As first pinpointed by FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi, the Brewers followed through on my report from early last week and are reportedly on the verge of trading away homegrown starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo to the Texas Rangers.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 18, 2015
Gallardo, as you may recall, became the Brewers’ career strikeout leader late in 2014 and was on pace to overtake several statistical categories in Brewers history in the near future. It now appears as though the man we call “Yo” will finish where he currently sits.
I’m writing to discuss why I think this trade went down, some of the logistics without yet knowing all the names involved for sure, as well as my generalized thoughts about trading Gallardo from a macro level.
First, the Brewers are basically maxed out on their payroll as the day begins. Principal owner Mark Attanasio has been flexible over the years in adding payroll in season when the chance to compete is there. Just look at 2014. He authorized acquiring Jonathan Broxton (the likely closer to begin 2015) and Gerardo Parra (a pricey current 4th outfielder) after all. But entering a season where they sit after avoiding arbitration with all three of their eligible players (~$97 million committed to 12 players per Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel beat writer Tom Haudricourt), it’s not that far of a stretch to understand why Attanasio might want to trim a little payroll fat. Gallardo is set to make $13 million in the final season of a six-year, $42.5 million contract he signed before the 2010 season. This is also pretty strong evidentiary support of the idea that the Brewers had no plans to offer Gallardo another long-term contract or even a qualifying offer after the season.
That’s just one of the logistical points of this situation. Another that I’ve been told is that the Brewers might not be moving all of Gallardo’s $13 million. There is chatter that they’ll be paying a portion of his deal. That’s normally done to offset the cost to the acquiring team, thereby increasing the return in quality and/or quantity of players.
But why now? Why move Gallardo at all? He was drafted by the Brewers, after all. I’ve heard all this and more since the trade rumor was first floated out. To those questions, I answer thusly.
Gallardo rebounded a bit in 2014 and actually had a better overall season than many give him credit for. He still struggled against St. Louis, had a poor May after an excellent April and limped through September when everything around the team seemed to be collapsing together, but his season was strong as a sum of its parts. Gallardo’s fastball came back to life and he posted a career-best BB/9 ratio of 2.5 overall. With a full season of control, Gallardo is more valuable to the Brewers to move now than he would be at any other point in 2015. And outside of the money issues, Gallardo is the most moveable piece among the pitchers. He’s the best combination of return, savings, and striking while the iron is hot on the team.
You aren’t moving the cheap Wily Peralta, Mike Fiers or Jimmy Nelson. Kyle Lohse is the oldest of the group and wouldn’t bring as much in return since there’s less projectability left on his arm than that of Gallardo. And after bringing in Matt Garza on an expensive deal, that’s not changing yet, plus the fact that Garza is already on pace to providing an extremely inexpensive contract option.
You also can’t let yourself worry about the fact that he was drafted and developed by the Brewers. So was Rickie Weeks. So was Prince Fielder. So was Corey Hart. There is a time for the vast majority of players in the era of free agency to move on from their original teams. If Gallardo isn’t in the long-term plan and he can bring you back someone who is, you move him. It can be a hard thing for a franchise like Milwaukee to do when homegrown talent under team control is a necessity to win, but when that talent prices themselves out of town decisions must be made regardless of the potential public relations hit. In a perfect world every Brewer is Robin Yount, but a perfect world this ain’t.
As for the return, well that just might be another column once we learn the particulars. Rosenthal speculates that Luis Sardiñas might be involved, but as of Sunday afternoon Gallardo hadn’t even been informed that he’d been traded. A principal agreement could be in place without all the details sorted out. I’m told that Gallardo’s agent leaked the report though so somebody knows something. Understandably, both front offices are upset as the track record exists for both to operate quietly.
In regards to the next step that so many people wanted to jump to on social media already, the agent for James Shields wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t reach out to the Brewers to discern their plan and see if his client might fit. After all, the talk for a bit now is how nobody is in on Shields at the number he wanted. Engaging the Brewers could get things a bit more towards where Shields would like them to be. Then again, the conspiracy theorists point to how shortly after the Gallardo news broke, the Nationals agreeing to a contract with free agent pitcher Max Scherzer came out. They are pointing to the coincidence to indicate that maybe the Brewers desiring to trade for Wisconsin-native starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann and needed to free up a rotation spot and some money to do it and that now that the Nationals feel confident in trading Zimmermann, they could fully engage on Scherzer. While that’s all plausible, it certainly feels like a couple of steps past where things stand as the sun comes up on Monday, January 19th.
Stay tuned. I have a feeling that things could get fun today.