By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Dec 17, 2006 at 5:22 AM
Christmas is right around the corner, and it seems too many that not a creature is stirring in the general’s manger’s office at Miller Park.

Doug Melvin has taken a lot of flak lately for signing too many aging reserve infielders, letting a popular reserve infielder get away, and not breaking the bank to sign a free agent. Fans are understandably antsy (not to mention skeptical of the Brewers’ reported interest in veteran pitcher Jeff Suppan). In the grand scheme of things, though, Melvin is acting prudently by not really acting at all.

Despite a new labor agreement, increased revenue sharing, record-breaking attendance, and at least in Milwaukee’s case, a fancy, semi-new ballpark, the economics of baseball are still incredibly out of whack.

While the Brewers did receive more than $20 million in revenue sharing this past year, and owner Mark Attanasio has approved a payroll budget of nearly $60 million dollars, the free agent market this season has gotten so incredibly out of hand that there just isn’t a signing that makes sense for the Brewers right now.


Gil Meche signed a four-year, $55 million contract with the Kansas City Royals. The right-hander was 11-8 last year – losing four of his last five decisions – and has just 55 career victories. The Royals finished 62-100 in 2006, 34 games behind Minnesota in the NL Central.

Carlos Lee (remember him?) was dealt by Melvin last season after the outfielder turned down a $48 million extension from the Brewers in July. Melvin was called a buffoon or worse by many for letting the slugger get away, but when he signed a $100 million deal with NL Central rival Houston, is there anything that makes you believe he had any desire of being in Milwaukee?

Juan Pierre, who drew interest from the Brewers, signed with the Dodgers for $44 million over five years. Perhaps, in the grand scheme of things, that’s not an outrageous price; but considering the 31-year-old leadoff hitter had a paltry .330 on-base percentage, his .292 batting average doesn’t look to impressive at the top of the Brewers’ order or on their payroll.

There have been many, many more insane signings this season, showing that GM’s of the league are paying little attention to fiscal responsibility.

Melvin has done what he could; picking up catcher Johnny Estrada from the Diamondbacks to offensively shore up what had been a position of liability with defensively talented but aging Damian Miller. He had to give up a starter -- the deadline-killing Doug Davis -- but is confident he can find a replacement through trades or in the system.

Yes, the Brewers probably need to move Geoff Jenkins. But you can’t trade a player just for the sake of it, there has to be a willing partner. The inflated market may make Jenkins’ $7 million salary look slightly more desirable, but there won’t be much available in return until at least spring training.

Yes, the Brewers need to shore up their outfield and third base situations. Maybe moving Bill Hall isn’t the answer, but nonetheless, it’s a way of getting one of the team’s best bats into the lineup every day and Melvin is confident that Corey Koskie can return in full health for 2007.

Kevin Mench did little to appeal himself to the Miller Park faithful last year, and that makes him even harder to move than Jenkins. Trading, as this column has mentioned before, is not as simple as calling a team and sending away your worst problems.

Of course it would be nice to see Melvin and Attanasio go out there, break the bank, and sign that marquee player who will single-handedly make the Brewers a team to contend with come autumn. But if it comes at the expense of what could be a bright future, there is just no sense to such a deal.

Melvin has made his mark in Milwaukee – despite what the common eye sees – by assembling a smart team of player evaluators. He’s regime has drafted well and put the pieces in place to build a solid team of talented players. While those players have developed he has done well by looking for castoffs from other teams who maybe just didn’t fit the plan elsewhere, but made an impact here.

As most of us head to the malls in search of that ultimate Christmas bargain, maybe it’s not so bad that the local ballclub has the same mentality in players that we do in gifts.