Posted by Steve
Things sure hit the fan today. You’ve probably heard by now, but just to recap, the Brewers made the following moves today.
DFA’d Bill Hall
Optioned J.J. Hardy to AAA Nashville
Called up Alcides Escobar
Called up Jason Bourgeois
Fired Bill Castro
Wow. That’s a lot to compute, and to be honest, a lot to be angry about.
Let’s start with the most shocking move, which has to be sending J.J. Hardy down to AAA. Hardy has been a gigantic disappointment this year. He had a great season last year, and he should be right in his physical prime, so this nosedive is perplexing. Still, this move definitely caught me off guard.
A big wrinkle in this appears to be what this will do for Hardy’s service time. It seems possible that by sending him to the minors now, he’d lose enough service time to delay his free agent year from 2010 to 2011. If this move allows the Brewers to keep Hardy for two more year after this season rather than one, it’s a shrewd/dirty move depending on your perspective. It would allow Hardy another year to rebuild his diminished trade value.
I personally think that if this is the motivation behind the move, it’s a smart play. Hardy can only blame himself; if he hadn’t had such a poor 2009 he wouldn’t have been sent down. Doug Melvin seemed to play dumb when asked about this situation, but of course it’s in his best interest to make this move seem entirely performance-based. Hardy’s performance does justify the demotion, so I’m willing to buy that reasoning.
A lot about calling up Alcides Escobar doesn’t sit well with me. For one, he hasn’t shown he’s at all ready for the Majors. What’s so special about a .762 OPS in AAA? He’s only 22; why not make him actually earn his way onto the roster? By doing this, you’re burning up two months of his service time. Ironically, this is the same mistake they made with J.J. Hardy years ago. Hardy was rushed to the big leagues, struggled mightily and is now set to hit free agency a year earlier than if he was kept in AAA. Escobar at 29 is much more valuable than Escobar at 22.
The other aspect of this that bugs me is Ken Macha’s refusal to play young players. He botched the Mat Gamel situation miserably, and he seems poised to do it again with Escobar. Macha is already talking about using Escobar mainly against lefties. How absurd. Is Doug Melvin actually going to let this guy platoon each of their two top prospects for extended periods in the same season? Top prospects need to be playing everyday somewhere.
Much of this Escobar/Hardy situation hinges on what is done for next season. It is my firm belief that Escobar belongs in AAA to start next season. He is just not ready to contribute offensively at the big league level. Jose Reyes, a player many seem to hope Escobar can become, struggled mightily in the Majors early in his career when he should have been down in the minors. Reyes wasn’t a good offensive player until his fourth season in the majors. Elvis Andrus, another young shortstop Escobar is often compared to (both are great defenders with good speed), is also an example of a player who’s been rushed. Andrus has a .685 OPS. That’s terrible, and the Rangers are foolish for having him up in the majors this season. I don’t want to see this happen with Escobar, especially if Hardy ends up getting his free agency delayed a year. Hardy should be the Brewers’ shortstop next year. As bad as he’s been, he still has had prolonged success at the Major League level and is therefore a much better bet than Escobar in 2010. If Hardy’s traded, the Brewers need to find a stopgap. Escobar is still the future, but he needs to earn his way into the starting spot. It would be nice if he wasn’t an offensive black hole when he took over the shortstop job.
This really is just an ugly ending to a long, bad story. This is one that I can’t blame the Brewers for at all. Hall has been bad ever since signing his contract extension, and he’s actually gotten progressively worse each season. He even stopped hitting lefties this year, which was his only redeeming quality outside of defense last season. The Brewers are on the hook for quite a bit of money, but I can’t even blame them for giving Hall that contract. At that time, he was coming off a great year, and even had a good year prior to that one. There was no sign whatsoever of such a drastic collapse. Just about every fan was thrilled when they signed Hall to that deal. Heck, one of the first posts I ever made here was praising the extension. Hall was one of my favorite Brewers, and his departure also means the end to my favorite Brewers cheer of all time: Eight Letters! Four Ls!
This move bugs me as much as anything else that happened today. Bill Castro, an organizational soldier for the last 18 years, is fired before even completing his first season as pitching coach? That’s deflecting blame and making Castro the scapegoat for the terrible pitching this year. Is Castro the one who assembled a rotation featuring the Terrible Twosome of Jeff Suppan and Braden Looper? Did Castro injure Dave Bush? Castro was only able to work with what he was given, and what he was given this season was crap. Castro was as responsible for the successes of pitchers over the years as any pitching coach the Brewers have had during the course of his 17 years as bullpen coach. I understand that there’s no evidence that Castro has done a good job, but 17 years as a respected bullpen coach should earn him the chance to coach next year’s pitching staff with (hopefully) an upgrade in talent.
Again, this reminds me of the Yost firing from last year, minus the justification. This seems more like a Mark Attanasio move than a Doug Melvin move.
These are some dark times in the Brewers organization. Ken Macha is likely to be reevaluated after the season, and I’ve been disappointed with him continually since the end of May. Abusing Gallardo and mismanaging Gamel are inexcusable. I like Doug Melvin, but he deserves some blame for this season as well. Most GMs aren’t allowed to hire a third manager. I hope not, but I can’t help but wonder if this is the beginning of the end for the Mustachioed Marvel.