Brewers lose Gamel to Cubs via waiver claim
First baseman has been sidelined most of the past two years by knee injuries
MILWAUKEE -- On a busy day of 40-man-roster maintenance, the Brewers lost first baseman Mat Gamel to the Cubs on Thursday, ending Gamel's star-crossed tenure with the organization that drafted him in 2005.
In addition to clearing Gamel from Milwaukee's crowded 40-man roster, the team announced that infielder Taylor Green had cleared waivers and was assigned outright to Triple-A Nashville. Pitcher Nick Bucci and outfielder Josh Prince were also sent outright to Nashville.
Of those players, only Green, who missed all of 2013 after left hip surgery, has the right to refuse the outright. He could choose to become a free agent five days after the end of the World Series, but general manager Doug Melvin indicated the club would attempt to re-sign Green to a Minor League contract.
"We're going to try to talk to Taylor and sign him back," Melvin said. "We were going to try to do the same with Mat had he gotten through."
The moves left 38 players on Milwaukee's 40-man roster with more relief coming when free agents Yuniesky Betancourt and Michael Gonzalez are removed. But other moves are still pending, because second baseman Rickie Weeks will soon have to be reinstated from the 60-day disabled list and Ryan Braun from the restricted list. In November, the Brewers will have to add some prospects to the 40-man roster, including first baseman Hunter Morris (ranked No. 7 in the farm system), to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft.
The Brewers also have right-hander Miguel De Los Santos on the restricted list, but officials in the Dominican Republic remain unable to verify his identity. Melvin said he was awaiting direction from the Commissioner's Office on that matter, as well as the timetable for reinstating Braun from his suspension.
Thursday's waiver claim marked a fresh start for Gamel, who has not played in nearly two years. He was to be the Brewers' replacement for departed free agent Prince Fielder in 2012, but Gamel tore the ACL in his right knee on May 1 of that season and missed the rest of the year. Another opportunity opened for Gamel this season when Corey Hart underwent offseason knee surgery, but Gamel re-tore his ACL during the Brewers' first full-squad workout of Spring Training and was out for the year again.
The Brewers still have uncertainty at first base, but Gamel would have been arbitration-eligible had he remained on the Brewers' roster, even though he's amassed only 240 Major League at-bats, and he has no remaining Minor League options. That combination created significant risk, said Melvin, who pointed out that the Cubs could also try to pass Gamel through waivers and get him to a Minor League affiliate to test the integrity of his knee.
Green, the next man on the depth chart at first base when Gamel had his setback, was lost later in the spring to a left hip injury that also required surgery. He will be 27 in November and could still be attractive to the Brewers on a Minor League deal because he can play first base and third base, where Aramis Ramirez is heading into the final year of his contract.
The next round of big decisions will come before Nov. 20, the date by which teams must add certain prospects to the 40-man roster to protect them from December's Rule 5 Draft. Among the prospects under discussion are Morris and Jason Rogers, the franchise's past two Minor League Players of the Year.
"We're going to have more roster problems coming up here," Melvin said.