Brewers decline Looper's $6.5 million option

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Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin has made it very clear that acquiring starting pitching is the Brewers’ biggest priority this offseason, even trading J.J. Hardy to the Twins for Carlos Gomez in part to clear payroll space for rotation help.
Despite that this afternoon the Brewers declined their $6.5 million option on Braden Looper, choosing to pay him a $1 million buyout instead after the 35-year-old went 14-7 with a 5.22 ERA in 194.2 innings spread over a league-leading 34 starts this season.
On the surface it may seem strange to get rid of a veteran who went 14-7 in a rotation that had the league’s worst ERA, but Looper’s win-loss record vastly overstates his effectiveness. In addition to his ugly 5.22 ERA, he allowed the most earned runs (113) and homers (39) in the league while opponents batted .289/.344/.503 against him. He basically turned every hitter into Matt Kemp, who batted .297/.352/.490 this season.
Looper also had a sub par 100/64 K/BB ratio in 194.2 innings and fell apart down the stretch, posting a 5.54 ERA in the second half that included a 6.58 mark in September. In other words he was awful at just about everything except for getting good run support from the Brewers’ lineup, and as a 35-year-old who underwent post-season knee surgery he’s hardly a good bet to improve enough to be worth $6.5 million in 2010.
Melvin indicated that the Brewers would consider re-signing Looper at a lesser salary, but added that in the meantime “we wanted to keep our flexibility” with the $5.5 million saved. It’s a safe bet that Looper won’t get anything close to $5.5 million on the open market, so even if the Brewers fail to land the big upgrade via free agency that Melvin is aiming for there’s little risk in letting Looper shop himself around.

Phillies, Red Sox interested in Carlos Santana

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The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.

Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.

As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.