Brewers Invest in Their Future Ace: Yovani Gallardo

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By: Melissa S. Wollering

Good pitching has long been hard to come by for the Milwaukee Brewers. On Thursday, the organization signed its home-grown starter in the rotation, Yovani Gallardo, to a five-year $30.1 million extension and held a press conference to boot.

It’s more solid than say…gunning to sign Prince Fielder. Do we want to find another 1B? No. But can we find another 1B who is serviceable for less? Yes. Let’s face it: arms, especially potential aces, are much harder to find and keep.

Gallardo could earn as much as $42.5M, including an option for a sixth season in 2015. This straps him in as a Brewer through his first year of free agent eligibility at the very least and was a solid move considering he would have become arbitration eligible after this season.

That’s comparable to what closer Francisco Cordero wanted just 2 years back for fewer years of service so, yeah, I’d say it’s smart. It was done in similar fashion to what Doug Melvin did when he secured Ryan Braun, who also signed at the age of 24 last year and could also be with the Brewers until 2015. I’d argue, the Milwaukee Brewers are building a solid base from which to truly contend in the NL Central for the next several years.

Think about it: the last Brewers’ ace was Ben Sheets. If he wouldn’t be an injury basketcase, he still might be. Melvin worked hard to acquire Randy Wolf, but his arm won’t last forever. We paid money to get twice-a-Brewer Doug Davis to return and his consistency is as lumpy as tapioca pudding. With the 4 spot in the rotation up in the air until the end of Spring Training and the 5 spot decided a mere two days ago, you could say Gallardo will be the only pitcher to rest your hat on for a while.

Born in Mexico, raised in Texas, Gallardo was the Brewers second-round draft pick in 2004. He has four pitches down solid, he eats up innings well for his age, is among only four Brewers’ starters to ever clock more than 200 strikeouts in a season and bats well enough to be ranked third among NL starters with a .219 average. Historically, you could compare him to fellow Mexico native Teddy Higuera, who is the only Milwaukee Brewer to accumulate more than 200 K’s per season in two seasons with the team.

2008’s injury seems so long ago for Gallardo fans.  He missed most of that season because of his knee, injured on a fluke play at first at Wrigley.  He wowed fans by coming back in a small capacity near the very end of 2008 just in time to join CC Sabathia for playoffs. Then he bounced back in 2009 to rack up a 3.75 ERA, more than 185 innings pitched, 17 quality starts and 204 K’s.

While most of the media and fans were focused on potential Fielder talks (who knows exactly how much talking is really being done on that front), this quiet extension was pure genius. Last year, I argued Doug Melvin’s career could be defined by pomp and circumstance signings like CC Sabathia and Ryan Braun.  But I hope Melvin’s career is also defined by the decisions he’s made while everyone was looking the other way; the Yovani Gallardo’s and even the temporary veteran signings of Trevor Hoffman and Craig Counsell. May he continue to build a smart and thrifty small market club any way possible.

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