Let’s get this out of the way at the top. Thank you, San Francisco Giants! Thank you, NLCS MVP Madison Bumgarner. Thank you, Hunter Pence. Thank you, Santiago Casilla. Thank you, Pablo Sandoval. Thank you, Yusmeiro Petit. Thank you (and congrats), Tim Hudson. Thank you even to Buster Posey.
Thank you, Michael Morse for tying that one game.
Thank you, Travis Ishikawa for walking the birds off the field.
I wouldn’t be as happy as I am today without the efforts and success of the San Francisco Giants. You can drop the #EvenYear hashtag on social media. You can thank a blossomed ace in Bumgarner. You can shower praise on Bruce Bochy and his coaching staff. It’s all deserved. It’s all warranted. “THE GIANTS (WON) THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS (WON) THE PENNANT!”
And as happy as I am today that the senior circuit representative in this year’s Fall Classic plays its home games outside the state of Missouri, my desire for Giant victories ended when that ball left Ishikawa’s bat.
So why am I rooting against them starting tonight? I like the Giants just fine. I like most of their players. Only Angel Pagan really gets my dander up, and he’ll miss this series with injury anyway. So this isn’t about the Giants.
As far as leagues go, I absolutely prefer the National League game to that of its younger brother. The Designated Hitter should be done away with (though I realize it never will be). The strategy and timing of the NL game makes for a beautiful, and sometimes sickening, dance where decisions feel like they loom larger. You can’t always just pitch a guy until he’s done. Maybe you have to lift a pitcher early because of a key offensive spot. Maybe you try to stretch a guy farther because his spot is due up next half inning. Et cetera. There is so much more that goes into it. It’s more interesting and more fun, in my ever so humble opinion.
I’m a stump for the NL way of life. My team plays in the National League, for what that’s worth.
So, again, I ask: Why am I rooting against the Giants?
Well, to be fair it’s about rooting for Kansas City more than it is about rooting against San Francisco.
Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Norichika Aoki. All former Brewers. All good guys who I enjoy watching succeed. But pulling for the Royals is deeper than just that connection. Doug Henry and Dale Sveum. Both former Brewers. Both members of KC’s coaching staff. I like that, and personally like Sveum as a coach, but certainly wouldn’t use that as a reason to cheer for one team over another. Ned? Not even a little bit.
So instead of continuing to tell you why I’m not rooting for them, even though they are fine reasons should you choose to use them, here’s why I am.
I look at the 2014 Kansas City Royals and I see the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers.
It’s not a perfect 1:1 on the field, of course, but the similarities even at that micro level are interesting. It’s more about how they go about their business on the field, the lights out bullpen, trading away young and controllable talent for a shot at the brass ring, the payoff of a long-term plan. You can take it one step farther and compare to 2008 in Milwaukee where the Brewers faltered down the stretch while trying to hold off other teams for the Wild Card. In 2008 there was only the one Wild Card spot available, but the Brewers held off the Mets to win it by just one game. In 2014, Kansas City got the home game by just one game over Oakland (who held off Seattle by just one game).
Kansas City rode years of awfulness to amass a bunch of young talent in their system. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon (drafted the same year as, and ahead of, Ryan Braun, by the way), Wil Myers, the list goes on. In fact, you could almost mark the 2005 draft which got the Brewers the final “homegrown” piece to their playoff runs in Braun as the start of the Royals turnaround. In that way, they’ve been a few years behind the Brewers’ blueprint. Get a bunch of young, talented guys in the system with a goal to hit the Majors at roughly the same time, supplement with free agents, and when the moment is right, make a big trade (or two) at the big league level by sending out minor leaguers to go for it.
Let’s break that down, in case you aren’t agreeing with me.
Milwaukee: Drafted Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, J.J. Hardy, Yovani Gallardo, Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun. Traded away Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley (and more)) for CC Sabathia in 2008. Traded away Cain, Escobar, Jake Odorizzi (and more) for Zack Greinke in 2011. Traded Brett Lawrie for Shaun Marcum in 2011. Supplemented with veterans: 2011 -Mark Kotsay, Craig Counsell, Jerry Hairston, Takashi Saito. 2008 – Gabe Kapler, Mike Cameron, Jason Kendall, Ray Durham, (ironically) Counsell.
Kansas City: Drafted Gordon, Hosmer, Moustakas, Billy Butler, Greg Holland. They scouted international amateurs like Salvador Perez, Kelvin Herrera, Yordano Ventura. Traded away Zack Greinke to acquire several young pieces. Flipped Odorizzi with Wil Myers to acquire James Shields and Wade Davis. Supplemented with veterans like Jason Vargas, Jeremy Guthrie, Josh Willingham, and Jason Frasor.
I think I’ve made my point.
Their offensive games differ, to be sure, as the Brewers hit home runs at a great pace in 2011 and the Royals are more about speed and getting hits that raise the ol’ BABIP. But the rotations were similarly solid from top to bottom, but the real crux of what sent me down this comparison exercise are the late inning relievers.
- Closer: John Axford (1.95 ERA / 2.41 FIP / 46 saves / 1.140 WHIP / 10.5 K/9)
- Setup man: Francisco Rodriguez (1.86 ERA / 2.23 FIP / 1.138 WHIP / 10.2 K/9)
- “7th inning guy”: LaTroy Hawkins / Takashi Saito (Combined: 2.28 ERA / 1.200 WHIP / 6.1 K/9)
- (the Brewers used two veterans so as to keep them fresh)
- Closer: Greg Holland (1.44 ERA / 1.83 FIP / 46 saves / 0.914 WHIP / 13.0 K/9)
- Setup man: Wade Davis (1.00 ERA / 1.19 FIP / 0.847 WHIP / 13.6 K/9)
- “7th inning guy”: Kelvin Herrera (1.41 ERA / 2.69 FIP / 1.143 WHIP / 7.6 K/9)
Six inning games are easier to win than nine inning games. Both of these teams had/have that game-shortening bullpen that general managers are yearning to cobble together each and every off-season.
I won’t lie to you though. The former Brewers being on the Royals certainly helps me root for them. In fact, it led to a series of tweets (@BrewerNation) with commentary how the team with the most former Brewers on it was winning every series (and even every game for a while) in the 2014 Postseason.
Market size, payroll relative to MLB’s elite, a fan base desperate for a winner after more than 25 years of missing the playoffs, that their last pennant was won in the 1980’s — these are all comparisons between the two franchises that help me see them in such a similar light.
But when it comes down to it, when all the dust has settled, at the end of the day, when all the clichés have been dropped…
I’m rooting for the 2014 Kansas City Royals because I see the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers and what might have been.
The comparisons can stop there, though, because this Kansas City team won the two games which that Milwaukee team didn’t. The Royals won their pennant and now have a chance to win another World Series, while the Brewers still seek their first championship.
But if these Royals can get the job done, it offers renewed hope that my team can one day get back and accomplish the same.
And that’s worth rooting for more than anything.
The Winter Meetings aren’t officially underway just yet as I sit down to give my keyboard a workout this evening, but the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee is set and baseball executives from across North America have checked into their rooms and have no doubt begun to follow up on things begun prior to departing for Music City.
Doug Melvin is there (along with his entourage) and has had plenty to say about what he expects out of the 2012 Winter Meetings. With appreciation to the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel for the quotes themselves, I’ll be laying out some things Melvin said and analyzing what I think they mean for the Brewers heading through the rest of the off-season.
Before I do that, let’s recap the basics about what educated fans know already about the Brewers and their needs.
The bullpen was bad in 2012. In fact, it underperformed so incredibly that it alone could be labeled as a singular reason that the team failed to reach the postseason. Just a handful of losses flipped to wins and the Brewers would have had that opportunity to face the Braves in the first-ever National League Wild Card Game.
As a result of their collective struggles, the bullpen has been basically gutted. Gone are multi-year Brewers like Kameron Loe, Francisco Rodriguez, Tim Dillard, Mike McClendon, and Manny Parra. Along with them, first-year tryouts for Jose Veras and Livan Hernandez ended in free agency. Even short-term fixes like Vinnie Chulk came and went. The only guys left who pitched in the big league bullpen to end the regular season and are still a part of this organization are likely closer John Axford, likely setup man Jim Henderson, and the finally healthy Brandon Kintzler.
As we all know, the Brewers did announce a trade acquisition on Saturday when they dealt a minor-league outfielder for established relief pitcher Burke Badenhop. That addition still leaves three jobs to be filled. FoxSports.com’s Jon Morosi already tweeted earlier this evening about one of those open roles:
#Brewers are prioritizing a lefty reliever. Among the available free agents: Burnett, Choate, M. Gonzalez, Howell, Gorzelanny.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 2, 2012
Just some names to know.
A return of all five starting pitchers from the 2011 NLCS team was seen as a rarity, not to mention that the Brewers only used six starting pitchers all that season. Now? Randy Wolf was released, Shaun Marcum is a free agent, Zack Greinke was traded, and Chris Narveson is coming off of shoulder surgery.
That’s the stuff of how question marks are made.
Yovani Gallardo is set to return atop the rotation but after that hasn’t yet been decided. As it stands right now, the Brewers have probably six arms vying for the open four spots in the rotation. Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada, Chris Narveson, Wily Peralta, Mark Rogers and, to a lesser extent in my opinion, Tyler Thornburg.
Doug Melvin has mentioned a couple of free agent starters by name this off-season already (Edwin Jackson and Ryan Dempster, for the record) but had some commentary on that front as well.
Will Jean Segura begin the season as the starting everyday shortstop in Milwaukee or in the aforementioned city of Nashville as he gets a bit more seasoning in Triple-A? Who will take over as the backup infielders after the Brewers burned through a number of MLB veterans during 2012? Travis Ishikawa is gone, Alex Gonzalez is a free agent after being hurt most of the season, Mat Gamel should be healthy but missed a ton of at-bats and doesn’t really have a job at this point…and that’s just the infield.
In the outfield, Nyjer Morgan was released and Logan Schafer seems incredibly obvious to become the fourth outfielder with Milwaukee. After that, though, will they carry a fifth outfielder? If so, who will it be?
About the only spot on the field where there isn’t a question is behind the plate. Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado are healthy and coming off of strong seasons.
Excuse whilst I knock on some wood.
Okay. With that, let’s get to those quotes from Melvin.
The big quote is one about payroll. After setting a franchise record in 2012 with a payroll north of $100 million, the Brewers finished in the red, meaning that they actually lost money this year. (Part of that is because the fans didn’t show up quite as well as they had budgeted for, but wins bring attendance.)
Melvin said, “(The payroll is) coming down. We’ll probably look at (an opening payroll) of $80 million or thereabouts. We want to keep flexibility in case players become available.”
In other words, despite a large chunk of money coming off the books there should be no expectation of a dollar-for-dollar reassignment. That could limit how much the Brewers can do in free agency but it will almost certainly limit the magnitude of what the Brewers can do.
That assumes that Melvin sticks to his initial words, but more on that in a bit.
Melvin was clear in that the Brewers don’t plan to get involved on high-end (in terms of years or dollars) relief pitchers.
“We’re not looking at those kinds of guys. We’d probably be reluctant to go three years with anybody. We might have to do two. David Riske was our last three-year deal for a reliever. That didn’t work out,” said Melvin.
Would left-handed reliever Sean Burnett be a pipe-dream then? Burnett had to debunk a rumor that he was seeking a four-year deal but that doesn’t mean he isn’t looking for three.
The starting rotation was mentioned earlier and was brought up to Melvin as well. He stated that with how the contracts worked out with Jeff Suppan and Randy Wolf that the Brewers “wouldn’t go three years with a starter. You look at those contracts and they don’t usually work out. Look at all the free-agent players who have been traded the last few years. Free agency gets people excited, but it’s not as effective as people would like to think.”
Does that mean that following a report which I linked to on Twitter the other day that the Brewers are taking themselves out of the market for the aforementioned Jackson and Dempster, both of whom are believed to be seeking deals of a minimum three years? Perhaps.
Melvin stated that the Brewers will probably go with some of their younger players in the rotation but that he understands the dangers of trusting a small sample size.
As for the offense, Melvin admitted (as reported in this space) that contact was made between him and Josh Hamilton’s agent Michael Moye, but Melvin also said that, “I don’t see (a big-ticket signing) happening. If it does, we’d have to be creative with something.”
Melvin added, “You never know how those things work out. I never thought we’d be able to get Aramis Ramirez last year (for what they signed him for). Things change. If major things happen, you have to be prepared to act quickly.”
In other words, Melvin is reminding everyone that you simply can’t use definitives when discussing transactions in Major Leage Baseball. Or, to go the cliched route…Never say never.
Finally, for the bench, Melvin said that they’re in the market “mostly for depth.” He stated that they “may have to go with some of our younger guys” but that “it’s always nice to have an experienced bat on the bench.”
And since a lot of you have reached out via social media as to why I haven’t pass along many rumors in the last few days, Melvin confirmed that he has made no offers to any free agents yet and, as of the time he said so out loud, he didn’t have any serious trade talks going either.
Then again, he’s in Nashville now at the Winter Meetings. It’s made for just those kinds of things.
Stay tuned all week for reaction and analysis to anything and everything that I hear or read related to the Brewers. I’ll pass it along just as soon as I can.
My suggestion? If you aren’t on Twitter or you are and don’t follow me @BrewerNation…now’s one of the best times of the year to take the plunge. I can’t always blog right away but tweeting is much easier to do on the fly.
Doug Melvin, General Manager of our beloved Milwaukee Brewers, was on the radio this afternoon on AM 1250 WSSP in SE Wisconsin for a few minutes talking about his off-season plans.
Here is a transcript of the interview (which you can listen to by clicking here):
On speculation connecting the Brewers to certain players (i.e. Josh Hamilton, Zack Greinke):
“Well, I don’t think those are the names that were gonna be involved with. I think this is gonna be a year we’ll take a look at the free agent market, but more than likely I don’t anticipate us being actively involved in free agency. We may try to find different ways to improve our ball club. We do like the current club we have. We were 36-23 with the third best record in the National League after August 1st with some of the young pitchers we brought up. We do have most positional guys back so I wouldn’t get too excited about those kinds of names. I think a lot of it is speculation. It often makes sense. This is the time of year when those kind of things happen.”
On having young pitching after years of waiting for some and if he may have to trade some of it away to acquire a proven starter:
“We feel right now there’s probably a better chance we’re going to hold onto our young pitching. We saw Mike Fiers come up last year. He struggled a little bit later (in the year). We saw Mark Rogers and Wily Peralta both come up with the power arms they showed us in the past. We had Tyler Thornburg. We’ve got Hiram Burgos who’s going to be added to the roster, had a very good year. We’ve had Taylor Jungmann who’s probably going to be at Double-A. We’ve got John Hellweg who’s pitched very well in the Fall League and was just picked by the scouting bureau as the best player on that Phoenix ball club. So, we do have some depth with our pitching. Jimmy Nelson we like; we’re very high on him. Nick Bucci (too) so. We’ve got a chance to have, out of 10 starters in Double-A and Triple-A, we have a chance to have 8 to 9 of them they’re gonna be legitimate prospects we think will pitch in the big leagues. The big league pitchers? It’s time to give Wily Peralta, time to give Mark Rogers that opportunity.”
In discussing fan support following a rough first half and the resultant decisions surrounding trading away Zack Greinke:
“Who’s not to say that if we kept Zack Greinke that we might’ve got back in this thing. You have to make some tough decisions sometimes. When a shortstop was included in a deal for Zack, we just had to make the decision at that particular time. … It’s a credit to Ron, the coaches, the players that they didn’t give up and it’s something that we can learn that in baseball you can be six, seven, eight games out and that can be made up in two weeks time. So, it’s a lesson we all can learn that sometimes you gotta be a little bit patient. It is a long season.”
Asked if there is any way Zack Greinke can be back in a Brewers uniform:
“I don’t know. I’m sorry but I don’t think that’s gonna happen. As much as Zack liked it here and enjoyed it here, there’s a couple clubs that are gonna get heavily involved with him. He is no doubt the number one pitcher out there…from the starting pitching standpoint. I think he’s gonna do very well but I would expect that we may get a phone call from his agent but I think in the end it’s going to be difficult for Zack to come back here to Milwaukee under the amount of money he’s probably gonna be offered.”
Asked if he would like to add a veteran starting pitcher and if any free agents intrigue him:
“Yeah, there’s a few names out there. Obviously we’re gonna lose Marcum and we’re gonna lose Greinke so we’ve talked about adding a starting pitcher. We do have to add to our bullpen too. Edwin Jackson’s another name that’s been out there. I don’t know where he’s headed or what his thought process is. We do have an opportunity; we can go with the current guys we have. The tough part with that is that any kind of injury, then you really tap into not having the depth that’s needed over the course of 162 games. Going with the younger guys and Yovani, Marco Estrada, Mike Fiers, Rogers, Wily Peralta, Chris Narveson will be back and be healthy. The part of that is you really cross your fingers that everybody’s going to stay healthy and everybody’s gonna produce. So you would like to have a veteran that you could put out there in the rotation that could eat up a couple hundred innings, but you also want quality innings. In the past, we’ve had the Jeff Suppan, Randy Wolf. They both came in here when we didn’t have the younger pitching and they gave us innings and that but obviously you’d like to get the quality. Pitching takes a long time to develop.”
On Manny Parra and fans growing impatient:
“He’s on the roster now and we’ll wait and see. I can’t indicate at this time, but…there comes a time when changes of scenery do help players and that happens sometimes. That’s what we’ve talked about before and if you look at Manny’s numbers and break them down, the numbers are there. You’d like to see more consistent performance, so you know, there’s a possibility. Manny right now’s on our roster at this time and we’ll wait and see.”
On arbitration, bullpen changes:
“I think you’ll probably see three to four new faces out there. I think John Axford, Jim Henderson, I think Brandon Kintzler pitched well enough that he can step in and perform in one of those roles. We would like to maybe try to get a left-hander but we also want a left-hander of quality if we can otherwise we’ll just stay right-handed. But I can see where you could turn three or four names over in that bullpen. Also with the starting pitchers there’s going to be one of those guys that will lose out (on a rotation spot) and will probably go to the bullpen and be a long guy.”
On Axford sticking as closer in 2013:
“I’d like to think that John can. As I said in the press conference at the end of the year, he had two months where he had more than one blown Save. He does strike out people. His strike out rate is still one of the best in the game. His walk rate was too high this year and he needs to get that back down. I do like having a closer and a guy in the bullpen that’s gonna strike people out. I think that’s important. That’s why I like a closer that’s gonna get strikeouts so I lean a little bit towards (Axford) but they also have to reduce the walks. We’re confident, in John, the stuff is still there but gonna have to improve on his command and control.”
On how he feels about the hitters:
“We look at it and we feel pretty good about the ball club we put out positional-wise. Offensively, it’s a pretty good ball club. It fits both what Doug Melvin looks for and what Ron Roenicke looks for. I’m a home run and doubles guy and Ron likes the aggressive style. We fulfilled both those (philosophies) leading the leagues in home runs and also stolen bases we were first or second. We were very aggressive on the bases scoring runs, second in the league in sacrifice bunts. We scored runs in a lot of different ways. I do believe with our ballpark we’re always gonna be a team that’s gonna rely on the home runs just because of the facility we play in and that. But I’m pleased with the positional aspect of our game. I think I’m more than pleased in the fact that Maldonado coming on the scene we’re very set at catching. Having a young shortstop in Jean Segura, being young up the middle with catching, shortstop, Rickie bounced back, and then Carlos Gomez in center field. Carlos is a five-plus guy so we’ve gotta determine is Carlos is here over the long haul or is he here for (only) one more year.”
On Alex Gonzalez possibly returning:
“We’ve gotta make that decision yet. Alex is a free agent so he could test the market too. When it comes down to asking players, when you’re a free agent, he’s gonna want to know his playing time. How much time is he gonna play or do we view him as an extra guy and are we going with Segura. We have to answer that question. Jean is playing winter ball right now and is hitting almost .400 and he hit very well the month of September for us. We’re pretty high on (Segura) at this point. We can go with Jean Segura. We just want to make sure that is the right thing to do. Alex would love to return to us but it’s probably going to be about playing time. ‘Are we the right fit for him?’ And if you do bring Alex back, what impact does that have on Jean Segura? We haven’t made that final call yet. Right now we’re probably leaning toward Segura and just letting Jean do the job because we do think the resources are going to be needed for pitching.”
On Josh Hamilton again:
“No. There’s nothing going on. If he wants to sign that “Andre Dawson” contract…that $500 thousand contract that Andre Dawson did for the Cubs. I think it’s about time a player did that so I’m waiting for that one.”
On any off-season proclamation like he did in 2010 before acquiring Greinke and Marcum by stating he was going to go get some pitching:
“I don’t have any right now. I gotta go check the piggy bank.”
Alright, Brewer Nation. What do you think of what the GM had to say today?
The following transactions have been officially announced by the Milwaukee Brewers today:
- Mat Gamel has been reinstated from the 60-Day Disabled List
- Chris Narveson has been reinstated from the 60-Day Disabled List
- Alex Gonzalez has been reinstated from the 60-Day Disabled List
- Alex Gonzalez has elected free agency
- Francisco Rodriguez has elected free agency
- Shaun Marcum has elected free agency
- UPDATE: Infielder Hector Gomez* has signed a minor league contract with an invite to major league Spring Training
No free agent can sign with a new team until this coming Saturday (November 3rd) at the earliest.
If any other official transactions take place today, this space will be updated with the information.
* – Hector Gomez was outrighted off the the Brewers 40-man roster on October 19th.
It’s been about a day and a half since the realization began to hit home that the 2012 edition of the Milwaukee Brewers are likely to fall short of their goal.
In a publicly-declared critical nine-game stretch of games, the team went 4-5 and fell to a season-worst 10.5 games back in the division. The Brewers also sit 7.5 games back of the brand new second wild card as play opens today.
After failing to make any kind of move forward, one must believe that the team will follow through on its unstated directive of working toward competing in the years hence. Doug Melvin made reference of the remarkable turnaround experienced by the World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals last year when they came from over 10 games back in the Wild Card race to make the playoffs. Wisely, however, he also stated that it’s a different set of circumstances for the Brewers this year.
That all led me to open my ears, reach out to a couple of people, and start paying attention to a few things. Here is what I’ve learned so far…
Zack Greinke is a sought-after piece still, though many are waiting to see how he performs in his start in Philadelphia on Tuesday prior to coming near Doug Melvin’s current asking price. That asking price is an MLB-ready arm with less than 18 months of service time (so it doesn’t matter if he’s currently a minor-leaguer) along with a “high-end” prospect at either shortstop or first base.
This lines up roughly to what I expected a return could net Milwaukee. I’ve long thought that a return in potential of what the Cleveland Indians got from the Brewers for CC Sabathia in 2008. Now that was a three-piece deal and featured a different position for the second-best piece, but the amount of talent could be similar.
Moving on, there are plenty of other pieces that could provide value to other teams.
The ones I’ve heard made mention of are Francisco Rodriguez (relatively light though interest could pick up significantly if he pitches well over the next week), George Kottaras (three teams), Corey Hart (four teams), Carlos Gomez (one team).
Again, I’m not sure how willing Melvin is to move Corey Hart but it really does seem like doing so could net the team a decent return. I already have expressed my thoughts about packaging players together previously. It is interesting to note that one team crosses over on the lists of those that have expressed official interest in Hart and Kottaras.
It’s also a bit discouraging that a couple of other names haven’t popped up on the radars of the people I talked to, but Shaun Marcum is still injured and Nyjer Morgan has greatly underachieved this year. I’ll stay on it though.
I have been keeping up with the other rumors out there that are being reported. There is talk that if the Brewers decide to sell hard that the Dodgers would have interest in Aramis Ramirez (as mentioned by Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports). Ken Rosenthal put Randy Wolf’s name out there as someone that could be “in play”, though that choice of words doesn’t mean much to me because all it says is that it makes sense to move him but not that anybody has expressed interest.
Finally, for now, the Brewers have actually been talking to two teams about maybe adding a bullpen arm, believe it or not. I would like to think though that those were due diligence conversations in case the team did well over the nine-game stretch which was just completed.
Again, I’ll do my best to keep my ear to the ground and my finger on the pulse as things develop around the Brewers. Keep in mind though that I have a family and this baseball thing makes me no money so I can’t be on it constantly. If anything breaks though, I’ll be quick to analyze and give my opinion…but if you’ve followed along for a while you already know that giving opinion is not something foreign to me.
Bottom line: Stay tuned. A lot should happen, a little might happen, and of course nothing could happen.
Selling with things to offer makes for a fun situation at times but also a stressful one. Let’s temper our expectations a bit if for no other reason than we will be able to more thoroughly enjoy what return we do get.
It is July 21st and the Milwaukee Brewers are through eight games of a critical, “do or die” (to quote Francisco Rodriguez), direction-defining nine-game intradivisional stretch.
The Brewers have won four of those games and they have lost four of those games. The Brewers sit 9.5 games behind the National League Central Division-leading Cincinnati Reds, who have just taken a pair of games from the Brewers.
The narrative was stated loud and clear over the All-Star Break: Make some hay over the next nine or it’ll be time to sell. Gain some ground or start answering the phone. Win much more than you lose or prepare to be broken up.
No hay was made. No ground was gained. They simply haven’t won enough.
There are valuable, non-cornerstone pieces on this roster that can be of use to teams with achievable aspirations. It’s time for Doug Melvin to move as many of those pieces as he can while, of course, considering roster construction, salary structure, and the future.
Speaking more high-level though, there are a handful of players on the 2012 Brewers who are simply unlikely to be on the 2013 Brewers. This is mostly a list of players whose contract situations (be they pending free agency or non-tender candidacy) point to that end. If those players have value, they need to be sent to someone for something.
This list includes players such as Francisco Rodriguez, Nyjer Morgan, George Kottaras, Shaun Marcum, Travis Ishikawa, Randy Wolf, and the prize of the group: Zack Greinke.
There is a reported offer on the table from the Milwaukee Brewers to Zack Greinke right now in the ballpark of five years and roughly $110 million. Should Greinke decide to accept that offer, then clearly he won’t be getting traded. As he hasn’t done so yet, we must work under the situation as it currently stands. That being: Greinke is a pending free agent.
I’m not writing tonight to tell you who the Brewers should target or who I think they can get from various farm systems throughout baseball. I can tell you that I’ll begin to look at that information in earnest now.
What I am here to say is that it’s no longer time to stand pat and evaluate. The Brewers play another game in Cincinnati tomorrow and then have a three-game set in Philadelphia before coming home for a four-game series against the Washington Nationals. I don’t expect everyone currently on the roster to be on that flight back to General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee.
I originally blogged that the decision would be coming on Monday, July 23rd. The nine-game stretch which I identified before the team publicized its importance would be over and the brass would be able to meet Sunday evening and decide.
As is often the case in the prediction business, I was off. I was off on the date, but I was also off in saying that the decision would be made by Brewers brass after some meetings. The decision was made tonight when the team on the field fell to 4-4 in this stretch.
What is left to decide though is how big of a sale to have.
The players I listed earlier all should be moved. There’s no baseball reason to keep any of them if you can get someone to give you something of value in return. The organization clearly wants to keep Miller Park as the summer-long destination for group outings, parties, and money-spending. You can do that, in a sell situation, by highlighting two things: First that this is a necessary evil to ensure success in the near future and second by providing an opportunity to still win on any given night.
Losing many valuable pieces will feel like there’s no chance of winning but Jonathan Lucroy should be back in the bigs soon (maybe even this Thursday as a target?) and they’ll still have Yovani Gallardo, Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez (most likely), Norichika Aoki ,and the feel-good story of Mike Fiers. Baseball is still fun, the experience of going to a game and being in the ballpark is still enjoyable in and of itself regardless of team performance, you can still tailgate just as hard before a loss as before a victory.
But again those are impacts on the business and bottom line (which can feed into baseball decisions if there’s enough of a drop off in attendance) decisions.
From pure baseball considerations, however, how big of a sale should Melvin commit to? Because there are a couple of players who are under contract with the Brewers for (at least) 2013 which could net return for the future as well. The biggest piece in that group, to me, is Corey Hart.
Hart is only under contract for 2013 after this year. He is a capable player at the plate despite extremely streaky tendencies. He has proven himself an improbably capable defender at first base which adds to his versatility. Comparable players to Hart have gotten contracts that are extremely cost-prohibitive to a standard Brewers budget. What’s more, Corey Hart has shown zero propensity toward anything resembling a “hometown discount”. He has held out for every possible dollar throughout his arbitration years and you therefore must operate under the assumption that this trend will continue.
Hart could have a ton of value to certain teams right now. Case in point, for the sake of discussion, are the Texas Rangers. They’re set in the outfield when everyone is healthy but they haven’t exactly had a ton of production at first base. Enter Hart who has played tremendous defense and would probably hit even better inside of the Ballpark at Arlington.
It’s something that the Brewers could consider if they decide to reload toward another run in 2015, for instance. Hart would likely be gone anyway so move him early which increases the return and play for a couple of years down the road. If that’s the decision, then guys like Jose Veras (arbitration eligible in 2013 and 2014) could go and, if they decide to jettison everybody not named Braun, Gallardo, and Lucroy, Rickie Weeks (under contract through 2014) and Aramis Ramirez (signed through 2014) could be moved, though they’d be much more likely to go in the off-season or at the 2013 trade deadline. That’s because Weeks’ value is very low right now due to his incredibly slow start this season and Ramirez has two years left on his deal after this season instead of just one like Hart.
But I digress before I get too deep down the rabbit hole of possibilities tonight. For now, the initial group I listed earlier needs to moved if possible. They won’t be on the 2013 Brewers but at least they could still impact that team in a positive way if they are moved now for something that can help later. There will be time for discussions and blog posts about rumor, innuendo, discussion, scuttlebutt, conjecture, and of course wild prognostication.
Well, no more than 10 days, I suppose.
At the close of play today, Thursday, July 5th, the Milwaukee Brewers sit with a record of 38-44, 8.0 games behind the National League Central Divison-leading Pittsburgh Pirates.
It’s a far cry from where the Brewers were a year ago at this time, and at times it feels like this year’s incarnation will never accomplish anything.
While this may prove to be true in the end, at least as far as a playoff participation is concerned, there is still plenty of time left this year to simply enjoy the game of baseball if nothing else.
Then again, there is still a small window of opportunity in front of the Brewers. Between now and Monday, July 23rd is a stretch of 12 regular-season games (along with the MLB All-Star break) which will decide how busy general manager Doug Melvin’s phone will be and whether he’ll be making calls or receiving them.
This stretch is singularly key to the Brewers decision-makers because all 12 games are intradivisional along with the final nine of those games coming against the three teams in front of them in the Division.
The three games prior to the break are in Houston, against an Astros team that traded off one of its only offensive pieces. Those are extremely winnable games, especially given that Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke will be pitching in the series.
The nine games immediately following the break begin with six at Miller Park (a place where the Brewers seriously need to play more consistent baseball) against the Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals, and then three on the road in Cincinnati against the Reds.
The Brewers trail the Cardinals by 5.5 games, the Reds by 6.5 games and, as I mentioned earlier, the Pirates by 8.0 games. So, while the Brewers would be hard-pressed to overtake any of the teams during this stretch, even should they somehow go 12-0, one can see the importance here.
Should the Brewers continue to falter and lose, the front office will be left with little choice but to sell off valuable pieces to the highest bidders. As we discussed on the podcast recorded Thursday morning (which hopefully will be posted soon), those pieces should include Shaun Marcum, George Kottaras, Nyjer Morgan, Francisco Rodriguez, Cesar Izturis, and even Zack Greinke (assuming the team is as far away on a contract offer as it appears that they are). Furthermore, should a team approach the Brewers with an acceptable offer for any expendable member of the Brewers roster, that deal should be made.
Nobody in the locker room wants the team to sell. They enjoy this group and want to maintain it, if at all possible. That just simply can’t happen if they have no chance of winning though.
Now, some may say that after the injuries to Chris Narveson, Mat Gamel and Alex Gonzalez that the team never had a chance, but that’s beside the point.
The point being: if the team can gain some significant ground on the teams ahead of them in the Division, and they do so by showing some consistent play in all facets of the game, the front office would likely try to add to the roster and make a push.
Nobody is saying that this scenario doesn’t seem like a tremendous long shot, but as of today at least its a shot that’s available to take.
Bottom line: Pay attention, Brewer Nation. A decision will be made by Monday, July 23rd as to whether this team buys or sells before the July 31st non-waiver trading deadline. Trust me, either way there will be plenty of time to make one or more deals, regardless of the direction of the roster.
Also, either way, it’ll be an exciting time to pay attention to the team. Just make sure you haven’t checked out by then.