Tag Archives: Jean Segura

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.

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.

Weeks, Gomez, Segura, and yes, more Yuni

Posted by Steve

I have continued to be a putz and not post nearly as much as I’d have liked to in recent weeks. I still insist that will change shortly, but in the meantime, here’s a post that more or less addresses the hot-button issues of the young 2013 season.

There are really four players that are standing out so far this season, for one reason or another: Jean Segura, Carlos Gomez, Rickie Weeks, and, of course, Yunieski Betancourt.

——–

Let’s start with Segura. This has been the best-case scenario for the Brewers. He has exceeded even the loftiest expectations to this point. He is tied for Troy Tulowitzki for the best WAR among shortstops. Defensively, he’s been excellent, to the point that you have to wonder what led some scouts to predict he’d eventually need to move to second base. He clearly won’t finish the season with the .914 OPS that he currently sports, especially considering his .368 BABIP, but even finishing at, say, .814 would make him an incredibly valuable player. Even more encouraging is the power he’s shown. He’s slugging .530 with 4 home runs already, showing that he has 10-15 HR potential, if not even higher.

To me, Segura has been the best/most encouraging part of the season to this point. I’ve been critical of some of Melvin’s moves as of late, but the Greinke trade, both to acquire him and then to deal him, seems to have been handled flawlessly. The Angels have to already be kicking themselves (They hit the trifecta: gave up Segura+, didn’t make the playoffs, then didn’t retain Greinke in the off-season), and the potential is there for this to be one of the most lopsided trades in recent memory. And, not to seem like I’m patting myself on the back, but the Brewers seem to have made the correct move in calling him up for the end of last season–a move I endorsed last year.

——–

Now, to the most surprising player of the season–not just with the Brewers but likely in all of baseball: Carlos Gomez. I loved the Gomez signing (not going to link to two of my old posts in one post, but I did) and I took him in fantasy baseball, yet I’ve still obviously been thrilled and surprised by his production this year. Much like Segura, this is beyond any reasonable expectation. Gomez has been, according to WAR, easily the best player in all of baseball this year.

Gomez made a huge leap forward last season, and so far, has made an even bigger leap this year–obviously, as he’s been an MVP-type player through the first five weeks. Like with Segura, we need to be guarded with our excitement: he has an insane .420 BABIP, compared with a .309 number for his career. Such a huge gap could lead anyone to ask whether this is entirely a fluke.

I contend that it’s not–not entirely, at least. Gomez hasn’t been walking very much still, but he never has. What he has been, though, is more selective at the plate. Unlike Yuni, who has shown no improvement in plate discipline, Gomez has. He’s seeing 3.97 pitches per plate appearance this year, compared to 3.39 last year. It’s obviously a small sample still, but it’s still very encouraging. It’s easy to see why Gomez was once considered a great prospect. He had five tool potential, and he’s shown that so far. At age 27, it’s possible he is just hitting his stride. That’s a very, very exciting thought.

——–

And now, to the player everyone seems to want to talk about: Rickie Weeks. He makes this list for the exact opposite reason Gomez and Segura do: He’s been very bad. Weeks is hitting .193/.308/.298. People are calling for his head and for Scooter Gennett to get a chance. Fortunately, that won’t be happening anytime soon.

Weeks has been a streaky hitter over his career, and it’s easy to forget how good he can be when he’s going this poorly. But it is interesting to note that this is not the worst slump of his career–not by a long shot, in fact. Last year, for a 58-game stretch, he hit .150/.296/.261.

The cries were there for Weeks to be benched last season at this point as well. If the Brewers had listened, they’d have missed out on some very solid production the rest of the year.

His next 84 games, he hit .280/.358/.495, an elite line for a second baseman.

Look, it isn’t ideal that Weeks goes through stretches like this. But the Brewers gave him a significant contract; they cannot just bench him. That would mean simply eating his contract, and that won’t happen. And they would be foolish to trade him now, when his value is quite low. They have no choice but to let him find his way out of this slump. That will happen eventually. He’s been having bad luck, too–his BABIP is well below his career average.

——–

Let’s compare this to Yuniesky Betancourt, who simply won’t let me stop talking about him. Yuni improbably leads the Brewers in home runs, and people won’t stop proclaiming what a savior he’s been. Yes, he’s been on a power surge. But aside from a few more home runs than expected, he hasn’t been any different than over his entire career.

I mentioned this recently, but I still keep hearing about how Yuni has “changed his approach” and is “more selective.” Today alone I heard it twice: Tom Haudricourt said on the radio that Yuni is being more patient, and Brian Anderson mentioned the same thing tonight on the TV broadcast.

The numbers simply do not back that up. Betancourt is seeing the fewest pitches per plate appearance in all of baseball! He’s on a hot streak in which he’s just making a bit more contact. The same is basically said in today’s Fangraph’s article on Yuni, titled, Yuniesky Betancourt Hasn’t Changed a Bit.

Here’s my biggest beef with the Yuni love, coupled with the Weeks hate. Now, if you’ve read this blog for a while, you know that I love Weeks and can’t stand Betancourt. But it goes beyond that. The two main narratives seem to be 1) RICKIE WEEKS SUCKS!@!#! and 2) YUNI B IS AWESOME!!#@!!

How about this for a true fact: Rickie Weeks has a higher on-base percentage than Yuniesky Betancourt!

We have Yuni, who’s as hot as he’s ever been, and we have Weeks, who’s close to as cold he’s ever been, and Yuni is still so awful at getting on base that he’s still below Weeks’ OBP. That just shows the inherent difference in value between the two. Weeks has great plate discipline that allows him to get on base even during slumps. Betancourt has awful discipline that prevents him from getting on base even when he’s hot.

I will give Betancourt this: he’s much more difficult to hate when he isn’t playing shortstop. At least half of my hate for him as a player was for his awful, no-range defense at shortstop. He’s much, much more palatable–even valuable–as a utility infielder who never plays shortstop.

So, that just about brings to an end my long-winded post about the Brewers. My goal from now on: Post more often so as to prevent rambling posts in the future.

Less Randy Wolf = More interest in Brewers

Posted by Steve

It’s only a fraction of how necessary it was to release Jeff Suppan a few years ago, but it still needed to happen: Randy Wolf has been released.

I’ll at least take a paragraph to reflect on Wolf’s tenure and his signing in general. He was okay here for two years, with last year being his best. His peripherals weren’t really even that different this year save for a bit of a higher home run rate; he was killed by a .340 BABIP. If you’re mad at Wolf for this performance, I don’t really agree with you. The honus should go on Doug Melvin for giving a declining player a three-year deal. Of course, if Wolf didn’t get a three-year offer from Milwaukee, he’d very likely wouldn’t have signed here, but so what? It’s just Randy Wolf. Point is, I don’t want to go more than two years on any free agent pitcher unless his numbers show he is solidly above average.

Essentially, my interest in the Brewers’ rotation going forward is inversely proportional to the presence of Randy Wolf. And now that Randy Wolf is gone, the rotation just got a lot more interesting.

We’ll get to see, presumably, all of the young-ish pitchers who have a shot at the rotation next season. Not just Mike Fiers and Mark Rogers, who have already had auditions, but Wily Peralta and Tyler Thornburg as well. We will also see a cameo from Shaun Marcum, who is auditioning for next season–I suppose there’s still an outsider’s outside chance Marcum could be dealt on waivers, but he’ll only have one, maybe two starts before the August deadline, so the chances of that are almost nil. More likely, he’s taking a longer audition for a chance to get a nice contract somewhere next season.

Basically, the rotation will consist of Marcum and Gallardo every five days,with some mash-up of Fiers, Rogers, Thornburg, Peralta, and Marco Estrada taking the last three spots. There have been rumblings of the Brewers shutting down Rogers, Fiers and even Estrada to prevent them from taking too much of a jump in innings from last season, which of course is smart in a now meaningless season. One way to accomplish this would be to piggyback them in starts–essentially each guy pitches three innings on the same day every five days. The starting pitcher would be Mirke Fiergers or something.

I did hear some concern over the release of Wolf in that the Brewers might need a veteran to eat some innings if they end up needing to shut down most/all of the younger pitchers. I’m really not worried about that; if that happens, the Brewers just need to call up some AAA soldier. I’m warning you now, Brewer fans: Brace yourself once again for some Claudio Vargas appearances in September.

Anyway, the Brewers are making some smart decisions now that they’re out of contention. By the end of this season, they should have a solid grasp of whether Jean Segura is ready to be the starting shortstop (I’ve actually been more impressed with his glove than his bat to this point, which doesn’t match his scouting report), and which of these pitchers should open up 2013 in the starting rotation.

Plus, it will simply be more fun to watch these guys pitch over Randy Wolf.

Brewers deal Izturis, call up Segura

Posted by Steve

Well, that didn’t take very long.

The Brewers “lost” Cesar Izturis to the Nationals on waivers and have called up newly acquired shortstop prospect Jean Segura. Segura excelled during his brief stint in AA Huntsville, hitting .433/.500/.533 in eight games. In a season that’s going nowhere, the Brewers decided to roll the dice and give their shortstop of the future a head start on the big leagues.

While exciting, this move isn’t without a bit of controversy. By calling him up now, the Brewers will more than likely burn his first year of service time next year. If they kept Segura in the minors the rest of this year and until June or so of 2013, next season wouldn’t be considered a full year of service time, and the Brewers would control his rights for an extra year. Someone on twitter called it “preferring his age 23 season over his age 29 season.”

I understand the concern, and I would have been completely fine if the Brewers decided to hold him back for this reason. But I think it’s more important to go case-by-case and look at the individual player rather than use a blanket strategy for every good prospect. The Cubs just called up Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters rather than holding them out until midway through next season. Holding players back isn’t as obvious of a move as it may seem.

If the Brewers deem Segura ready, I am totally fine with calling him up. It’s arguably just as important to give him MLB experience, particularly in a season that no longer matters, as it is to preserve his service time. The fact is, the Brewers are not the first organization to decide Segura was ready for the majors. The Angels had just called him up before including him in the Greinke deal. It’s definitely not a stretch to say he’s ready for a test drive.

The only regret I have over this transaction is that we just sold the tickets we had for tonight’s game. Other than that, I’m glad I’ll have renewed interest in watching the Brewers again.

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.

 

 

Bravo, Doug

Posted by Steve

As soon as Zack Greinke turned in an outstanding performance on Tuesday, he became the center of attention in baseball circles. He was the number one target and was sure to be dealt.

For two days, the Brewers’ front office fielded calls from a handful of teams. In the end, it seems to have come down to Texas, Atlanta, and Los Angeles/Anaheim, with the White Sox high in interest but low in ammunition. Texas seemed to be the frontrunner, they have the best farm system of any interested team, and Mike Olt seemed like the target. Sure enough, we now know the Brewers targeted Olt but were rebuffed. In fact, the Rangers wouldn’t even give up starting pitcher Martin Perez, according to Ken Rosenthal. After that, the took the deal from the Angels.

And a solid deal it was. A few weeks ago, I handicapped potential Greinke suitors. I ranked Texas number 1, but LAA number 3, and the first name I mentioned was Jean Segura. He was the Angels’ top prospect and a logical target considering the Brewers’ need for a shortstop.

In addition to Segura, the Brewers added AA pitchers John Hellweg and Ariel Pena, two power arms with good upside.

Segura was the Angels number 1 prospect and was rated #43 in baseball by Baseball America in their recent midseason rankings. By that count, that would mean BA now has him as the Brewers’ number one prospect (Tyler Thornburg is the only other Brewer on the list at #48). He’s only 22, and at 5’10 and 165 isn’t quite Altuve in his stature but is still small. His ceiling is a leadoff hitter with solid power for a shortstop. The question is his defense, though it’s not a huge one. He has a strong arm and decent range, but he doesn’t project to be a defensive wiz like Jurickson Profar or somebody like that. Some scouts question whether he can stay at shortstop long term or will need to move to second, but for now there’s no reason not to put him at short and give him a long leash. He’ll start at AA Hunstville, but I’d be surprised if he was down there more than a few weeks. It’s not like the Brewers have an above replacement-level shortstop holding him off.

Hellweg is an exciting player as well, though he’s more of a boom-or-bust. He’s a giant; is 6’9″ frame helps him generate a mid-to-upper 90s fastball. While his floor is lower than someone like Tyler Thornburg or Wily Peralta, his ceiling is likely the highest of any pitcher in the Brewers’ system. He’s a fine player to take a risk on as a secondary piece in a trade. He may be the key to this deal; if he develops into a top-of-the-rotation starter, the Brewers will have gotten a steal.

Pena has been a starting pitcher throughout his career, although it seems possible he could move to the bullpen. He was rated as having the best slider in the Angels’ system.

Overall, I’m very pleased with this trade. Not over the moon thrilled like I probably would have been with a return of Mike Olt+ from Texas, but considering he wasn’t available, I don’t doubt this was the best return the Brewers could have gotten.

A small part of me was terrified Melvin would either go for an established player with only a couple years of team control left, or or a young major league pitcher with a limited ceiling for Greinke. He did neither. The Brewers control the rights of all of these players for their first six years in MLB, which is extremely valuable.

According to Baseball America’s pre-2012 rankings, the Brewers got the Angels’ number 1, 4, and 9 prospects–a great return for just two months of Greinke.

The Brewers traded Alcides Escobar, Jake Odorizzi, Lorenzo Cain and Jeremy Jeffress for Greinke. This package is behind that, but not by very much. Another way to look at it is the Brewers traded Escobar, Odorizzi, Cain, and Jeffress for 1.5 years of Greinke/a deep playoff run, Segura, Hellweg and Pena.

Not bad at all.

The market for Zack Greinke

Posted by Steve

I’m doing it. I’m going there.

It’s still not completely impossible for the Brewers to come back and reach the playoffs, especially with that fifth playoff spot this year, but every time I mention this their odds just go down. I’m also doing it because my own personal interest has shifted from the performance of the team to the potential trade targets.

Baseball Prospectus still, somewhat amazingly, gives the Brewers a 13.4% chance at reaching the playoffs. There are nine NL teams with better odds, and 11 NL teams have better records than the Brewers right now. Couple that with the way the Brewers have looked lately, and can you blame me for focusing on trades?

Naturally, the guy teams are first going to be interested in is Zack Greinke. This is doubly true now that Shaun Marcum is on the DL (please return before the trade deadline…).

We’re seeing national reports within the past week or so confirming that the Brewers will deal Greinke if they don’t have an extension in place by the deadline. I would argue that the return would be better if they were willing to trade Greinke earlier than that. We saw this from the other side when Doug Melvin upped his return for CC Sabathia in 2008 in order to get Sabathia in early July rather than at the July 31 deadline.

Of course, I was hoping the Brewers would be able to sign Greinke before the season started. Then the Matt Cain deal happened, and just about all realistic hope of re-signing Greinke went out the window. The Brewers can’t afford to pay Greinke $125 million. I was thinking 90-100 mil before the season, but all he’s done now is raise his value. He’ll reach the open market, and he’ll most likely top Cain’s deal.

That sucks, but compounding the problem would be hanging on to Greinke, missing the playoffs (a very likely outcome), and only getting draft picks for him. The Brewers need to realize that they have a good opportunity in front of them. For the last several years, while still doing a solid job, Doug Melvin has largely built his team for the short-term rather than the long-term. Major acquisitions, like those of Jeff Suppan, Aramis Ramirez, Randy Wolf, Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, and Eric Gagne were done with short-term results in mind over a long-term view.

Now, Melvin has the chance to take a long-term approach that could really help the team if he hits on some trades. Since the Brewers don’t seem interested in a long-term rebuilding project, trading for prospects at, say, the AA level will speed up the process quicker than getting compensation draft picks for their free agents.

Therefore, there is no reason impending free agents should be kept. Greinke is obviously the big prize, but Marcum could net something valuable as well if he can get himself healthy. Wolf, K-Rod, and Morgan don’t have a ton of value, but there is no reason to keep them around this year either.

To be honest, the only guys close to untouchable on the entire team would be Ryan Braun, Yovani Gallardo and Jonathan Lucroy. I don’t expect Hart, Weeks, or Axford to go, but I’d certainly listen to offers. A good trade piece would also be Norichika Aoki.

This is all a post for another day, though. I have to think the first one to go would/will be Greinke, so let’s focus on him. I want to take a look at the teams who might be interested in Greinke.

First, let’s determine who the “contenders” are. These teams are within five games of their division leader OR had real playoff aspirations to start the year and aren’t yet buried:

Yankees
Orioles
Red Sox
Rays
White Sox
Indians
Tigers
Royals
Rangers
Angels
Nationals
Braves
Mets
Reds
Cardinals
Pirates
Dodgers
Giants
Diamondbacks

First thing that comes to mind when I look at that list: That’s a lot of teams. Most of MLB is on that list, because more teams are within reach in their divisions than in a normal year. Combine that with the extra playoff spot, and the Brewers might find themselves with more potential suitors than normal.

Obviously, we can still narrow that list down.

The Royals aren’t drowning yet because that division has been disappointing. The Tigers will pick it up KC isn’t going to make the playoffs, so they won’t be mortgaging their young talent to get Greinke back.

The Mets are doing well, but they aren’t there quite yet. That division will come down to the Nats and Braves.

Same with the Pirates. Nice season, nice pitching staff, but just not the offense. If anything, they’ll try for hitting. They’re out.

Then we can go to teams who don’t have real needs at SP/have much bigger needs on offense. Those would include: The Rays, White Sox, Red Sox, Braves (even with Brandon Beachy going down for the year, their rotation goes about 7 guys deep), and Giants.

Let’s look at the revised list:

Yankees
Orioles
Indians
Tigers
Rangers
Angels
Nationals
Reds
Cardinals
Dodgers
Diamondbacks

Down to 11, but that’s still too many. There won’t be 11 serious suitors. Let’s keep going.

Even though I would have no problem trading Greinke as a rental within the division, I really doubt Melvin would do it. That eliminates the Reds and Cardinals. Even though Cleveland is in second place, they’re only .500, and I don’t see them making a splash after the Ubaldo Jimenez trade from last year blew up in their face. The Nationals have a good rotation already; they won’t make a huge play for Greinke (at least I don’t think). The Dodgers lost their lead to the Giants today, and have now lost Andre Ethier for a period of time in addition to Matt Kemp. I didn’t buy them as a good team anyway; I fully expect them to fade.

That leaves:

Yankees
Orioles
Tigers
Rangers
Angels
Diamondbacks

Six teams. I see these teams as the most likely to trade for Greinke. If you haven’t had enough, now I’m going to handicap them based on need, likelihood of reaching the playoffs, and whether they have a good enough farm system to get Greinke.

6. New York Yankees

The Yankees just lost Andy Pettitte for about two months, and that’s in addition to losing Michael Pineda before the season even started. The need is there, however, I’m not sure how much else matches. Right or not, there is a stigma that Greinke wouldn’t handle a large market well. I don’t really buy it, but it exists. Pettitte is due back, and most importantly, the Yankees have built themselves a fairly cushy A.L. East lead. I don’t think they’ll be desperate enough to make a big play for Greinke.

5. Baltimore Orioles

A surprise suitor on this list, Baltimore has enjoyed a surprising season. I have them this high, because in the A.L. East, they might not have a chance this good for a while. They have a stud shortstop prospect in Manny Machado. It’s very unlikely they trade him, but with J.J. Hardy locked up for the next few years, desperation could possibly win out. Pitching phenom Dylan Bundy isn’t going anywhere either. It’s tough to see a deal without one of those players in it, though. The Orioles only have one other player in Baseball America’s Top 100 list, Jonathan Schoop, and he has struggled this year in AA. They could go for a quantity over quality offer, but I hope that’s not as attractive to the Brewers.

4. Arizona Diamondbacks

They’ve also had a frustrating season. I expected them to win the N.L. West, and be even better than they were last year. Instead, they’re in third place with a 39% chance at reaching the playoffs according to Baseball Prospectus. They just received bad news, as Daniel Hudson will need Tommy John surgery and is lost for the year. I still expect them to pass the Dodgers and give the Giants a run for their money, though.

The Diamondbacks have three great young pitchers: Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs, and Archie Bradley. Bauer is out of the question; he makes his MLB debut tomorrow, just over a year after being drafted. Skaggs is only 20 years old, yet he is excelling at AA. He would be an amazing prize for 3-4 months of Zack Greinke, although stranger things have happened. Bradley may be more likely. He’s the youngest of the three, and the Diamondbacks may feel safest about losing him with the other two in the fold. He is struggling mightily with walks, though, and he is still a couple years away from the majors. I’d be surprised if the Brewers settle for him unless they were getting more in return. 3B/1B Matt Davidson could be another target. Still, Skaggs remains the remotely attainable pipe dream if Arizona and the Brewers are a match.

3. Los Angeles Angels

The Angels have made a charge back into contention in recent weeks, and with that extra playoff spot this year, they sure look like they’ll be in the conversation the rest of the way. The player who comes immediately to mind with the Angels is Jean Segura, and shortstop/second baseman. He is considered the Angels’ best prospect now that Mike Trout is dominating the big leagues. Segura is not a power hitter, but projects to be a solid middle infield starter. A player to keep an eye on is C.J. Cron. I lobbied for Cron to be the Brewers’ first round pick last year, but they instead took Taylor Jungmann. Cron is off to a solid start to his pro career and would supply an impact power bat to the system.

2. Detroit Tigers

These next two I see as definite favorites for Greinke. The Tigers are desperate to win now, as their aging owner splurged for Prince Fielder in the hopes of winning a World Series this season–so the desperation is there. Desperation really helps the sellers in these scenarios. They have a big need, as their rotation is pretty ordinary after Justin Verlander. They have the prospects, too. Jacob Turner is a 21-year-old starting pitcher who is having success at AAA. I actually expect him to be called up yet this season, so he is probably untouchable in a trade. Never know though, I suppose.

A great, and possibly more attainable trade target is 3B Nick Castellanos. Castellanos was recently promoted to AA after hitting .405 in A+ ball this season. He’d be ready to take over at third base most likely by the time Aramis Ramirez’s contract expires, and very well even before then. I’d be very happy with him in a trade.

1. Texas Rangers

The desperation is there after losing the last two World Series. More importantly, the prospects are certainly there. The Rangers are stocked with elite prospects, which is why the news of them scouting Greinke today was both exciting and unsurprising. Shortstop Jurickson Profar is a top five MLB prospect and is almost not worth mentioning, because he’s that good. He’s 19 years old, is a plus defender, and has an .832 OPS in AA. Profar would be an absolute grand slam.

Another great prize, and perhaps more realistic, is 3B Mike Olt. Olt is crushing AA with a 1.009 OPS. He’d probably be MLB ready by next year sometime.

SP Martin Perez is another highly ranked prospect in the Rangers’ system, although his numbers this year in AAA are underwhelming.

Leonys Martin is a highly ranked outfielder who is excelling at AAA and would be a valuable player as well. That’s four highly ranked players that the Rangers could offer. Olt is the best player who is realistic.

It’s hard to say who would be unrealistic and who wouldn’t. One thing to consider is that with the new CBA, the team that trades for Greinke wouldn’t receive draft picks–only the Brewers would if they kept him and offered him arbitration. Still, last year the Giants traded Zack Wheeler, a great young pitching prospect, for three months of Carlos Beltran, despite language in Beltran’s contract that prevented them from offering him arbitration. If the Brewers could get that type of talent for Greinke, I’d be thrilled.