Tag Archives: Aramis Ramirez

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.

A different way of evaluating this Brewers season

Posted by Steve

The All-Star Break is always a time of evaluation for MLB teams. They evaluate where they are in the playoff race and decide what direction they want to go at the trading deadline. I certainly have my opinions on what the Brewers should do at the trading deadline, but first, I want to take a look back at this season.

There’s no doubt that the Brewers have had a disaster of a season. They are in last place in the N.L. Central and have the second-worst record in the league. There’s no way to put beer goggles over that one.

But instead, I want to look at how the Brewers’ season has gone compared to expectations. There were obviously varying opinions on how this season would go, but there were also many people who assumed the Brewers would not have a good year. I was one of them, although I can’t say I thought the record would be quite this bad.

So yes, it could be easy to say this is a lost season. But when you compare the events of the season to what was expected, I actually come up with more positives than negatives.

Quickly, let’s look at what we did expect: We knew the starting rotation wouldn’t be good, and it turns out it’s terrible. It is disappointing that guys like Mike Fiers, Tyler Thornburg and Mark Rogers haven’t done a thing in Milwaukee this year, but it’s also not shocking.

That’s about it.

Almost nothing else about this season has gone as expected, and a number of those things are positive. But let’s look at the negatives first.

Negatives

Ryan Braun continues to face controversy

There is so much that could be said here, but there is still no revealed evidence, so any analysis at this point would simply be conjecture. It is not a surprise that Braun is tied up in this, since we knew about it before the season. I am listing it here, though, because it seems that MLB is even more determined to “get” Braun that I even assumed. Rumblings quickly escalated from 50 to 100 games and then to the ridiculous possibility of a lifetime ban. So this is certainly not good news, even though it’s only slightly surprising.

Corey Hart is out for the year

This is in the same category as the Braun one. Is it surprising Corey Hart has missed time this year due to injury? Of course not; that’s been going on for each of the last few seasons. What is surprising is that he’s now lost for the season. That’s a huge loss–some for what he would have brought to the offense this year, but much more for what the Brewers could have gotten back for him in a trade if he’d been healthy.

Aramis Ramirez can’t stay healthy

Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have listed this one under unexpected at all, because Aramis Ramirez being banged up is anything but surprising. It’s why I hated the signing two years ago–not because he can’t hit, but because he can’t stay healthy. Like Hart, this one really hurts because they can’t trade him right now. It seems like best case scenario is he proves himself enough to be included in a waiver deal in August.

Yovani Gallardo kind of sucks

This is definitely the worst negative of the season, and it’s a big reason why the Brewers are currently awful instead of the anticipated mediocre. I plan to break this down at much greater length soon, but in short: Yo has been bad. His velocity is down, his starts are short, and he’s killed his trade value. He could have been a huge chip for the Brewers, but his value may now be so low that they are forced to keep him.

And that’s all I’ve got. Those are the four things that are currently killing the Brewers, and only three are actually on the field. These are the only things I can come up with that went wrong that were not totally expected. Not good, for sure, but I’d have expected more in a season that’s gone this poorly.

Now, to the positives.

Positives

Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez

I put these two together, because A) both performances are incredibly impacting and B) both were pretty unexpected. Yes, I had high hopes for both players, but I don’t think anyone could have predicted that Gomez and Segura would be 2nd and 12th respectively in WAR for the NL and both make the All-Star team.

Gomez is already making his contract extension look like an absolute steal. His center field defense is elite, and his bat has become a plus. He’s managed to finally meet his potential that scouts raved about years ago. He’s still only 27, meaning he can still be seen as somewhat of a long-term piece in Milwaukee.

Segura’s performance is perhaps even more encouraging. He’s dirt cheap yet for three years (unless the Brewers sign him long-term, which would be great), and he’s already playing at a very high level. Yes, he needs to be more patient offensively, but it’s clear that he’ll be the type of guy the Brewers can just pencil in at shortstop for the next 5+ years and not have to worry about anything. Even if Johnny Hellweg and Ariel Pena flame out completely, which I’d say is pretty unlikely, Segura makes that Greinke trade last year look like highway robbery.

The performance and increased value of these players has been the most surprising development of the season, good or bad, for the Brewers.

The Bullpen is very good

Last year the bullpen was just about the entire reason the Brewers missed the playoffs. This year, Doug Melvin made some shrewd trades and signings, and it’s been almost as good this year as it was bad last year.

Now obviously, a good bullpen is useless on a team as bad as the 2013 Brewers. So why is this a positive? Because it gives them a bunch of trade chips!

To varying degrees, every pitcher in the bullpen should be available this coming deadline. My hope is at least two get traded, and ideally, even more. The Brewers should take every chance they can get to improve the young talent in the organization.

Wily Peralta looks like a promising young pitcher again

Peralta looked so good at the end of last year that his uneven first half was extremely frustrating. He has incredible stuff: elite fastball velocity, a nice slider and a two-seamer that I swear defies physics. That’s why it’s great that he’s looked so good his last few times out. If he can keep this up, he’ll soon be the top-of-the-rotation type guy that we envisioned and hoped for.

Norichia Aoki is no fluke

Aoki has been another bright spot on the team, proving to be a legitimate lead-off hitter. The Brewers need to trade him, which is too bad, because I enjoy watching him play. However, 30-year-old corner outfielders with 1.5 seasons left on their contracts don’t serve much of a purpose on a last place team.

The Brewers have a worse record than expected

Yes, this is a good thing. Here’s why: last year, when they were mediocre, they very nearly held on to Zack Greinke, which would have been a cripplingly stupid move. This year, there’s no way they could be tempted into making a “buyer’s” move; they’re just way too far out.

Guys like Gallardo, Hart, and Ramirez have all taken hits to their trade value, which hurts, but there are still players to trade. Kyle Lohse should be dealt, which would erase some of the sting of forfeiting a first round pick for him. Aoki should be dealt. Relievers should be dealt. There will likely be no grand prize like last year’s Greinke trade, but the Brewers have a real chance to once again bolster the 2014 and 2015 teams. And if Gallardo can put a few good starts together in the next couple weeks, it’s possible they could nab something very good for him.

I’ll have more to come on the trade deadline shortly, but I thought this would be an interesting way of illustrating how I felt the season has gone so far.

So, now what?

Posted by Steve

For the last few weeks, all the focus was on Zack Greinke: first his health, then on what return he’d bring back in an impending trade. Now that the Greinke trade is complete, it feels a little confusing. What are we supposed to focus on now?

One thing’s for sure; this is still the same awful bullpen. Yesterday’s game showed that, and the bullpen isn’t going to change. Not that that matters much though; wins and losses are irrelevant now.

That’s one thing that’s kind of nice. I no longer feel like I need to hope the Brewers lose games in order to ensure they trade Greinke. I still really don’t care whether they win, but at least I don’t have to be annoyed when they do. I really didn’t enjoy that.

So anyway, the question is, what am I looking for the rest of the season?

I don’t expect the Brewers to contend next year without Zack Greinke. The starting rotation is going to look much different next year, and they have many young pitchers who will be getting their feet wet. Thing is, I want that to happen. I don’t want Doug Melvin to feel like he needs to go and sign two more Randy Wolfs because he needs to patch together another okay team. Mark Rogers, Wily Peralta, Tyler Thornburg, Johnny Hellweg, Ariel Pena, Tayjor Jungmann… The Brewers need to turn several of those players into major league pitchers, particularly starters, if they are going to have success within the next 4-5 years. I don’t want to see the development stunted by aging #4 starters.

For that reason, I would love to see Aramis Ramirez and/or Corey Hart traded before the deadline. If Melvin targeted players at the AA level or so, the way he did with Greinke, there shouldn’t be too long of a turnaround. In fact, I bet they’d have a solid team by as early as 2014.

Trading Hart and Ramirez makes a lot of sense. Both players have good value right now. Ramirez in particular should be traded because of the money that he’s owed. He has performed so well that right now, you could get a team to take most (or even all?) of his contract and send you a legitimate prospect or two. That opportunity may not be there by next season.

Same situation with Hart. He is under contract through 2013. If the Brewers trade Hart before the start of next season, the team who acquires him will have the right to a compensation pick. If they wait until next season to do it, it will be the same situation as Greinke–no pick for that team. A lack of comp picks won’t dampen the return on elite players like Greinke, but it could on a merely solid player like Hart.

Of course, I’d be truly shocked if either of these players were dealt this year. Doug Melvin’s MO isn’t to trade players when their value is highest; it’s to hold on to them, use the value for the Brewers, and then take a lesser return/let them walk in free agency. In this case, I strongly feel holding on to them is the wrong move. Doesn’t matter what I think, though.

So then, what do I want to see the rest of the year? Let’s make a list, shall we?

Tyler Thornburg’s return to normalcy

The Brewers sent Thornburg back to the minors today, capping the end to a short yet stupid experiment. His schedule has been completely erratic over the last month or so, and it capped off with a “tired arm” after pitching multiple innings in consecutive outings. What a foolish way to handle your top pitching prospect. I want to see Thornburg back starting games, and I don’t even want to see him in Milwaukee unless he is in the rotation. No more coming out of the bullpen for Thornburg the rest of the year.

Trade/DFA Wolf, K-Rod

I expect the Brewers to DFA Francisco Rodriguez soon. It’s been a train wreck in slow motion over the last couple weeks for Franky. He went from burying his trade value six feet under to clearly not even warranting a spot on the team. He’s a sunk cost; the Brewers have too many young pitchers they should take a look at to keep wasting innings on a broken K-Rod.

Wolf should be let go, too. There’s a chance someone will take him off the Brewers’ hands for nothing, but if not, there is no need to keep giving him starts. Same thing with wanting to see younger pitchers.

In a similar vein, if Shaun Marcum is able to come back this year, he’d be a good candidate for an August waiver trade. Something to think about.

Give the young pitchers a long look–in the starting rotation

All those pitchers I mentioned earlier should get some consideration for rotation spots in Milwaukee. Mark Rogers had an encouraging outing yesterday. He is out of minor league options, which means the Brewers have to have him on the MLB team next year or lose him. He should stay in the rotation the rest of the year.

Wily Peralta has turned his season around. He should take Randy Wolf’s spot in the rotation as soon as possible.

Thornburg, Hellweg, and Pena should all be given consideration based on how they pitch going forward as well.

Within a few weeks, call up Jean Segura and hand him the keys to shortstop

I understand giving Segura some time yet in AA, but I don’t think he should need more than a couple weeks. Unless he falls flat on his face in Huntsville, I want to give him time in MLB in a low pressure situation in which he knows he’ll play every day. From a marketing standpoint, the team should want to show off the prize of the Zack Greinke trade as well. It’s a win-win.

Think about it. Not only do these moves make baseball sense, but it’s a much more watchable team. How much more enjoyable would the team be with a rotation of Gallardo, Fiers, Rogers, Peralta, Estrada/Thornburg/other young pitcher and Segura at shortstop every day the rest of the way? Right now, when Wolf or Estrada pitch, I don’t even feel obligated to watch. I’d want to watch this “new” team every day the rest of the season, though.

One final remark

I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the departure of George Kottaras. First, let me say it was a questionable move. Travis Ishikawa serves no purpose on this team and does nothing that Kottaras can’t. They should have gotten rid of Ishikawa and left Kottaras as the backup first baseman/third catcher/top pinch hitter off the bench. But, they didn’t, and it sounds like Kottaras finds himself in a larger role on a playoff contender, so good for him. Plus, no matter what happens to him in his baseball career, he’ll still be devilishly handsome.

 

 

Replacing Mat Gamel

Posted by Steve

A few months ago the main question the Brewers faced was: How do we replace Prince Fielder? Now, unfortunately, it seems the question is how to replace the replacement. Mat Gamel injured his knee on a frustratingly unimportant play last night in San Diego. The latest news is that he needs surgery, although there has not yet been any detail as far as what the injury is/what type of surgery he’ll need. Safe to say he’ll have a lengthy DL stint; the question at this point is whether he’ll be back at all this year.

So, what should the Brewers do? They have a number of options, but I’ll say right away that playing Travis Ishikawa at first base for the rest of the season should not be an option. His career OPS is .724, which is just not cutting it at first base. Even a platoon of Ishikawa and Brooks Conrad isn’t idea; Ishikawa has a career OPS of .740 against righties–still not cutting it. I’m still not sure why he’s on the team, to be honest.

If the Brewers want to go in house, they have two pretty decent options. The first is to move Aramis Ramirez to first base and call up Taylor Green to play third. While I’d love to see this, I’m almost sure the Brewers wouldn’t do it.

Another option, which seems more likely, is to move Corey Hart to first base, at least on a semi-regular basis. This does a few things. First, it keeps solid offense at the first base position. Secondly, it opens up some playing time for the glut of outfielders on the roster. Nori Aoki or Nyjer Morgan can play right when Hart plays first. While neither has the ideal arm for right field, the outstanding outfield range in center and right would make up for it.

This option seems more likely, simply because the Brewers already worked out Hart at first in spring. Although Hart is likely to be shaky defensively at first (not that Gamel was great himself), his height is an advantage there. It’s still likely that the Brewers’ defense would improve at both first and right, possibly enough to make up for the offensive drop-off.

There are other options as well. The Brewers would probably love to get George Kotarras’ bat into the lineup more often, so I wouldn’t at all mind seeing get occasional playing time at first base.

There are some free agents available. I have no real interest in Jorge Cantu, but Derek Lee is still available. I’m not thrilled at all with Lee, but it’s possible he could still be productive in a semi-platoon role.

My personal preference would be one of the first two suggestions. Since the Brewers aren’t going to move A-Ram to first, I prefer to see Hart there–at least more than Ishikawa/Conrad. I imagine this is what we’ll see pretty regularly. I don’t think they should explore signing someone like Lee unless Gamel is out for the year, and even then, it won’t be some magic solution.

Cool off-season, Brewers. Not.

Posted by Steve

When the Alex Gonzalez signing broke Friday, I figured I could wait til Monday to post about it. What was going to happen over the weekend, anyway?

So basically, we have the good (Alex Gonzalez signing), the bad (Aramis Ramirez signing), and the ugly (Braun).

It seems silly to talk in depth about Alex Gonzalez, which is what I would have done a few days ago. So for now, I’ll just say that the fact I’m excited about his signing goes to show how truly awful Betancourt was. Gonzalez isn’t a great shortstop by any means. He’s an awful hitter with just as poor OBP skills as Betancourt, or at least almost as poor. The reason I’m excited is because no matter what metric you consult, the consensus is that he’s a good fielding shortstop. That means he’s a fairly significant upgrade, and he was cheap and only for one year. Not bad, all things considered.

Really, this has to be about Braun…. But what is there to even say at this point? Other than this seems like a bizarre case, not too much. At the risk of sounding like a Giants fan defending Barry Bonds, the few details we do have seem so fishy that it sounds like he could be innocent, so I’m fully willing to reserve judgment until more information comes out. Even if he does end up looking to be clean, I am fully expecting him to be suspended. MLB is trying to look tough with their new PED program, and what better way to do that than by making an example of a superstar? Short of proof that some guy spiked Braun’s sample for banging his girlfriend or something, I don’t think MLB will accept his appeal.

One thing that seems hopeful are the reports that it was not a PED, but simply a “banned substance,” whatever that means. That could mean his suspension would be only 25 games, and might save Braun’s public image a bit.

I know I haven’t really said much, but I don’t know that there is much to say about it at this point.

So, let’s talk about Aramis Ramirez. You know, the guy who threw his helmet at my favorite player of all time. The guy who hit a crippling walk-off homer against the Brewers years ago. The guy who has been criticized for laziness, can’t field anymore, and is 34 years old.

The guy who now plays third base for the Brewers. Ugh.

Even putting aside the fact that I don’t like him at all, I hate this signing. I detailed why a couple posts ago, and Ramirez ended up getting even more money that I would have figured. I hate the fact that there’s a third year. Who was Doug Melvin bidding against? Nobody else was even reported to be interested in him. Why a third year? He can’t even play third base right now; I cringe to think of three years from now.

Really, the Brewers acquired yet another first baseman. Their overall disregard for defense is really getting old, as Ramirez is  worse than McGehee at third.

If the Brewers had $36 million or whatever burning a hole in their pocket, I wish they’d have spent it in a place where they didn’t have a viable replacement already. Edwin Jackson to replace Chris Narveson would have been a better use of that money, for example.

So now Taylor Green remains a backup for the next three years. To be honest, they might as well just trade him now. They’d get more value out of him that way.

For what it’s worth, and I’m just rambling now, if Braun is out I’d like to see Ramirez at first, Green at third and Gamel in left during that time.

But anyway. Some good news: as I was typing this, the Brewers traded Casey McGehee to the Pirates for reliever Jose Veras. I’m shocked they got something in return, but I’m glad they won’t be paying 3 million bucks or whatever for McGehee.

So I guess we’re looking at an infield of Ramirez, Gonzalez, Weeks, and Gamel. Probably about average offensively, while still below average defensively. I’d love the infield if it was only going to look like that for a year, but like I said, I don’t want Ramirez for three years.

So, I guess there isn’t too much left for the Brewers. They need to sign a utility infielder–I wouldn’t mind Nick Punto as a good defensive utility player, since Green is an offensive player. They also probably need to trade K-Rod, as their payroll is now over $100 million.

The Brewers, depending on Braun’s status, should still be good next year. My problem is that they could have still been good without overpaying for an aging Aramis Ramirez.

 

Winter Meetings Preview (Just Say No to A-Ram)

Posted by Steve

It’s once again time for the greatest event of the greatest off-season in sports: Baseball’s Winter Meetings.

The Brewers should have one big thing atop their wish list: a shortstop. I’d love to see them come away with a substantial upgrade over Yuni Betancourt (any upgrade wouldn’t be hard, but I’m holding out hope for a big one). I’ve been over many of the options already, but I’ll reiterate that of the remaining free agents, I’d say Rafael Furcal would be the best fit considering he’ll make less than Jimmy Rollins. It sounds like the Marlins landed Jose Reyes for six years tonight, so the Brewers missed out/dodged a bullet, depending on your perspective.

I am concerned, though. I don’t think the Brewers have shortstop atop their wishlist at the moment. There are multiple reports that the Brewers are very interested in Aramis Ramirez, the Brewer killer himself, and the person who made me swear I wouldn’t go back to Wrigley for a few years.

I’m expecting the Brewers to sign Ramirez, and I’m really not happy about it. I’m expecting it because Ramirez lives in Chicago and seemingly wants to stay there–he vetoed trades at the end of last season so his family could stay. He could easily live around Chicago if he played in Milwaukee, which is surely why he’s interested in playing for the Brewers..

I’m not happy about it, because I’m not convinced it’s even close to the best use of the money they’ll end up giving him. I’m guessing Ramirez is likely to get about 10 mil a year. I’d much, much rather have Taylor Green at 400k, for a number of reasons.

Even besides the money, Ramirez is 34. His defense has been decidedly below average for a few years now, and it’s definitely not going to get better as he moves through his 30s. Plus, he’s been somewhat injury prone.

I can admit that his bat is still solid, and he’s likely to be an offensive upgrade (certainly to McGehee, and likely to Green, next year anyway), but that’s not worth the hefty price tag. I’d much, much rather pay Rafael Furcal, turn over third to Green, first to Gamel, and go from there.

I could maybe stomach a two-year contract for Ramirez, but anything more than two and I’ll absolutely hate it. It would point to the Brewers A) once again refusing to go with promising, cheap young players, B) once again disregarding defense, and C) once again giving multi-year free agent deals to an aging player. You’d think they’d have learned from this by now. Also, something longer than two years would make it much more difficult to extend Zack Greinke.

I’ve been over why the Brewers are on a much more limited budget than people realize. Spending their limited resources on a defensively poor third baseman whose best years are behind him is not a smart allocation of those resources.

Just say NO to A-Ram (or any free agent third baseman) and YES to Taylor Green. Do it Doug. Do it.