MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers' busy week of roster moves continued Friday, when reliever Kameron Loe and outfielder Nyjer Morgan chose free agency over an outright assignment to Triple-A Nashville, and first baseman Travis Ishikawa moved to within a step of a similar departure.
Ishikawa was also outrighted to Nashville and has the right to refuse. He is expected to do so after clearing waivers.
All three players would have been eligible for arbitration.
"We just need roster space," general manager Doug Melvin said. "With our system, we've added some young guys and we've got a chance of adding as many as four to six more players to our roster [to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft].
"So we needed space to add players to our roster, needed space for waiver claims and free-agent players. The arbitration process drags out all the way to January and February. We need to make decisions before that."
Earlier this week, the Brewers also cut loose Jose Veras, another arbitration-eligible reliever.
Of those players let go, the one with the longest Brewers tenure was Loe, the 6-foot-8 right-hander who signed a Minor League deal with Milwaukee in December 2009 after a stint in Japan. He began the 2010 season as a starter at Nashville, but made it to Milwaukee in relief and posted a 3.67 ERA in 195 games over the past three seasons.
Statistically, 2012 was Loe's least-effective season in a Brewers uniform, with a 4.61 ERA, 10.3 hits per nine innings and a 1.434 WHIP. He would have nonetheless received a raise in arbitration from his $2.175 million salary, and as a player with five-plus years of Major League service, might not have formally signed until February.
So the Brewers opted to move on, though Melvin lauded Loe's durability and left open the door to re-signing him at some point.
"It just seemed like every year, our arbitration players and the agents who represent our guys wait until other guys sign and we're sort of held victim to some other signings at times," said Melvin, who argued that cutting ties now with Loe and Veras, "just gives us flexibility."
"One of the things I look back on and can correct is being tied up with no flexibility in our bullpen," Melvin said. "We want to have flexibility in our bullpen and have the roster space in case guys become available."
Brewers claim reliever Leon off waivers
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers took a flier on a big arm Friday by claiming right-hander Arcenio Leon off waivers from the Houston Astros.
Leon, 26, pitched to a 4.38 ERA in 44 relief appearances for Double-A Corpus Christi in 2012. The key to the acquisition from the Brewers' perspective was that he has a Minor League option remaining.
"He's probably got a chance to make our Triple-A club or our Double-A next year," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. "We've seen a good amount of him. [Pro scout] Leon Wurth saw him, [special assistant] Dan O'Brien was familiar with him, and he's always had a good power arm. So we figured we'd try and add him to our inventory."
The Venezuelan-born Leon has pitched parts of eight Minor League seasons with the Astros and owns a 4.40 ERA. He has a very high career walk rate -- 5.2 walks per nine innings pitched -- but his 1.461 WHIP in 2012 was his best mark since his first pro season in the Venezuelan Summer League.
Crew doesn't extend offers to Marcum, K-Rod
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers did not extend a qualifying offer to either Shaun Marcum or Francisco Rodriguez ahead of Friday's deadline, meaning the club will not receive compensation in next year's Draft should those free agents sign elsewhere.
Under the rules of Major League Baseball's new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the old Type A and Type B designations were thrown out in favor of a new system of compensating teams for losing high quality free agents. Under the new system, players must be with their team for the entire previous season to qualify for compensation, and their teams have five days after the World Series to extend a one-year "qualifying offer" -- which is set by averaging the top 125 player salaries from the previous year. This year, the value of that offer is $13.3 million. Players then have seven days to decide whether to accept.
If the player declines that offer and signs elsewhere, his new team surrenders a first-round selection in the next season's First-Year Player Draft and his old team gets a compensatory pick sandwiched between the first and second round.
The Brewers were not expected to go down that path with either Marcum or Rodriguez. Marcum was excellent when healthy, but he missed two months in 2012 because of a right elbow injury. Rodriguez posted the highest ERA and lowest strikeout rate of his career, and this week was charged with domestic abuse in a suburban Milwaukee courtroom stemming from an alleged confrontation with his fiancée in September.
With the departure of Ishikawa, Loe, Morgan and Veras, the Brewers are down to five players eligible for arbitration: pitchers John Axford, Marco Estrada, Chris Narveson and Manny Parra, and outfielder Carlos Gomez.
Former Brewers No. 1 prospect Jeremy Jeffress, traded to the Royals as part of the Zack Greinke deal in December 2010, was designated for assignment by Kansas City on Wednesday. The hard-throwing Jeffress, 25, once suspended in the Brewers' system for marijuana use, pitched to a 5.65 ERA in 27 relief appearances for the Royals over the past two seasons, and had a 4.97 ERA in 37 appearances at Triple-A Omaha in 2012.
Might the Brewers be interested in bringing him back?
"I don't know," Melvin said. "We'll discuss it among our people and find out."
The Brewers did not get into the running for pitcher Dan Haren, who was being shopped by the Angels this week.