Brewers seeking starters this offseason

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said Wednesday he'll sacrifice offense for pitching this offseason.

Dealing Prince Fielder or Ryan Braun? Don't count on it.

"That would be a tough one. I don't think ... I didn't mean it that way," said Melvin, laughing. "I don't see that happening."

Braun hit .320 with 32 homers and 114 RBIs this year after signing a long-term extension last season and Fielder, under team control through 2011, hit .299 with 46 homers and 141 RBIs, tied for tops in the majors.

There's been internal discussions about a long-term deal for Fielder, but there haven't been formal negotiations.

"You say it's on the back of your mind [but] it's coming more forward to a decision we have to make in two years' time," said Melvin, who talks regularly with owner Mark Attanasio. "It's not next week, it's not next month but it probably comes up in our conversation every time we get together."

The Brewers will still shake things up after a disappointing 80-82 finish following their postseason appearance in 2008 and they'll have at least one chip to deal in former All-Star shortstop J.J. Hardy.

Melvin said it would be "very difficult" to keep top shortstop prospect Alcides Escobar and Hardy on the roster together and that he felt for Hardy, who hit .229 and was demoted to Triple-A Nashville.

Melvin said the goal this offseason is to bring in two starting pitchers to bolster a staff that finished tied for last in the majors in ERA (5.37), tied for last in complete games (one) and last in walks (381).

"I had hoped that we'd have five starters, three of them would pitch 200 innings," Melvin said. "We didn't have anybody pitch 200 innings."

Melvin's first decision was to re-sign Trevor Hoffman to an $8 million, one-year contract with a mutual option for 2011 that could be worth up to $8.5 million more.

Hoffman will be 42 next week but converted 37 of 41 save chances to give him 591 for his career. He finished the season with a 1.83 ERA, his lowest since 1998.

"To be able to attract free-agent starting pitchers, one of the first questions they always want to know is, 'Who is the closer?'" Melvin said. "If our pitching is going to improve, you've got to keep the success we had at the back end of the bullpen."

This year's rotation of Yovani Gallardo, Manny Parra, Jeff Suppan, Dave Bush and Braden Looper struggled and the organization doesn't have any pitching prospects in the minors who could make an impact next year.

That means Melvin will be active in the free-agent and trade market for arms, and the memories of what CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets provided in 2008 were fresh on his mind after both left via free agency.

Melvin mentioned them during his opening statement just over a minute into his season wrap-up news conference, and assistant general manager Gord Ash said they still hold Sheets in high regard even after he missed the season with a forearm injury.

"Ben is somebody who would have to be on anybody's list when it comes to improving your pitching staff," Ash said. "There's been once and a while conversations with his agent to remind that we still have that ongoing interest."

Seven players are free agents, including center fielder Mike Cameron, catcher Jason Kendall, second baseman Felipe Lopez and infielder Craig Counsell.

Melvin said that the organization still considers Rickie Weeks their second baseman and wasn't sure if there was a place for both Weeks and Lopez, acquired in a trade on July 19. Weeks went on the disabled list on May 19 after he hurt his left wrist and needed season-ending surgery.

Rookie third baseman Casey McGehee, a waiver claim pickup who hit .301 with 16 homers and 66 RBIs in 116 games, had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Tuesday.

Ash said McGehee had an intermediary procedure instead of a more intensive one so he could be ready for the start of next season.

"He's an excellent worker," Ash said. "He's motivated and hopefully he can keep that area healthy and keep the joint strong and it won't be as much of a factor for him as it was the last couple of months."