Back in May Ramirez said, "For me to be 100 percent I'm going to have to sit for two or three months and that's not going to happen. I'm going to have to deal with it the rest of the season."
That proved to be the case as he played in just 92 games – his fewest since playing in 82 in 2009. On one hand, the Brewers could be worried about his age and the wear and tear of time. And, he hasn't played in at least 150 games since 2006.
But on the other hand, 2009 and 2013 are the only two seasons he's played in less than 120 games since becoming a full-time player in 2001.
With an ailing body and diminished playing time, Ramirez saw his slugging percentage and OPS fall below his career levels, and he had just 30 extra base hits after knocking 80 last year. If Ramirez is interested in continuing his career in Milwaukee, he'll have to prove he can stay healthy and produce – there is a mutual option for 2016 at $14 million (with a $4 million buyout).
Opening day age: 31
2013 salary: $10 million
2014 salary: $11 million
Weeks is coming off a severe hamstring injury that required surgery, and because of that he is essentially entering a contract year (his 2015 option would require him to make 801 plate appearances in 2014).
Before the injury, Weeks struggled mightily at the plate and in the field, leading to an early platoon with Scooter Gennett. He finished his season hitting just .209 with a .306 on base percentage and .357 slugging percentage – numbers all well below his career norms. He also struck out 105 times in 399 plate appearances while totaling 31 extra base hits.
It may be hard to expect Weeks to perform at a high level in 2014 though, as Melvin made it clear that Gennett had done enough to warrant a spot on the team next year.
Opening day age: 30
2013 salary: $8.5 million
2014 salary: $10 million
We all know how Braun's season ended, but the 2011 National League MVP and 2012 MVP runner-up wasn't exactly having a good season prior to his suspension. He spent time on the disabled list and suffered through several maladies that limited him to 61 games in all.
His .298 batting average, .372 on base percentage, .498 slugging percentage and .869 OPS were all below his career norms. He also only homered nine times in 253 plate appearances.
Opening day age: 28
2013 salary: $7.75 million
2014 salary: $11.25 million
Gallardo had a rough start to the year off the field and that continued onto it, and he posted career lows in wins (12), innings (180 2/3) and strikeouts per nine innings (7.2). He still made 31 starts, despite a stint on the disabled list, but his 4.18 earned run average and 1.362 WHIP were his highest since 2010.
The veteran right-hander and designated ace of the rotation is also entering an important season, contract wise. The Brewers hold a $13 million team option for 2015 with just a $600,000 buyout, so Gallardo could find himself on the trade market early if he struggles again.
"Can we win with our roster? Yeah, we can win with the roster that we have," Melvin said. "But again, a lot of things have to go right. The younger players have to take the next step in their development and our best players have to be on the field.
"I think if our best players are on the field and the young guys take the next step, we can be there."
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