Mr. Melvin's offseason "to do" list

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To do so, Melvin should try to sign or trade for a couple key players. He needs someone to protect Richie Sexson in the lineup. Sexson is the team's best player, but he simply broke down under the weight of an overbearingly weak batting order this year -- witness his lack of production over the last six weeks.

Geoff Jenkins could be that guy, but he's once again coming off an injury. He was just starting to bounce back from 2001's injury problems this year before hurting his ankle. It's probably not safe to assume he'll be 100 percent and functioning at pre-'01 levels next year.

Secondly, the Brewers need a veteran presence on the mound. Ben Sheets had a very underrated second half -- one that will be critical to his development next year and beyond -- and Glendon Rusch ate up 200+ innings if nothing else, but they will also buckle if only AAA-ready guys like Franklin, Diggins, Nick Neugebauer and Dave Pember are behind them in the rotation. A veteran free agent -- Steve Trachsel or similar; an inexpensive, 3.50, 12-win guy -- could take some heat off the youngsters and perhaps match up with opposing aces every fifth day, allowing Sheets easier assignments.

In neither case should the Brewers break the bank, but Melvin needs to upgrade over the Stairs and Eric Young-type Taylor signings of years past; if not, go on to point three.

3. Plunge money into player development.

One of the big quarrels with this year's new labor deal was the lack of a guarantee that money redistributed via revenue-sharing will be spent on improving the lot of small-market teams. That's a point well taken, but the cash doesn't necessarily have to go to free agency. In the Brewers' case, the majority must be invested in the team's scouting and farm systems.

In addition to meeting with (and likely firing) Royster, Melvin will sit down with assistant GM Dave Wilder, scouting director Jack Zduriencik and player development head Greg Riddoch this week. All three are key positions to the team's future. With some talent prospectively in the pipeline, the latter two may be given a chance to work under Melvin. Wilder's status is unknown.

Melvin has had success building systems. During his 1996-2001 stint in Texas, he was named Baseball America's 1998 Major League Executive of the Year. He oversaw the development of Jeff Zimmerman, Kevin Mench, Mike Lamb and Ruben Mateo, all young players (sans the former) with solid major-league futures. The Rangers also won division titles in 1996, '98 and '99 before running smack dab into the Yankees in the ALDS.

But the Brewers' system has been a quagmire for years. Some felt Taylor was doing an admirable job building up a barren farm system, and his efforts in July and August of this year (dumping Mark Loretta, Tyler Houston and Jamey Wright for prospects) showed he was serious about following through with the job.

Now, those moves are to Melvin's benefit. The new GM can't be blamed for the current disaster in Miller Park, and he gets a head start on refreshing the team's minor-league talent base. And that is job 1 and 1A for Melvin once he determines who his next on-field boss will be for 2003.

Welcome aboard, Mr. Melvin.

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