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Could Opening Day Outcasts Appeal to Brewers?

Baseball season is finally here. For most players anyway. There still remain a select few players who, either through stubbornness, injury, age, or waning talent have yet to find a team for the 2014 season. Seeing old teammates kick off a new season, many of the players left on the market may start to feel more anxious to sign a deal for the season that is now upon us. This provides general managers the opportunity to snag bargain-bin or rejected players that may have been overlooked during the offseason. It seems unnecessary to pursue the big names such as Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales, but Joel Hanrahan could be a good fit for Milwaukee.

Milwaukee does not need to explore signing Stephen Drew or Kendrys Morales, the two most notable players still seeking employment. Having rejected qualifying offers, teams that sign either player must relinquish their first round draft pick. This asking price was too much even for big-market teams over the winter, and consequently Drew and Morales remain on the market. Interestingly, Buster Olney speculated on his ESPN podcast that both Drew and Morales might wait until after the Draft to sign, leaving them with time on their hands well into June.

Regardless, neither seems to be an appealing option for the Brewers. Drew is certainly out of the question, as the team is in good shape with Jean Segura at shortstop. Although many rumors linking Drew to the Yankees speculated that he could slide over to third base, this would only appeal to Milwaukee in case of an injury to Aramis Ramirez. Even if Ramirez does land on the DL, it may make more sense to stick with Jeff Bianchi rather than pursue Drew. Bianchi had 11 defensive runs saved at the hot corner last season, and would presumably be a sturdier defender then a man adjusting to a new position. Going into the offseason, Morales appeared to be a more palatable option for the Brewers and their gaping first-base hole. However, things have changed. The team used its free agent spending money on SP Matt Garza, rendering a Morales signing somewhat extravagant. Further, the presence of Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay give the Brewers workable options at first base, meaning there is little need to break the bank for a guy like Morales.

Relief pitcher Joel Hanrahan, however, is an intriguing option for the Brewers to sign. The 32-year-old right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery after playing in just four games for Boston last April. However, Hanrahan was notably successful in his last two full, healthy seasons. While with the Pirates in 2011 and 2012, he compiled 40 and 36 saves respectively, blowing just four opportunities each year. Hanrahan’s fastball-slider combination was devastating, as his heat reached the upper 90s and batters flailed to a .093 batting average against the breaking ball. Presumably, of course, Hanrahan’s velocity will be lower following the surgery; he has topped out at about 90-92 MPH this spring according to Michael Hurcomb of CBS. Also worrisome is the fact that advanced metrics such as xFIP indicate that his ERA should have been much higher that it actually was while he was a Pirate.

Still, the Brewers would have little to lose if they added Hanrahan to their bullpen. His 2014 contract would be only a fraction of the $7 million that Boston paid him last year. Further, with reliable closer Jim Henderson, or alternatively Francisco Rodriguez, in the fold, Milwaukee would not need to count on him to pitch the ninth. Hanrahan would offer the Brewers depth in the bullpen at an extremely high upside.

It must be incredibly frustrating for a major league player to watch Opening Day from the couch. These athletes display a lot of restraint by focusing on their long-term goals as opposed to leaping at the first opportunity to put on their cleats. Ultimately, any players that can contribute to a major league roster will end up with a team at some point. Of the remaining players, though, Joel Hanrahan is the one that makes the most sense for Milwaukee to pursue.