Brewers more flexible, but to what end?

Hey, the Brewers just saved $5.5 million!

    I just talked to Brewers general manager Doug Melvin and he told me the primary reason for declining the $6.5 million option on right-hander Braden Looper was to maintain financial flexibility as he delves into the free agent pitching market.

    Melvin also said he might get back to Looper at some point and discuss a free-agent offer if it suits the needs of both parties.

    "I talked with Braden," said Melvin, who had to pay Looper at $1 million buyout. "I told him we still had some interest in him returning but we want to keep some flexibility right now. We still have some holes to fill on the ball club.

    "We don't know what it's going to cost on the free agent market yet. He's added to that pool of pitchers. It signals we're open to anything. I don't want to get involved in talking about who we're interested in. This allows us to get into more things, maybe add a couple of guys."


    With Looper currently off the roster, it leaves the Brewers with the four other pitchers from their original 2009 rotation -- right-handers Yovani Gallardo, Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan, and left-hander Manny Parra.

Look, the Brewers aren't going to sign John Lackey (which is why I snipped Tom Haudricourt's three paragraphs about Lackey). Melvin didn't take a $1 million hit to give himself "flexibility;" he took a million-dollar hit to avoid spending $5.5 million more on a pitcher who, despite going 14-7 this year, was actually pretty awful (and has been worth $5.5 million just once in his career). And Looper's not even an innings-eater, particularly. He did start 34 games this season, but averaged less than six innings per start.

Unfortunately, the Brewers still have just one reliable starter (Gallardo). Suppan's stuff has degenerated to the point where he's almost unpitchable, Parra walks the ballpark, and Bush ... Well, Bush pitched about as well this season as a guy with a 6.38 ERA can pitch. He gives up too many home runs, but has a perfectly acceptable strikeout-to-walk ratio, and if the Brewers give him yet another shot in the rotation, you'll know that Melvin puts a good deal of stock in sabermetric tools like DIPS and FIP.

Still, as things stand right now, the Brewers' second-best starter (Bush) next season will have an ERA around 5 (give or take half a run). I don't envy Melvin, because all the flexibility in the world -- well, in his world -- probably won't be enough for him to build a rotation that's good enough to compete in the Brewers' division.