Just over a year after Nyjer Morgan sent the Milwaukee Brewers into the National League Championship Series with one of the biggest hits in franchise history, his tenure with the club is all but over.
The Brewers outrighted Morgan to Triple-A Nashville on Wednesday, which is more of a formality than anything, as the Brewers were not likely to tender the veteran outfielder a contract for next season.
Also, taking the first step in revamping a bullpen that struggled last season, the Brewers have parted ways with reliever Jose Veras. Milwaukee outrighted Veras from the 40-man roster, and the 32-year-old right-hander refused the assignment, becoming a free agent.
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Acquired in a trade from Washington just prior to Opening Day in 2011, Morgan sparked the Brewers last season and was a key cog while hitting .304.
Though fans fell in love with his alter-ego, “Tony Plush,” Morgan will most be remembered for driving in the winning run to beat the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 5 of the 2011 National League Division Series.
As good as Morgan was in 2011, he was equally bad in 2012 and eventually found himself with little playing time.
Morgan, 32, hit just .239 in just 289 at-bats, and played less as the season wore on. With center fielder Carlos Gomez having a breakout year and Norichika Aoki coming over from Japan and claiming the starting spot in right field, Morgan was the odd man out. Even rookie Logan Schafer played ahead of Morgan when he was recalled in September.
The contract Morgan would have been due in 2013 paid $2.6 million. It was assumed all along that the Brewers were not going to tender that contract to Morgan, making Wednesday’s move just a needed step in ending his time in Milwaukee.
The Veras move, too, was easy to see coming. Part of the Brewers bullpen that posted a National League-worst 4.66 ERA and a club-record 29 blown saves, he had a season of highs and lows.
His final ERA of 3.63 was lowered quite a bit by the 14 scoreless outings Veras had in September. Walks plagued the right-hander as he issued 40 free passes in 67 innings. His ERA was 4.91 at the beginning of August and 4.31 at the start of September.
The Brewers acquired Veras from Pittsburgh last December in exchange for third baseman Casey McGehee in the hope he could slide into the seventh-inning role vacated by the loss of free agents Takashi Saito and LaTroy Hawkins.
Like the rest of the Brewers bullpen, Veras faltered. This move shows how serious the Brewers are about rebuilding the unit this offseason.