It’s good to be bad

Posted by Steve

bad

Hey, so I haven’t made a post in months. Haven’t really been following the Brewers, but wanted to check in now that it’s June and see how things are going roughly 1/3 into the season. I miss anything?

Yikes. Well, this has gone about as poorly as it could’ve. Even more poorly than I (anyone?) expected. You’ve got the key injuries, the underperformance of crucial veterans, the complete flop of Scooter Gennett and the hilariously timed firing of Ron Roenicke (why was he allowed back after last season, again?). Quite the checklist of awfulness.

But. Is this really such a bad thing? Let’s quickly peruse all the feasible outcomes for the Brewers this season:

  1. Wallow in mediocrity, finish anywhere from 75-80 wins
  2. Everything goes right with luck and injuries (like most of last season), Brewers contend for the wildcard, and possibly get it
  3. Another collapse after a promising start
  4. Complete and utter disaster

On the surface, number 2 is the best case scenario, but only if they actually make the playoffs. The odds of that actually happening were quite low. Number 2 also allows for the increased likelihood of number 3 occurring, and I’m pretty sure nobody had interest in enduring that yet again.

No, I’d actually posit that number 4, our reality, is the best case feasible scenario for the Brewers.

Why, you ask? Because the Brewers need a rebuild in the worst way, and this type of season was the only way Mark Attanasio was going to sign off on one.

Every time I hear a fan or sports radio host or message board poster argue that “The Brewers could sell some pieces, NOT A COMPLETE REBUILD OF COURSE, but you know, sell off some vets,” it makes me want to set myself on fire. Selling off just “veterans,” which would mean Aramis Ramirez, Matt Garza, Kyle Lohse, and a couple relievers, would accomplish absolutely nothing for the long-term success of the team. In fact, a lot of people have been bemoaning the fact that Garza and Lohse sucking this year has screwed the Brewers by killing their trade value. To that, I say:

Trading overpaid pitchers who were already on the downside of their careers before this season was not going to net an overwhelming return. Certainly not enough to turn around their farm system, which is what they desperately need.

Fact: The Brewers are the worst team in the NL Central. Additional fact: The Brewers have the worst farm system in the NL Central. That is what you call the worst case scenario.

I should acknowledge that their system made solid strides last year and moved up most rankings; they’re now longer in the bottom six or seven. Orlando Arcia’s start has propelled him to an elite level prospect, Luis Sardiñas looks promising so far, and we get to see Tyler Wagner’s fast-tracked MLB debut today. However, they have a long way to go, and this season presents the Brewers with a real possibility to end the year with a top 8 farm system.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a long post arguing why the Brewers need to trade Jonathan Lucroy. Then over half of it got deleted, and I said screw it, I’ll finish it tomorrow. The next day, Dave Cameron’s post titled “The Case for Trading Jonathan Lucroy” hit Fangraphs and made almost all the points I did, so I scrapped it.

A few weeks later, and the main point remains the same. Carlos Gomez has a year and a half left on his contract. Jonathan Lucroy has two and a half years left on his. Both are bargain contracts, especially Lucroy. People who don’t want to trade them cite their contracts as reasons why the Brewers don’t need to trade them. Actually, that’s exactly why they do.

The Brewers will not be true contenders before those players hit free agency. They simply don’t have a core in place to challenge St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Chicago in the next few years. They probably won’t even contend in the next three and a half years, which is when Jean Segura is a free agent. So if they aren’t going to contend, why hold on to those players?

The Brewers under Doug Melvin almost never trade anyone at his highest value. Someone comment if you think of another one, but I am going all the way back to what I think was his first trade ever, dealing Richie Sexson for half of a team, to find one. Instead, he holds on to a player until he’s in his last contract year, limiting his return, or he waits until the player has declined, also diminishing the return.

The Brewers have a chance to cash in on three excellent trade chips in Lucroy, Gomez and Segura. Gomez is still playing well, Lucroy’s goofy toe injury won’t hurt his value, and Segura has regained much of his with a revitalized season. Each would bring back a very nice return, and the Brewers would load up their system with Top 100 prospects.

It’s a long shot, but they should also at least try to see if Ryan Braun’s hot streak could get someone to take him. Even with his performance, they probably wouldn’t get a team to take more than 80% of a contract that was bad the moment it was signed. That would still be in the Brewers’ best interest, because an expensive, declining Braun will hamstring them going forward.

As uninteresting as the Brewers’ season on the field has been, this is set up to be the most interesting season in several years. This is a rare chance to convince Mark Attanasio, a.k.a. Baseball’s Herb Kohl (.500 or bust!!!@!) to actually tear down and rebuild. The Brewers need to take advantage of it and set themselves up for success a few years from now.

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