Slumping Brewers make sweeping changes

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Last night’s loss left the Brewers at 13-22 since July 1, dropping them two games below .500 and 6.5 games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central. This afternoon general manager Doug Melvin made sweeping changes to both the roster and coaching staff, demoting starting shortstop J.J. Hardy to Triple-A while calling up prospect Alcides Escobar to replace him, designating longtime regular Bill Hall for assignment, and firing pitching coach Bill Castro.
Hardy was an All-Star in 2007 and was even better last season while hitting .283/.343/.478 with 24 homers, but fell to .229/.300/.367 in 102 games this year and has hit just .218/.281/.338 over his last 250 plate appearances dating back to late May. Despite his struggles Hardy is still just 27 years old and there are plenty of teams that would love to take a chance on him with some arbitration eligibility remaining before he becomes a free agent.
Escobar was always expected to replace Hardy at shortstop and the slick-fielding 22-year-old hit .298/.353/.409 with 42 steals in 109 games at Triple-A to convince the Brewers that his bat is somewhat ready, but this isn’t quite how the switch was supposed to work. Much like 20-year-old Elvis Andrus in Texas, Escobar figures to be an impact defender immediately and has a ton of speed, but doesn’t project as much of a hitter right now and may only develop into adequate with the bat long term.
Hardy still has plenty of trade value, but Hall is a much different story. He signed a four-year, $24 million extension after hitting .270/.345/.553 with 35 homers in 2006, but dropped to .254/.315/.425 the next year and has produced a measly .217/.283/.377 line over the past two seasons while being relegated to a part-time role. Hall has certainly earned his walking papers, but the Brewers still owe him $8.4 million next season and will have to spend another $500,000 buying out his $9.25 million option for 2011.
Castro spent nearly two decades as the Brewers’ bullpen coach before getting a promotion this offseason, but the staff ranks second-worst in the NL with a 4.84 ERA and has served up the most homers in baseball. “A move like this is never easy to make, especially given Bill’s longevity with the organization and considering how hard he worked to reach this position,” said Melvin, who named Triple-A pitching coach and former big-league starter Chris Bosio to replace him on an interim basis.
While today’s shakeup likely comes too late for the Brewers’ dwindling playoff hopes, turning the page on Hall and perhaps Hardy while letting Escobar get his feet wet makes plenty of sense. If nothing else Melvin continues to show that he’s willing to make extremely bold moves whether that means dealing for CC Sabathia and firing Ned Yost with a dozen games remaining last season or cutting some expensive dead weight while turning shortstop over to a 22-year-old now.

Indians promote Chris Antonetti to President, name new GM

Chris Antonetti
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In the seemingly never-ending trend of front office officials getting new titles, the Cleveland Indians just announced that General Manager Chris Antonetti has been promoted to President of Baseball Operations and Mike Chernoff is now the GM.

Antonetti has been the Tribe’s GM for the past five years and is moving up in the wake of team president Mark Shapiro moving on to Toronto. Shapiro, however, also held business side responsibilities which Antonetti will not assume. Meaning, as before, he will be the top guy on baseball ops decisions, albeit with a grander title.

Chernoff has been an assistant GM for five years and has been with the organization for the past 12 years. As many new GMs these days he will, functionally speaking, still be an assistant when it comes to baseball decisions.

Yoenis Cespedes says he’s 100%

Yoenis Cespedes
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Yoenis Cespedes, who took a pitch off his hand last week, scaring the bejesus out of Mets fans, said today that he’s “100 percent ready” for the NLDS against the Dodgers.

He sat out Thursday and then went 2-for-7 with a double and a walk in the Mets’ remaining games. While he only had bruises on those fingers, pain and discomfort have, in the past affected guys who have been hit on the hands, messing with grip and power. Cesepdes saying that’s not an issue is a good thing.