Rumors prove baseless for Brewers

Meetings full of rumors for Brewers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Chalk up another swing and miss to the Winter Meetings rumor board.

A report in Thursday's USA Today caught the eye of Boston general manager Theo Epstein, who saw that the Brewers were talking about Ben Sheets and Bill Hall to the Dodgers for outfielders Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier.

"Theo came up to me today and said, 'Congratulations on getting that deal done,'" Melvin said. "'What deal is that?' I asked."

There was no deal, said Melvin, who has sat down with Dodgers officials this week at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, but says he did not discuss Sheets. The right-hander's name has popped up in rumors all week, and he is entering the final year of a contract, but Melvin insists that no team has ever made an offer for Sheets.

"We haven't really talked to teams about him," said Melvin, who noted that things can change.

And so it went for Melvin and the Brewers contingent this week: Plenty of rumors and some substantive talks on a variety of opportunities, but no action. The Brewers did finalize an agreement for free agent reliever David Riske that had been in place since last week, but they hopped an earlier-than-planned flight back to Milwaukee on Thursday with nothing else to announce.

Melvin will continue working. He is looking at available third basemen and talked some with the St. Louis Cardinals here about Scott Rolen, eventually pulling out because of the Cards' high asking price, the money due to be paid to Rolen over the final three years of his contract and concerns about Rolen's surgically-repaired right shoulder. Melvin did not talk to St. Louis on Wednesday and didn't have anything planned for Thursday.

Those discussions could resume at a later date. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa had some scathing comments toward Rolen on Wednesday, and it appears unlikely the two will be able to reconcile.

"It's very clear that he's unhappy," La Russa said. "And I'm making it clear that I don't understand why he's unhappy. I told somebody the other day, I can make a list of 50 respect points that this man has been given by our organization. It's time for him to give back.

"He's got a contract to play, and we need him to play. And he's going to be treated very honestly. If he plays hard and plays as well as he can, he plays. If he doesn't, he'll sit. If he doesn't like it, he can quit."

There was also no further action with Rocky Hall, the representative for free agent Tadahito Iguchi. Melvin ran into Hall on Thursday and said the Brewers would prefer to find a true third baseman before moving Ryan Braun to left field. They will exhaust all options before potentially pursuing Iguchi, a natural second baseman.

The Brewers will continue to scour the market for more relief arms but Melvin made his strongest statement yet on Thursday that Derrick Turnbow will be the closer on Opening Day. A member of Melvin's staff pointed out that Turnbow has a higher career percentage of converted saves than Francisco Cordero, whom the Brewers lost in free agency.

"We have a closer," Melvin said, referring to Turnbow.

Melvin said he wasn't disappointed about the lack of activity for a second straight year. Before that, the Brewers traded Lyle Overbay to the Blue Jays at the 2005 Meetings and acquired Carlos Lee from the White Sox in 2004.

"It depends on your club," Melvin said. "Different years, you're trying to do different things. This year it's a little different. There are some things you'd like to do, but we have [fewer] holes than in the past. So you anticipate not doing as much."

Winter Meetings

Melvin said a "fair" amount of teams had inquired about center fielder Hall. The other name that consistently appeared, especially in the Rolen rumors, was left-hander Chris Capuano, one of three Brewers starters eligible for arbitration.

"I'm trying to keep it out of my head," said Capuano, a member of the Major League Baseball Players Association executive board who was attending meetings earlier in the week in his hometown of Phoenix. "In my experience, a lot trades that happen don't have the rumors flying around beforehand. But I do know the Cardinals are looking for pitching."

Stay tuned.

Deals done: The Brewers finalized a three-year contract with reliever David Riske.

Rule 5 activity: The club lost infielder Callix Crabbe to the Padres in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft and lost pitcher Bo Hall to the Yankees in the Triple-A portion of the Draft.

Goals accomplished: Adding Riske to the fold was a start for the Brewers, who will be hard-pressed to replace departed free agent relievers Francisco Cordero and Scott Linebrink. They also laid the groundwork for potential trades, though the once-promising Rolen talks seemed to fizzle quickly.

Unfinished business: About six of the eight defensive positions are set, but the Brewers are still in flux at third base and left field. If they are able to find a third basemen, they would be willing to shift National League Rookie of the Year Braun to the outfield. If they find a high on-base percentage outfielder, they would leave Braun where he's at and allow him to work on his defense. That the Brewers have received interest in Hall is intriguing because it would lead to further shifts in the outfield.

The team also will continue to look for relief help. Cordero's absence means Derrick Turnbow likely will slide up to the closer's role and Riske and newcomer Guillermo Mota could pitch setup. The Brewers would like to add some depth.

GM's bottom line: "We had a lot of conversations that could lead to something." -- Melvin

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.