Brewers have options at shortstop
On Sunday, the Milwaukee Brewers chose not to pick up the contract option for veteran shortstop, Yuniesky Bettancourt. After an up-and-down season, Bettancourt was due $6 million next season if his option would have been picked up.
Deductive reasoning would tell you that the Brewers are done with the much maligned shortstop. They could technically bring him back at a reduced cost, but I can't see the need for an undisciplined hitter with poor range as a backup. He would be unreliable as a pinch hitter, and no where near the level of quality required of a defensive replacement.
The good news for the Brewers is that the free agent pool for shortstops appears to be one of depth this off-season. How the Brewers handle filling the position largely depends on what free agent first baseman Prince Fielder decides to do. They could shoot for a stop-gap value veteran, roll the dice on a higher priced veteran with a couple good years left, or go all-in.
The value players: Ramon Santiago (Detroit Tigers), Jamey Carroll (LA Dodgers), Orlando Cabrera (SF Giants).
Of the value players, Santiago is the best fielder and may come with the smallest price tag at perhaps $2-3 million per season. Carroll and Cabrera are veterans of 10+ years who may not be able to last a full season as a starter without wearing down. All three are versatile defenders but lack offensive punch...especially Carroll and Santiago. Unlike Bettancourt, however, all three know how to get on base and are not considered a liability in the field.
Risk/Reward: Rafael Furcal (St. Louis Cardinals) and Jimmy Rollins (Philadelphia Phillies).
Furcal is still an outstanding defensive player who returned to his role of being a pest when he was traded from the Dodgers to the Cardinals before the trade deadline. Furcal also torched the Brewers and showed he still has some pop in the bat from the leadoff spot. Had the Cardinals picked up his option, he would have been due $12 million dollars. My guess is that Furcal will accept less money per season, but will want a 2-3 year deal. Furcal has a career OBP of .348 and would give the Brewers with some flexibility given his ability to hit leadoff. The risk with Furcal is that he is 34 and would require a pretty significant investment, though not bank breaking. I'm not worried about his recent injuries.
Rollins is another player who has a couple years left, but is clearly on the back end of a stellar career. My guess is that he will end up back with the Phillies. He is a tremendous leader and would combine solid SS play with a tremendous clubhouse presence. Rollins is still a difference maker in his ability to steal bases (30 in 2011) and log extra base hits (40 in 2011). He won't be able to fetch a mega-deal, but he would still cost the Brewers upwards of $8-9 million per season.
Chips All In: Jose Reyes (NY Mets).
I don't think the Brewers will go this route, but I'd be surprised if they didn't sniff around. Reyes will be the most sought after free agent not named Fielder or Pujols. He is likely seeking a potentially crippling 7 year deal worth between $140-150 million dollars. Reyes is an electric player when healthy, and won the National League batting title in 2011, edging out Ryan Braun on the final day of the season. He is an extra base hit machine with a nifty glove. He is an all-star difference maker who will be an instant spark for any team - if healthy.