Starting Rotation: Pretty much an emergency

Posted by Steve

Before I get started, I want to say that I used my best judgment and ultimately decided to end the tarnation streak at three.  I could have gone with something like, “What in tarnation is wrong with the starting rotation?” or “What in tarnation can the Brewers get in the trade market?” but it just felt forced.  Nothing kills a joke like overuse, so I decided to tuck away the tarnation tag until it truly fits.

I’m feeling one of those cheezy radio commercials here that are played during a game.  You know, the ones that try to relate something like banking, truck driving or insurance to baseball.

In baseball, you should never make a trade just to make a trade.  The same goes for blogging!  Don’t use a tarnation tag just to use a tarnation tag.  Before using a tarnation tag, be sure it adds to the enjoyment of the post.  For more information, call the Digger’s Hotline.

Anyway.  Things have been pretty ugly as of late.  One of the more active threads on BF right now is discussing whether the Brewers should be sellers at the deadline.  That’s jumping the gun in my opinion, but something will need to be done before long if the Brewers are going to make a serious run for the playoffs.

I’ve said I felt the offense would improve to the point of making up for the drop in pitching from last season.  So far, the offense has been good but not great–fourth in the NL in with 4.77 runs per game compared to seventh (4.63 runs per game) last season.  That won’t be enough to overcome for the poor pitching.

I didn’t expect the starting pitching to be very good as a whole to begin with, but it’s been even worse than expected.  They’ve had one good start in the last eight games.  Yo’s last start was good, but I’ve made light of his recent struggles.  I’m also getting concerned about his heavy workload.  Bush and Looper have been very hittable lately (and Bush’s arm fatigue wrinkles things even further).  As amazing as it sounds, the only pitcher pitching up to his capability over the last month is none other than Jeff Suppan.  What’s worse is the struggles of the rotation is taking a toll on the bullpen, which was stellar over the first two months.

Things wouldn’t be so dire if it wasn’t for Manny Parra.  He’s really screwed the pooch.  Dan went over why Parra is probably set to bounce back at some point, but the fact of the matter is it’s a very poorly timed implosion on his part.

Before the season, I assumed that in order to make the playoffs, the Brewers would need to bring in another solid starting pitcher to improve the rotation–at least a number three-type starter.  I still feel this way.  The problem is, quality starting pitching is not as abundant as it was around last season’s trade deadline.

Injuries have taken a toll on the trade market.  Jake Peavy was probably a lock to be traded somewhere (already was but vetoed the trade to the White Sox), but his foot injury may have him sidelined past the trade deadline.  This was a bit of a relief to me, because there was plenty of chatter that the Brewers were in talks with San Diego to acquire Peavy.  I was all ready to write an anti-Peavy post, but his injury made the point moot.  In a nutshell, my reasons against Peavy were mainly his hefty contract, but also his decline in numbers, drop in his velocity and moving out of a friendly pitcher’s park.

Roy Halladay, a phenomenal pitcher, was recently put on the DL–to be fair, he was only an outside shot to be traded this year anyway.  Erik Bedard is another good pitcher who could be traded but recently went on the DL.

Matt Cain was a popular trade target for some fans, but the Giants are hanging around so far and won’t deal him if they’re still in contention for a wildcard spot around the deadline.

Complicating the matter is the Brewers have told teams that Mat Gamel and Alcides Escobar are untouchable.  That means you can cross off guys like Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cain anyway.

I’m ready to make a pitch for my number one trade target.  Before I say who, keep in mind there is no CC Sabathia readily available this year.  There isn’t even a Rich Harden.  The best pitcher who could be available is Cliff Lee, but he’s under contract for next year; therefore Cleveland is likely to ask for a ton.  I’m not even sure they’ll trade him, because they might want to keep him to make a run next season.  To find a match, you need to identify the best pitcher likely to be available that won’t require either Gamel or Escobar.  In my mind, that pitcher is Erik Bedard.

Bedard had been a good to great pitcher in each of the last five seasons.  He’s having an outstanding 2009 so far: 65 2/3 innigs, 2.47 ERA, 1.157 WHIP, 65 strikeouts and 22 walks.  So far this season, he’s been an ace.

So why, then, would the Brewers be able to acquire him without giving up Gamel or Escobar?  Here’s why.

1) Bedard is injury prone.  He only threw 81 innings last season.  He’s currently on the DL with “shoulder fatigue,” which is never a good sign.  I wouldn’t even be discussing him, but an MRI revealed no structural damage and the plan as of now is to have him back in the rotation before too long.  If that ends up not happening, this entire point is moot and I’ll have to live with the fact that I wasted 20 minutes typing about an Erik Bedard trade.

2) He’s not a workhorse.  He will in absolutely no way come close to what Sabathia did last year.  And I’m not referring to performance, as nobody should be expected to put up the numbers CC did last year, but I’m referring to innings pitched.  Sabathia consistently went deep into the game, and made several starts on three days’ rest.  Bedard won’t do either of those things.  He has one, count em, one complete game in his entire career.  He’s generally a six inning pitcher, which is almost exactly what he’s averaged per start this season.  Not that that’s bad, but coupled with his injury history, it lowers his price to trade suitors.

3) Here’s the big one: he’s a free agent at the end of this year.  Therefore, it would be another rental situation.  The Brewers gave up a top 100 prospect in Matt LaPorta for a rental last year, but that was for a Hall of Fame-talent pitcher.  There’s no way they’d give up Gamel or Escobar to rent Bedard, nor would the Mariners expect them to.

A Mariners-Brewers trade is also logical because Jack Z is Seattle’s GM now, and he’s obviously extremely familiar with the Brewers’ system.  I’m sure there’s plenty of players in Milwaukee’s system that he’d love to add.

If Bedard doesn’t work out, there are some lesser pitchers who could be available.  Another free agent-to-be the Mariners have is Jarrod Washburn, who is quietly having his best season in years.  His stuff isn’t as good as Bedard’s, but he’s more durable and therefore less of a risk.  He actually probably wouldn’t even be that much cheaper than Bedard, and I’d be just about as pleased to get him.

Same goes for Randy Johnson.  The Brewers could get him without giving up Gamel or Escobar, but as I mentioned with Matt Cain, the Giants won’t trade him as long as they’re playing fairly well.

Another decent-yet-unexciting pickup could be our old friend Doug Davis.  He’s another guy in a contract year.

Any of these players I mentioned are better than most of the guys in the Brewers’ starting rotation right now.  The ideal pickup would be someone who’s better than everyone besides Gallardo, but there just aren’t many fits for reasons discussed above.  Regardless, the Brewers should be able to right the ship if they can add a solid pitcher.  If Manny Parra can get his head on straight as well, they’d be back in good shape.

Oh, and I’m still giving this the What in tarnation?!@ category even though it’s not in the title because I discussed why it wasn’t getting the What in tarnation?!@ category.  Wrap your mind around that one.


8 responses to “Starting Rotation: Pretty much an emergency

  1. Man, do you consider those guys that you listed upgrades?

    Jarrod Washburn is pitching in a park specifically designed for him and is essentially a left handed Suppan, a pitcher who has to mix his 5 pitches to be successful. Moving to Miller Park could kill him.

    Haven’t seen Doug Davis pitch this year, but he has to pretty similar.

    Can’t see the Mariners selling when Bedard’s value is so low. With the Brewers keeping their top 2 prospects, would a deal with them be better then the draft picks they could get with Bedard signing with some stupid team willing to give him A.J. Burnett money? My idea is that most teams would consider the two fairly similar, as Bedard’s stuff has never been the question, its been his want-to pitch and no team wants to give up someone who has the potential to be an ace and not get back a package that blows them away.

    Of those guys you listed, I think the Brewers are better off holding onto their guys and making another run next year.

    Was surprised you didn’t mention Guthrie. He seems to be the best fit of everyone avail and should be cheaper then Bedard.

    Know interdivision trades are rare, but have to think one of those Pirates starters could be had for a small package.

    And, finally, I leave you with a name who probably could be had on July 31st that could be a solid pick up and that you would probably hate. Bartolo Colon. He would cost one C level prospect more then likely if he returns from the DL.

  2. They’re all easily upgrades over what Parra and Looper have given this season. If they can’t get an impact pitcher, I’d settle for someone they know will eat innings. The Brewers don’t even have five of those right now. Doug Davis or someone like that wouldn’t really excite me, but he’s someone who’s at least proven that he generally won’t suck.

    Guthrie is another good candidate, though he has struggled some this season. I’ve mentioned him to Orioles fans in the office but I just forgot to include him in this post. I’d be pleased to get him.

    I would hope most teams stop banking on draft pick compensation for free agents. I have a sour taste in my mouth after expecting high picks for Sabathia and Sheets this year. Many teams get screwed out of a first rounder and have to settle for a second, or even third rounder for their prized free agent. If I’m a GM and I know I’m not going to re-sign a player (and I’m not contending this season), I’m going to get something I know I like for that player and not leave it up to chance in the flawed compensation system.

    I’m not good at this sort of thing because I don’t know other systems enough to know what their needs are, but I would think something along the lines of one of Jonathan Lucroy/Angel Salome (are they keeping Clement at catcher?) and Jake Odorizzi would be enough to get Bedard. Maybe add in someone like Lee Haydel, but I don’t think I’d give up more than that. Those are some solid prospects. Perhaps I’m undervaluing Bedard, but I think the red flags I pointed out make this a fair offer.

  3. In looking at that, I think alot of teams outside the Brewers view Salome as a tweener due to his size (5-7, 200) and wonder if he can withstand catching 140-150 games.

    I admittedly don’t know much about either Odorizzi or Haydel. I know Haydel is supposed to be amongst the faster guys in the minors, but a .292 OBP in A ball isn’t going to excite anyone (and is obviously your type of player, sounds like Michael Bourn circa 2008). Odorizzi is also just in R ball, so who knows about him?

    If you had Bedard, would you like that deal? Especially with the years those two hitters are having?

    I know when I interviewed with the Mariners, they sounded like they liked him at catcher. His offensive numbers (.272-.349-.451) are decent, but he may turn out to be a Ben Davis. I don’t know if they want to give him another setback by acquiring another catcher (especially since Adam Moore is another touted catching prospect giving him a run with a .292-.336.443 line at AAA).

    I just don’t think the Brewers have the bullets to pull off a deal for Bedard. I do think, depending on Jack Z’s view of those players and how much money the teams take back, that Odorizzi and Haydel would be a good starting point for Washburn.

  4. Well I know Jack Z likes Odorizzi because he took him in the supplemental first round last year.

    I’m having a difficult time gauging the value of rental players. Sabathia is probably the gold standard, so you know Bedard’s return won’t approach that. Aside from that, I’m really not sure. Like I said, I’m not good at coming up with trade ideas when prospects are involved. Caleb Gindl, Taylor Green and my guy Zack Braddock (he’s in A+ by the way) are other good but not great prospects that I’m sure Seattle would like, though I personally don’t want to see Braddock go. Despite being admittedly not great at proposing trades, I’m still confident they could get Bedard without giving up Gamel or Escobar.

  5. any word on Sheets’ progress/plans?

  6. Oh, how I wish. The latest reports are that he isn’t far enough along in his rehab to being discussing a contract with anyone. I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t make it back this season, although I know his goal was to come back sometime after the All-Star Break. I’d love to have him back, but Sheets and the Brewers just didn’t seem to part on good terms. I see the Rangers as the frontrunner whenever he does come back.

  7. I love small market teams talk. Every year our goal is to trade for some one who “doesn’t suck.” Great discussion. At least the Brew Crew keeps trades as a possibility. Can’t remember the last time the Twins brought in a rental to make a playoff push. No, picking up Sean Casey at the end of his career off waivers does not count.

  8. Gotta be Shannon Stewart, right? Of course that was probably about six years ago.

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