Brewers acquire Vargas from Dodgers
Right-hander set for second tour with club; Rottino sent to LA
SAN DIEGO -- Just like one Brewers player predicted on Thursday, ahead of baseball's non-waiver Trade Deadline, the deals you don't hear about are always the ones that go down.So it went on Friday, when, after weeks of being linked to virtually every high-profile pitcher on the market, general manager Doug Melvin made a minor move and reacquired right-hander Claudio Vargas from the Dodgers.
The only cost was what's left of Vargas' league-minimum 2009 contract -- he is a free agent after the season -- plus Double-A Huntsville infielder/catcher Vinny Rottino, a Wisconsin native and longtime organizational soldier who was the Brewers' final cut at the end of 2007 Spring Training but had fallen down the depth chart since then.Vargas, 31, who pitched for the Brewers in 2007, could provide depth for a pitching staff that has sent three arms -- Dave Bush, Seth McClung and now Jeff Suppan -- to the disabled list over the past five weeks. Vargas opened the year on the disabled list with an elbow injury, then posted a 1.64 ERA in eight relief appearances for the Dodgers after being activated July 3. His fastball was clocked as high as 93 mph. He will join the Brewers on Saturday and will begin in the bullpen. Depending on the recoveries of injured right-handers Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan, Vargas could be stretched out to start. "We'll have to talk to him when he gets here," Melvin said. "He hasn't been extended." When Vargas arrives, the Brewers will need to clear a spot on the 25-man roster. Melvin said that he was close to acquiring a front-line pitcher in a three-team deal, but it fizzled on Friday afternoon and Vargas was Milwaukee's only Deadline-day acquisition. Two weeks ago, the team filled a hole in the field by acquiring Felipe Lopez from the D-backs. "We continued to work on bigger things [Friday]," Melvin said. "But in case someone didn't become available, you like to have someone you're familiar with. We've had two starters and a long guy [Seth McClung] go down, and that's a lot of innings to fill. I just don't know how many innings [Vargas] can give us at this point." The irony in Friday's pickup was that the Brewers released Vargas during 2008 Spring Training because they had too many pitchers. Melvin originally acquired Vargas as part of a six-player deal with the D-backs in November 2006 and Vargas went 11-6 with a 5.09 ERA in 29 appearances, including 23 starts, the following season. He was one of eight starters vying for a spot in the rotation at the start of '08 before the Brewers released him on March 25. In dealing Vargas on Friday, the Dodgers opened a spot on the 25-man roster for reliever George Sherrill, acquired from the Orioles on Thursday. Rottino, 29, was exceedingly popular among Brewers fans because he grew up just south of Milwaukee in Racine, Wis., and rose from an undrafted free agent to legitimate prospect status in 2004, when he broke Prince Fielder's organizational record with 124 RBIs for Class A Beloit. Two years later, Rottino batted .314 at Triple-A Nashville and earned the first of three late-season promotions to the big leagues. In all, Rottino appeared in 18 games for the Brewers and batted .208 (5-for-24). His biggest hit came in the penultimate game of the 2007 season, when Rottino grounded an 11th-inning single that capped a come-from-behind win over the Padres and guaranteed Milwaukee's first winning season in 15 years. But Rottino was subsequently passed by other Brewers prospects. He was removed from the 40-man roster this spring and opted for an assignment to Double-A Huntsville so he could get regular playing time away from Triple-A catching prospect Angel Salome and third-base prospect Mat Gamel. In 98 games this season, Rottino batted .249 with four home runs and 48 RBIs. "I'm excited," said Rottino, who received a "really nice" call from Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash informing him of the trade. "I certainly didn't expect to be traded, but it's an opportunity for me to get back to the big leagues, for sure. "I feel like I'm a guy who can play multiple positions, especially catcher, and that's always going to mean an opportunity. It's going to be a matter of me being in the right place at the right time, playing well and then getting the opportunity. I'm never going to have the attitude, as long as I have a uniform in this game, that making it to the big leagues is not a possibility. Now that's going to be with the Dodgers." He didn't know much about the Dodgers, but said, "They obviously want me, because they traded away a guy who pitched in the big leagues for them." Any hard feelings toward the Brewers? "I will always have an allegiance to the Brewers," Rottino said. "After my 10-year big league career is over, I'd love to stay in the game with the Brewers. No hard feelings, whatsoever." Rottino will report to the Dodgers' Double-A affiliate in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.