Author Archives: Steve

The Brewers should trade Jimmy Nelson

Posted by Steve

If you chose to be critical of the Brewers’ approach over the last 8 years or so, I don’t know if I could disagree with you. They have made big win-now trades that have propelled them to two playoff appearances, but they have also traded away a lot of future talent. It is not the recipe for sustained success in the mold of the Rays, A’s or Cardinals.

However, the Brewers’ bed is made. They don’t have a continual stream of prospects reaching the big leagues like they did 8 years ago. They had an unexpected hot streak at the beginning of the year and somewhat unexpectedly found themselves in contention. For the reasons I’ll lay out, the Brewers need to make a big trade to reach the playoffs this year.

The Brewers have been in first place most of this season, but that does not mean they are the best team in the division. Their pythagorean record indicates the Brewers have been lucky to have their current record of 59-49. Worse yet is their upcoming schedule in August. The Brewers will play the Cardinals, the Giants twice and the Dodgers twice over the next month–a brutal stretch. Without a boost to the team, I fully expect the Brewers to fall out of the division lead.

PECOTA has 7 teams in the NL with a greater than 50% chance of reaching the playoffs. Obvious, two of those teams won’t make it, and I think it’s pretty likely the Brewers will miss, given their remaining schedule and regression to their true talent level.

Dodgers: 96.1%
Nationals: 85.8 %

Those two teams should be off the Brewers’ radar, as they will likely have playoff spots locked up and won’t be competing with them for a spot. Here’s where it gets more interesting.

Cardinals: 60.8%
Giants: 60.5%
Brewers: 59.3%
Braves: 58.7%
Pirates: 53.5%

Three of those five teams will make the playoffs, barring some other team getting very hot and coming out of nowhere. The Brewers, Pirates, and Cardinals have the most to gain, as one of them will win a division and not have to play a stupid play-in game.

Basically, the Brewers are in a position in which an addition can really impact their chances. It would mean more for the Brewers to go add a big piece than the Dodgers, because the Dodgers are just about a lock for the postseason. Conversely, it could be a back breaker for the Brewers if the Pirates or Cardinals add a pitcher like Jon Lester while the Brewers stand pat. The NL Central race is that close.

Another reason it makes sense for the Brewers to make a big move is because of the “window” that Doug Melvin likes to talk about. The Brewers have all of their starting rotation under contract for next season, but after that, Lohse and Gallardo are free agents. Not that this makes it impossible for the Brewers to be good after 2015, but it’s seems somewhat likely that the Brewers will be due for a drop-off. So, why not go for broke in 2014 and 2015?

Finally, another factor to consider is that prospects very rarely reach their ceilings. In trades for CC Sabathia, Shaun Marcum, and Zack Greinke, the Brewers traded many prospects. At this point, only two look like true difference makers (Michael Brantley and Jake Odorizzi). Think of all the other highly rated guys who didn’t amount to more than average-ish players: Matt LaPorta, Jeremy Jeffress, Alcides Escobar, Brett Lawrie (Still young, but nothing impressive so far). Plus, they got three young players back for Greinke the following season.

So what is my more specific point? It’s that the Brewers should trade Jimmy Nelson.

Nelson is the highest rated prospect they’ve had in years, so why would they trade him? Looking deeper, it makes sense. The Brewers do have some intriguing prospects, potential difference-makers in their system, but none are close the the big leagues. You ideally want a wave of young guys reaching the big leagues around the same time. Nelson is not part of any wave.

I also think it’s entirely possible that Nelson’s trade value is higher now than it will ever be at any point in his career. He’s number 38 on Baseball America’s mid-season prospect list. He’s dominated in AAA all year, and he’s now broken into the big leagues, where he hasn’t yet proved he’ll fail. He projects to be a good pitcher, but not an ace-type–more like a 2-3. And he likely won’t be a good MLB pitcher this year yet.

If the Brewers could use him to acquire a substantial upgrade, either in the form of a better starting pitcher or a left-handed slugger (preferably first base), then it greatly improves the Brewers’ chances of winning the division. Someone like Jon Lester would be a great fit, or even John Lackey. Cole Hamels would be great, but he’d likely require more than the Brewers have (under contract for multiple years) and so would David Price (Rays back in the race), but neither are very likely. Other players may or may not be available (Justin Morneau would look pretty good in a Brewers uniform), but I won’t speculate much when I don’t know who.

The reason I mention Lackey and Lester is they are both clearly on the block, and they both could likely be had for Nelson. Lackey because he isn’t quite as good of a pitcher (still having a nice season), and Lester because he’s a free agent after that season. Both of those factors make their price lower than Price or Hamels, and it’s possible that if Nelson is included, the Brewers could expand the deal and add another piece from Boston (perhaps Mike Carp or Koji Uehara).

All I know is that a number of factors support that the Brewers should be aggressive in their goal of winning this season. Nelson is the biggest trade piece they have, and it makes sense to use him.

Draft Review: Day 1

Posted by Steve

Some brief thoughts on the Brewers’ draft yesterday:

I was not happy when the Brewers made their first choice. Touki Toussaint, Casey Gillaspie and Grant Holmes were all available, so I was not happy with the pick of Kodi Medeiros, someone who was projected as a late first or even second round pick.

I should mention that I feel better about the Medeiros pick after researching it a bit more. This video makes it look like he could be a LOOGY right now, but of course, the Brewers hope he can stick as a starter. Goodness, that slider 52 seconds in. P.S., that guffaw belongs to none other than Eric Byrnes, he of the famous Throwfall.

But, last night, I was not happy–at first. My opinion changed once they made the next two picks, as it became clear what the Brewers were attempting to do: rather than take one expensive player, they drafted three high-ceiling players who will all be similar in price.

With the new CBA, teams are allowed a draft budget that is dictated by the amount and value of their picks. Each pick is assigned a slot value, which is MLB’s “suggestion” for that pick. Teams and players are free to negotiate that price, but the total amount spent on draft picks must come under a certain overall price. If a team spends more than just a small bit above that budget (small amounts over come with a tax), they end up forfeiting future first round draft picks. Not something teams are going to want to do, unless maybe you’re dealing with a Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper-type talent.

So. By taking Medeiros with pick 12, the Brewers likely knew ahead of time that he would be willing to sign for less than slot, which is $2.8 million at pick 12. Let’s say it’s more like $2 million, though that’s obviously just a guess. They probably told him, “You can take our offer of 2 mil at pick 12, or you can roll the dice and hope to get drafted in the top 21 (the last slot value of over 2 mil). Your choice.”

He may have been drafted in the top 20, but who knows? He also may have fallen to the second round. And maybe he can even negotiate up to 2.2 or 2.3 mil. Either way, this should leave the Brewers with an extra $500-800k to work with in their later picks.

This strategy became apparent, because the players they drafted at 41 and 50 are both serious talents who will surely require the Brewers to go over slot to sign.

I almost listed Jacob Gatewood as another option for the Brewers in the first round yesterday (I wish I would have). He’s a tall high school shortstop who has plus, plus power and is definitely a boom or bust type. It’s fair to say that I’m at least as excited about Gatewood as I am about Medeiros, and probably even more.

Monte Harrison is another high-ceiling high schooler. Profiling as a CF or RF, Harrison is a potential 5-tool player. He is committed to Nebraska both as a baseball player and wide receiver on the football team, which could obviously make it difficult to sign him.

Baseball America rated all three players in their top 32 overall. Medeiros was 32, Gatewood was 21, and Harrison was 20. So if you’re basing it on that, in a vacuum, you wouldn’t be happy about getting #32 with pick 12. But getting three in the top 32 with picks 12, 41, and 50? That’s a haul.

You can see why the Brewers will need to get creative with their money in order to sign all three. They are allotted $6.3 million for their first five picks. Slot value for 41 is $1.38 mil; slot for 50 is $1.1 mil. I think the Brewers will probably need to go 400-500k over slot for both Gatewood and Harrison in order to sign them. That means that not only will they take money away from Medeiros, but I would expect the Brewers to make some reach picks in the next few rounds who will sign below slot.

And I would be completely okay with that. If the Brewers managed to sign all three of these players, that would be extremely exciting. The Brewers have enough guys in their system who can be 4/5 starters, 6/7 hitters. The reason their farm system is rated so low is because they have guys who can make the majors, but they don’t have many who will excel in the Majors. These three players would all enter the Brewers’ top 10 prospects list immediately, and they all have a chance to be impact big leaguers. These are the anti-Jungmann/Bradley picks, which is exactly what I was looking for.

2014 Brewers Draft Preview

Posted by Steve

While fully acknowledging the poor effort shown by this blog so far this season, I couldn’t miss the draft preview post. I probably should call this a “Wishlist for pick #12″ post instead of a preview, because I’ve really only researched first round possibilities, and I’ve really only zeroed in on possibilities for the Brewers at pick 12. And, as always, if you want extensive (or even anything more than my limited knowledge) draft coverage, head over to the Brewerfan.net draft forum.

It would be difficult for me to be as disappointed today as I was in 2011 when the Brewers drafted Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley ahead of Sonny Gray and C.J. Cron (both excelling in the majors by now, yay). True story: the last words I said before hearing “The Milwaukee Brewers select Taylor Jungmann” was “Just not Jungmann.” It’s only fair that I acknowledge both Jungmann and Bradley are in the middle of resurgent seasons in the minors, but those are both still looking like the wrong picks.

Anyway, like I said, I don’t see myself being that disappointed with the first round pick this year. Guys I want to see the Brewers avoid are the low-ceiling college guys (i.e. Jungmann and Bradley). I’d be happy if the Brewers got any of the following players.

Kyle Schwarber, 1B/C, Indiana University

As you can probably guess, Schwarber earns a lot of Prince Fielder comparisons due to body type and a powerful left-handed swing. He catches in college, but he’d be a first baseman in the big leagues. He’s the best power hitter in this draft, and as a college hitter, should move quickly through the minors. He’s regarded as a better player than Matt LaPorta, another former high Brewers pick. The Brewers need power hitting prospects, they need left-handers, and they just so happen to have a huge need at 1B. Not that they’d be reaching for need at all; there is some question as to whether Schwarber will be available. This draft is very heavy on pitching in the first round, but Schwarber is in my top two choices. They could take him and go pitching for the next couple picks, and they’d still be in great shape.

 

Grant Holmes, HS Pitcher

Holmes is probably the second or third best high school pitcher and my favorite among those who have a shot to still be on the board at number 12. Holmes has mid-90s velocity and apparently dazzled during a workout at Miller Park. He has a high ceiling, but has demonstrated better command than many of the high-ceiling high school pitchers. That is why Holmes is in my top two choices along with Schwarber.

 

Casey Gillaspie, 1B, Wichita State

Gillaspie is not showing up in most mock drafts until the second half of the first round, but I can’t really understand why. He has made a joke of college pitching this year, hitting .402/.511/.687. He’s 6’4″ and has prototypical size for a first baseman. He is a better prospect that his brother Conor was at his age. If Schwarber is Prince Fielder, Gillaspie may be Mark Teixeira (switch hitter-ness included). It would be hard not to be excited about this. Both Gillaspie and Schwarber would immediately become the best power bat in the Brewers’ system.

 

Touki Toussaint, HS Pitcher

How about that for a name! Toussaint is in the discussion with Holmes for the best high school pitcher who could be available to the Brewers. He is likely a riskier pick than Holmes, but may also be more of a boom or bust pick. His fastball and curveball combo is great, but he also has issues with walks. His ceiling is high enough that some scouts are saying there is a chance he ends up as the best pitcher out of this draft.

 

I think I’ve settled on the guys here as my top four for the Brewers’ pick. Don’t be surprised if they select either Max Pentecost, catcher from Kennesaw State, or LHP Kyle Freeland from Evansville. Another name to watch is Jeff Hoffman. Hoffman, a RHP from East Carolina, was a projected top 5 pick before news broke that he needs Tommy John surgery. He’s a great talent, and he’s not projected to fall too far as a result. Teams are confident enough in Tommy John that they could still draft Hoffman high. He’d be an exciting yet risky pick at 12.

Enjoy the draft, and if you just haven’t have enough 2011 draft woes, enjoy watching Carlos Rodon, the Brewers’ 2011 16th-round pick who they failed to sign, be drafted in the top 3 tonight.

Free Rickie Weeks, one last time.

Posted by Steve

The Brewers continue to get strong starting pitching, but they are really starting to feel the loss of Ryan Braun from the lineup. A look at the main contributors (sans Braun):

Gomez: .280/.338/.538

Gennett: .265/.299/..373

Lucroy: .312/.380/.440

Ramirez: .248/.311/..376

Segura: .240/.269/.327

Khris Davis: .239/.265/.434

Mark Reynolds: .229/.301/.518

Lyle Overbay: .236/.333/.327

Not pretty. The only hitter outperforming expectations is Lucroy. Everyone else is either at or below what was projected, and most are below. Braun may still be out a few weeks yet, and the Brewers can’t afford this type of offensive output the rest of his DL stint. Ron Roenicke doesn’t have many options, but there is one that he really hasn’t explored: Rickie Weeks.

Yes, Weeks has looked largely terrible this year, and his (very small sample of) numbers reflect that. At the beginning of the season, that wasn’t a problem. Gennett was playing well, and the Brewers were scoring runs and winning games. Now, along with the entire offense, Gennett has really cooled down to the point that his OBP is under .300. Say what you want about Rickie Weeks, but even when he struggled, his OBP was never that low–usually it was much higher. I realize it is low right now, but that’s in a completely sporadic 33 plate appearances, or roughly the same amount as a 4th outfielder who’s been on the DL and somebody named Elian Herrera.

I’m not saying Weeks is a clear answer, or that he needs to take the starting job back. What I am saying is it makes zero sense to continue using him in this capacity. He is taking up a valuable roster spot and isn’t even asked to contribute, all while making $10 million. They either have to trade him or find out if he can contribute anything. If not, they need to cut him. Since no team is likely to trade for him when he hasn’t even played yet, this seems like a great time to find out. Play him at second base, or even in a corner outfield, but just play him regularly for the next week or two. It’s not like he’ll be worse than the people they currently have in those positions.

At worst, he’s bad, but then they know they can cut him and free up a roster spot. At best, he starts playing better, helps the team while Braun is out, and either finds a role on the team this season or builds some trade value.

Raining on a non-existent parade

Posted by Steve

I was very busy during the first couple weeks of the season. Then I was on vacation. Then things were going SO well that I figured I wouldn’t do anything to jinx it. But today, a topic has come up that has caught my attention, and I couldn’t stay away any longer.

The Brewers are playing incredibly well and far above expectations. The starting rotation has been excellent, but the more surprising area has been the bullpen.

Rightfully so, the pen has started to garner some national attention. Dave Cameron at Fangraphs has a post today that does a great job of illustrating just how incredibly good the bullpen has been. You can choose your own favorite amazing way of illustrating how good the Brewers’ bullpen has been after reading that article. I think my favorite is that it has essentially been twice as good as the fourth-best bullpen in the majors.

Cameron does draw a conclusion, however, that I sort of take issue with. His conclusion, that the Brewers and their bullpen will inevitably regress, is not wrong; I happen to agree with it. My problem is that his conclusion isn’t really even newsworthy.

Cameron is great, so I don’t want to single him out, but he’s arguing something that really has no opposition. So are other national writers/talking heads. In the few minutes at a time that I can stomach non-Brian Kenny portions of MLB Network, announcers routinely make claims like, “Well they’re not going to run away with the division,” or “They aren’t going to keep up this pace!”

The Brewers’ current pace for the entire season would land them at 118 wins. They aren’t going to do that, you say? No kidding. But who has argued that they will? I’ve yet to see that argument anywhere. They’re raining on a parade that isn’t even taking place.

Cameron, to his credit, does mention that the Brewers don’t need to be a great team from this point on with the cushion they’ve built for themselves. That’s true, although we have been in this situation fairly recently with the Brewers, and it didn’t end well at all.

Still, they’ve put themselves in great position, and I don’t understand everyone’s need to point out that they probably won’t win 100+ games. I wouldn’t bet on them being an elite team at this point, but they’re now in a situation in which they could be buyers at the deadline, making themselves even stronger (Kendry Morales after draft day, anyone?).

Can we simply be excited about a great start without having to damper expectations that aren’t even there?

Which decision is worse?

Posted by Steve

We’re getting tantalizingly close to MLB’s regular season, but my enthusiasm has been curbed a bit by two curious decisions made by the Brewers over the last few days.

The first is the result of the least exciting first base competition in recent memory (except for last season). The Brewers have shipped out Juan Francisco, opting instead to keep the Ageless Wonder, Lyle Overbay.

That’s actually a poor nickname for Overbay, because he hasn’t resembled a wonder in several years. His last season with an OPS+ over 100 was 2010. Wrap your mind around this: Overbay has been below replacement level the last three years! At age 37, it’s amazing that a team was even willing to invite him to Spring Training, much less keep him on a freaking 25-man roster.

I know Juan Francisco isn’t a barnburner, but he was at least something that could have ended up as a pleasant surprise. That was within the realm of possibility. He can do things that Overbay can’t, such as hit a baseball hard or with any power whatsoever. The Brewers are using defense as an excuse, but first base is a position you need offense from. To put it in a different way–both of their floors are in the basement, but at least Francisco’s ceiling is off the ground. This is an inexplicable move. If Overbay is on the roster for more than a month, something is seriously wrong.

The other move that makes no sense was handed down by Runnin’ Ron himself. Actually, the only reason it isn’t shocking is because Roenicke made the decision. Say hello to Carlos Gomez, your new leadoff hitter for your Milwaukee Brewers.

Gomez had an excellent year last year–the best of his career, by far. And in his career year, his on-base percentage was still not good enough to hit leadoff. His OBP was .338 last year, but just the year prior, it was .305! And even after last year, his career mark is .303.

Carlos Gomez is multi-talented, but just about the one baseball skill he does not have is on-base ability. It just so happens that on-base ability is the single-most important trait of a good leadoff hitter.

As Ron Roenicke mentioned, no, they don’t have Shin-Soo Choo on their team. But that doesn’t excuse this decision. Rickie Weeks (or Scooter Gennett), Jean Segura, or Jonathan Lucroy all would be better options at leadoff than Gomez, because they each are likely to have better OBPs.

These are admittedly not major decisions in the grand scheme, and each is correctable fairly early in the season. It is just frustrating at this point because there is nothing that makes either one a good bet at this time.

Brb, rioting in the streets in celebration

Scroll to #96

Matt Garza: Not a half-measure

In my last post, I called for no more half-measures for the Brewers: no more spending of resources on players who aren’t clear upgrades. That particular post discussed potential first base targets like James Loney or Ike Davis. The Brewers have thankfully taken a smarter route that costs them nothing in players/draft picks and virtually nothing in money. Mark Reynolds and Juan Francisco will likely produce similarly to what Loney or Davis would have for a fraction of the cost. Sure, it isn’t as good as acquiring a great first baseman, but it’s a lot better than spending on a mediocre one.

The half-measures theory applies to all positions, including pitchers. The reason I like the Garza signing more than almost all of the Brewers’ major acquisitions in the last three years (probably second only to the Greinke-Segura deal) is largely because he provides an actual clear upgrade to what they had.

Current Brewers pitchers, 2011-2013

Yovani Gallardo: 592 innings, 3.48 xFIP, 7.3 WAR

Kyle Lohse: 598 innings, 4.01 xFIP, 7.5 WAR

Marco Estrada: 298.2 innings, 3.57 xFIP, 5.1 WAR

Matt Garza: 457 innings, 3.46 xFIP, 8.3 WAR

Over the last three years, Garza has been more valuable than any of the Brewers’ starting pitchers. He has a higher WAR than Gallardo and Lohse despite pitching far fewer innings. This is due to his strong strikeout rate and solid walk rate (His K rate is higher than Yo’s and his walk rate is lower).

This is a strong upgrade. Lohse-Garza-Gallardo-Estrada-Peralta is a much stronger rotation than Lohse-Gallardo-Estrada-Peralta-Thornburg/Hellweg/Nelson/whomever. This also adds decent depth to the rotation, as the guys now slotted 6-8 in the rotation could be okay as spot starters.

Of course, that whole “far fewer innings” part played a big role in this signing. Without the injury concerns, Garza would have earned a much larger contract than $50 million guaranteed. Garza hasn’t had any crazy long DL stints, but he’s missed a handful of starts over the last few years due to elbow and shoulder concerns. It led to some pretty creative contract language, and it certainly makes this contract a risk.

It is a risk worth taking, however. Garza’s upside is a pitcher that’s as good or better as any the Brewers currently have. Look at those numbers again. If those four pitchers come close to their performance of the last three seasons, the Brewers will actually have a pretty strong pitching staff. Yes, Gallardo declined last year, and yes, Lohse is getting up there in age, but even if they come close to those numbers, the rotation should be average-ish. Average-ish much, much better than last year’s rotation.

With an offense that could also return to average-ishness with Ryan Braun’s return, we actually could be looking at a Brewers team that is… average! With an extra playoff slot, that means some luck could give the Brewers a puncher’s chance at a Wildcard spot. It’s something, at least.

The second reason I like this signing, and what really sets it apart from the Kyle Lohse signing last year, is that the Brewers did not have to forfeit a draft pick to sign Garza. Lohse is a solid pitcher, but I hated the signing, because the Brewers were not in a position where it made sense for them to forfeit a pick. They were not one starter away from being a contender, so they essentially forfeited a draft pick to take fourth place in the division.

The Brewers have one of the worst farm systems in baseball. The recent Baseball Prospectus Top 101 confirms that, as there are zero (0) Brewers prospects to be found on the list. They cannot afford to forfeit any high draft picks. This signing doesn’t hurt any rebuilding of a farm system, which is what has me feeling okay about it.

No more half measures

Posted by Steve

The latest in the “the Brewers have no long-term plan” theme, they missed out on re-signing Corey Hart today. Hart would have been a nice option for first base this year, but oh well. So, now what?

Really, only two things should be options for the Brewers.

The first is to make a big play for a true difference maker at first base. Considering they really have no trade chips left at the big league level (that they’re willing to move, anyway), and that their farm system is bad, this isn’t a viable option. No point in dwelling, then.

The only other option should be to make due with what they have. They could platoon Sean Halton and Juan Francisco. They could give Mat Gamel a shot, which would be very cheap. While doing this, they could wait and see if Hunter Morris turns into anything (I have just about no hope for Morris, but that’s another story).

My preference would actually be to move a current starter to first base. Either Aramis Ramirez or Ryan Braun would benefit from a move to first base, as it would help them stay healthy. Between Caleb Gindl, Logan Schafer, Kentrail Davis, or other cheaply acquired corner outfielders, they could fill right field.

Either make a huge move for a true difference-making first baseman, or make due with what you have. Those are the only two viable options.

So why, then, does it feel like they’re about to do neither?

I am bracing myself for the Brewers to do something foolish, like giving James Loney a multi-year contract, or trading young pitching for Ike Davis. Neither one would make sense given the talent level of the team, but both fit perfectly with the M.O. of the Mark Attanasio regime.

Trading for Ike Davis wouldn’t be a bad move if the Brewers were one more hitter away from true contention. But, much like with the acquisition of Kyle Lohse last year, that isn’t the case. Giving up someone like Tyler Thornburg for Davis would be a dumb move.

Similarly, signing James Loney to a two-year, or God forbid three-year contract would be just as dumb. First of all, the Brewers have no business giving a merely decent veteran who plays the easiest position on the field a multi-year deal.

Secondly, it is far from a given that Loney would even be an upgrade over a Francisco/Halton platoon. Loney’s career OPS is .761, which is nothing special at all for a first baseman.

There is no good reason to trade for or give a multi-year contract to an average first baseman. But there was also no good reason to forfeit a draft pick to sign Kyle Lohse or give an injury-prone, aging Aramis Ramirez a three-year deal.

“No good reason” hasn’t saved the Brewers from themselves in the recent past, and it just feels like it won’t this time, either.

State of the Brewers: Longing for 2005

Posted by Steve

It is only appropriate that I am about to experience the least anticipated World Series of my lifetime (even worse than the Subway Series), since this was my least enjoyable baseball season in at least ten years. And by “experience the least anticipated World Series of my lifetime,” I mean I’ll turn it on for the last few outs if the Cardinals are facing elimination. Maybe. That didn’t work so well the last time.

This year, and really, the current state of the Brewers, is depressing not so much because of the below .500 record. We’ve lived through much, much, much worse Brewers years as far as baseball performance is concerned. It’s that it was so predictable, and yet the Brewers’ brass was unable to foresee it, or at least to admit it.

The problem with the Brewers is exemplified by one move: signing Kyle Lohse. The fact that they saw themselves as one number 2/3 starting pitcher away from the playoffs is very concerning. They clearly were not, and that is not just hindsight talking. I saw it beforehand, but so did many others.

But not the Brewers. They kept looking short-term, and once they ran out of minor league pieces to trade, they ran out of options.

I was able to stomach the 90-100 loss seasons of the early 2000s, because there was at least hope on the horizon. Many terrible seasons had amassed an impressive array of draft picks. Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, J.J. Hardy, Corey Hart, Ryan Braun, and Yovani Gallardo would all join the big league club within a few years’ time. There was finally excitement, a light at the end of a long, miserable tunnel.

Now? The Brewers are about to enter their fourth consecutive year without one prospect on the same level as any of those mid-2000s players. Sure, they’ve added some much-needed quantity over the last two seasons, but they are sorely lacking in quality prospects.

Ready for something truly depressing? Read this next paragraph, and then tell me if there is one team in the NL Central you wouldn’t trade places with.

A couple months ago, Baseball America released its mid-season top 50 prospects. Included on that list were four Cardinals, three Pirates, three Cubs, two Reds, and, of course, zero Brewers. Even if we go back to the start of the season, when BA ranked their top 100 prospects, Wily Peralta was the only Brewer to crack the list.

What this should tell you is that the Cardinals and Pirates, already good teams, will just continue to reload (or improve, from the standpoint of the Pirates). They aren’t going anywhere. The Reds are on their way out, but even they have a better system than Milwaukee. The Cubs are going to be bad for the next year or two yet, but they look the way the Brewers did in the mid-2000s; they have a lot of exciting players in their system.

So… What can be done? Well, what they should not do is hold on to their veterans, sign a free agent starting pitcher or two, and try to patch together another .500ish season. Basically, don’t do what they’ve tried the past few years.

It’s time for Mark Attanasio to read the writing on the wall: it’s time to blow this up and rebuild. They’ve proven the patchwork strategy isn’t working, so it’s time to change philosophies.

That also means something larger: it’s time for Doug Melvin to go.

Melvin has done some very good things in Milwaukee. He oversaw the reconstruction of a truly terrible franchise, fielded two playoff teams and won one division title. He was two games from his first World Series. Sure, you could argue he could have done more with that core they had, but he also could have done much worse.

It’s been a few years since Melvin was able to work some magic. Most importantly, he still hasn’t been able to adequately replace Jack Zduriencik. The Brewers haven’t had one impact draft pick since Brett Lawrie, and that has been what’s killed them more than anything.

Doug Melvin departing isn’t the most important key to turning this around–all that truly matters is that the Brewers stop their short-term thinking. The best way to do that, however, is to bring in a younger GM who is willing to oversee a rebuilding process.

There are players to build around. Jean Segura, Jonathan Lucroy, and Wily Peralta is a decent starting point. Many fans would hate this move, but Carlos Gomez’s value will never be higher. He’s still young (and affordable) enough to bring back a huge haul, yet, he’s old enough that by the time the team around him is good again, he’ll be leaving or out of his prime. The adage of trading a player a year too early rather than a year too late (i.e. Corey Hart, Aramis Ramirez, and hopefully not Kyle Lohse) rings true with Gomez.

Other players should go as well–many should have already, of course, but I don’t need to harp on that any further. They have no choice but to hold on to Braun at this point, so that will at least be in a holding pattern for a while. But even that could be short-term.

They key for a mid-market team like the Brewers is to find young talent and bring up waves of it. The Brewers haven’t had a wave since Gallardo ended their big one about four years ago. They have some players who could be impact prospects, but they’re still in the lower levels of the minors. What they need to do is collect players who are within two years or so of the big leagues and bring them up together, à la Fielder, Weeks, Hart and Hardy.

The concern, from Attanasio’s perspective, is clearly attendance. They’ve drawn extraordinarily well the last five years, and it would be understandable to be hesitant to jeopardize that. I’d argue that Brewer fans are patient; look how bad the teams were for so long, yet fans came back. They’ll do the same in support of an exciting, young team. It beats the alternative of gradually losing attendance year-to-year with no future in sight.

There are a large number of fans who feel jaded after the Ryan Braun saga. I don’t worry about it, personally, but many do. It could actually be a great time to explain to the fans that the strategies of the past few years haven’t worked, and now the team is changing course. I really think many would be open to that.

Hope isn’t lost for Brewers fans. It’s just on hold. Take me back to 2004, 2005 (and not just for this reason). I’d much rather root for a young, rebuilding team with a bright future than for one without much present or future. Unfortunately, if they don’t rebuild, that’s all we’ll have.