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NL Central Notes: Betts, Brewers, Venable, Tigers, Pirates

Could Mookie Betts have blossomed to stardom in a Brewers uniform?  It could have been a reality if former Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin had had his way, as he tried to acquire Betts from the Red Sox in 2013 in exchange for closer Francisco Rodriguez, according to’s Adam Berry and Adam McCalvy.  As a fifth-round pick for Boston in the 2011 draft, “Mookie sort of went under the radar if you went by the so-called MLB Pipeline or whatever.  I don’t think at the time he was in their top 10-15 prospects,” Melvin said.  Both the Brewers’ analytics and scouting departments agreed on Betts’ potential, however, so the pitch was made to then-Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington, who wisely declined the offer.

Betts was already in the midst of a big season at the A-ball levels in 2013, and Cherington recalls that by season’s end, Betts’ “name was the first one” mentioned by other clubs in trade negotiations.  “Doug Melvin was the first to ask, so I always give Doug credit.  He was the first one to ask for him,” Cherington said.

While Milwaukee fans take a moment to sigh ruefully, let’s look at some other items from around the NL Central…

  • Cubs third base coach Will Venable spoke with the Tigers about their managerial vacancy, NBC Sports Chicago’s Gordon Wittenmyer reports.  Venable was first cited as a potential candidate for the Tigers job back in September, and Venable has also recently interviewed with the Red Sox about their managerial job.  Beyond the Red Sox and Tigers, “other clubs also have sought the Cubs’ permission to talk with Venable about other, non-managerial openings in their organizations,” Wittenmyer writes.  A veteran of nine MLB seasons, Venable has spent the last three years in Wrigleyville as a special assistant to Theo Epstein, as well as a first base and third base coach.  This is the second straight winter that Venable has been a popular candidate, as the Cubs considered him for their own manager’s job last offseason, and the Astros and Giants also interviewed him for their managerial openings.
  • The Pirates have 19 players eligible for arbitration this offseason, the most of any team in baseball.  At least some of those names won’t be back in Pittsburgh in 2021, as The Athletic’s Rob Biertempfel thinks as many as six players could be non-tendered and several others are trade candidates.  Interestingly, Biertempfel cites Trevor Williams as a potential non-tender, on the heels of a season that saw Williams get off to a good start but then struggle to finish with a 6.18 ERA over 55 1/3 innings, with a league-high 15 homers allowed.  Williams received some trade interest from at least one team (the Blue Jays) back in August, so it’s possible Toronto or another club could have some talks with the Pirates before the non-tender deadline.  Williams had a pair of solid seasons in 2017-18 and is entering his age-29 season with two years of team control remaining.  MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects Williams to earn between $3.2MM and $4.6MM through the arbitration process this winter.
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