Yovani Gallardo and the Brewers’ game of poker

Posted by Steve

While most of Wisconsin was taking a collective gut punch yesterday afternoon, I was (along with receiving said gut punch) refreshing Twitter to see what the Brewers were getting from the Rangers for Yovani Gallardo.

You know by now: The Brewers are “on the verge of” trading Gallardo, “appear set to” trade Gallardo, or “have an agreement in principle” to trade Gallardo to Texas. Weirdly, over 24 hours later, we still don’t know what the Brewers are getting in return.

That hasn’t stopped a number of blogs to somehow evaluate the deal. One headline I saw called it a “brilliant” move for the Brewers. How someone can say that without knowing the return is beyond me. What if it was for a mediocre reliever and middling prospect? Or Kevin Mench again? Or for Ron Washington to take over as manager (I know he’s not there anymore, but still)?

Anyway, I’m not going to write about any potential return, or even this move in general. Instead, this is about the direction the Brewers should go from here.

Let’s take a look at the players the Brewers have under contract for only 2015, thanks to this Cot’s page. It’s a good bit of talent, but more than that, it’s quite a bit of salary commitment. It includes:

Aramis Ramirez $14 m
Yovani Gallardo $13 m
Kyle Lohse $11 m
Jonathan Broxton $9 m (option for 2016)
Adam Lind $7 m (option for 2016)
Gerardo Parra $6.2 m

The way I see, there are two options.

1. Keep all these guys for one last year to go for broke and a playoff push.

2. Get rid of all of them.

I’m fine with either. What I don’t want is something somewhere in between. It’s why I wanted them to trade Jimmy Nelson last year for an impact player to put them over the top. Something like trading Gallardo for a couple okay prospects (don’t expect much on his return–he’s a league average starter with a one-year contract) to either lower the payroll or sign a reliever or two isn’t a smart move. It lowers the chance of winning this year without making a big move toward the future.

Even worse would be trading Gallardo to then either trade for Jordan Zimmermann or sign James Shields, both of which I’ve seen speculated on Twitter and brewerfan.net. Shields is past his prime, would be expensive, and would require the Brewers to forfeit the #15 draft pick. Bad idea. Zimmermann is great, but would cost a lot in terms of prospects and is only under contract for one more year. Why not just wait and sign him next off-season?

Option two: If they dealt all those guys, and even Gomez (only two years left) if they could get a great return, they could put themselves in great position for the future.

I actually prefer this option. The Brewers need a cost-controlled core to have long-term success. Right now, they don’t have much of that at all. Jimmy Nelson, Segura, Khris Davis (who isn’t even that young), and Wily Peralta is about it. They need more to depend on beyond 2016.

Target a number of young players (a third baseman of the future is a must) that are close to MLB ready (like Segura was), and then sign one or two of the free agent starting pitchers available next year. It’s a nice crop, with Zimmermann, Rick Porcello, Johnny Cueto, Doug Fister, Jeff Samardzija, Ian Kennedy and Matt Latos all on the market next off-season.

I’d make those moves next year with an eye toward the future, then make Zimmermann a priority next year. A rotation with Zimmermann, Peralta and Nelson is a solid foundation, and you’d presumably pick up more pitching in other deals.

Either way, they need to be all in or all out. One of the worst moves in poker is repeatedly calling bets, hoping you hit something. It’s a great way to lose chunks of money at a time; you should either be folding or raising. What the Brewers did at last year’s deadline (very little) was the equivalent of calling all the way to the river. The Brewers need to choose one path and stick with it. If I were Doug Melvin, I’d fold this hand with an eye on the future.

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