With Randy Wolf already in tow, the Brewers on Wednesday agreed to terms with steady left-hander Doug Davis on a one-year contract that includes a mutual option for 2011, according to a baseball source. The deal guarantees Davis $5.25 million and could pay up to $12.75 million if the option is exercised and Davis reaches all of his non-awards-related incentives. The deal gives the Brewers six established starters heading into Spring Training.
The contract won't be official until Davis passes a physical. And until that final step is complete, Melvin said he could not confirm that a deal was in place.
"We don't have anything finalized yet," Melvin said Wednesday afternoon, "but I guess we're getting close."
Melvin made starting pitching a priority after Brewers starters finished last in the National League last season with a 5.37 ERA and ranked next-to-last with 65 quality starts, defined as an outing of six or more innings with three or fewer earned runs. Yovani Gallardo led the Brewers with 17 quality starts, but Davis produced 22 for the D-backs and Wolf logged 24 for the Dodgers.
Davis went 37-36 with a 3.92 ERA in parts of four seasons with the Brewers from 2003-06 before Melvin traded him to Arizona. Now he's back, and will earn a $4.25 million base salary in '10 with a mutual option that calls for a $6.5 million salary in '11. If the Brewers decline the option, Davis gets a $1 million buyout.
He also can earn an extra $1 million each season via what the source termed "makeable" incentives based on games, starts and innings pitched.
The Brewers are getting a pitcher with a track record of durability. Davis has made at least 33 starts and pitched at least 190 innings in five of the past six seasons. The exception was 2008, when Davis was treated for thyroid cancer.
Davis turned 34 in September while finishing a 9-14 season in which he posted a 4.12 ERA for the D-backs. Melvin tried on several occasions to reacquire Davis via trade, most recently last August. Melvin reportedly put a waiver claim on the lefty at that time, giving the teams 48 hours to work out a deal.
Davis joins fellow newcomer Wolf in a Brewers rotation that will have six established arms contend for five spots: Dave Bush, Davis, Gallardo, Manny Parra, Jeff Suppan and Wolf. Davis, Parra and Wolf are all left-handed.
Barring an injury before the start of the season, someone will have to bump to the bullpen or be let go. Gallardo, Wolf and Davis figure to get the top three spots, leaving Bush, Parra, Suppan and perhaps left-hander Chris Narveson, who was solid at the end of last year, to vie for the other two. The Brewers will also have non-roster starters Chris Capuano, John Halama and Kameron Loe in camp.
Suppan is guaranteed $12.5 million next season in the final year of his contract. Parra is out of Minor League options. Bush, who is arbitration-eligible after earning $4 million last season, has options left but also has enough service time to refuse such an assignment.
"Players help us make those decisions," Melvin said on Wednesday. "That's how I would answer that right now."
Brewers pitchers and catchers will take part in their first formal Spring Training workout on Feb. 22.