Tag Archives: Alex Gonzalez

May: The month of repeated groin punches

Posted by Steve

Wow.

It’s hard to imagine this getting much worse. The injuries have reached a comedic point, with whatever broke Jonathan Lucroy’s hand taking the cake. It’s actually fun to imagine the possibilities, assuming the story is true. What was in his suitcase? Was he using an aluminum metal case? Was it full of unmarked bills? Did it contain the nuclear football?

The injuries are just piling up. They’ve used their fourth shortstop of the year, which really doesn’t matter because all of them suck other than the one they started the year with. They’ve also lost their catcher, two first basemen, a center fielder, a starting pitcher, that starting pitcher’s replacement, and a closer’s facial hair. That’s all in one month. Oh, and they’ve also gone 9-15 over that span.

After such a terrible month, it is difficult to see this ending well. Plenty of people seem to have given up on the season. Although the Brewers have made it much tougher than they’d like, it’s too early to give up on the season. Baseball Prospectus still gives the Brewers an 18.1% chance of reaching the playoffs, believe it or not.

Even with all the injuries, I don’t think the Brewers are as bad as they’ve played. Obviously, Baseball Prospectus thinks that way too, as they give the fifth place Brewers the third-best chance in the division of reaching the playoffs.

I still have some hope. For one thing, the starting pitching has been much better lately. Their starting rotation is 13th in the NL in ERA, but 8th in FIP and xFIP. First, that’s much better than what it was three weeks ago. Secondly, this, just like last year, shows us that the Brewers starters are better than their ERA implies. Some of this can be blamed on defense (again, like last year), but they have also been fairly unlucky–their allowed batting average on balls in play is .307, which is the third-highest in the NL. Save for the random Arizona debacle, Greinke has been lights out lately. Marcum has been very good, and Gallardo and Wolf have been better too. It will be interesting to see if Mike Fiers can hold down a spot with Marco Estrada out.

I also think the loss of Jonathan Lucroy could be overstated. I recently made a post at Reviewing the Brew explaining why we should have expected Lucroy’s numbers to come way down the rest of the season. People were too caught up in how he’s done this year and expecting that all season, when in actuality, it’s entirely possible that George Kottaras outperforms what Lucroy would have done over the next 4-6 weeks. Just as big of a loss from Lucroy to Kottaras will be from Kottaras to Martin Maldonado as the backup catcher. Maldonado has a good defensive reputation, but he’ll be close to an automatic out.

I still maintain the only injury that is possibly fatal at this point is at shortstop. Alex Gonzalez is a solid player, and any of the three guys they’ve used to fill in all suck. They’re in a catch 22 right now. They need a shortstop and better fifth starter to reach the playoffs, but to get in position to make trades for those players, they need to first play better.

The next 3-4 weeks are critical. If they’re ten games out of a playoff spot by July, I’m probably ready to call it a season. At that point, it’s likely goodbye to Zack Greinke. Marcum, K-Rod and Wolf would probably all be gone, too. As much as I’d like to see Greinke sign, the Brewers could get a great haul for him if they’re out of the running.

The one thing that could be devastating for the Brewers is if they stay under .500 but still close enough that management (okay, Mark Attanasio) doesn’t want to sell. If they finish near or below .500 without trading off any players, someone deserves to be fired. With the haul they could get for Greinke, Marcum, Wolf, and K-Rod, they could contend again fairly soon.

Still, it isn’t yet time to fully have that conversation. The schedule looks favorable as soon as the team returns home, and the Brewers will have one other thing going for them: I’ve been so busy that I’ve hardly posted this month, which is clearly why they’ve struggled. I’ll be posting more going forward, which can only help, right?

Or are you telling me that you’re doubting a team that will feature a batter of Mike Fiers and Martin Maldonado, Cody Ransom at shortstop and three other players with negative WARs on the season. Is that what you’re telling me?

Bad to worse

Posted by Steve

While obviously not ideal, losing Chris Narveson and Mat Gamel was manageable. Losing Alex Gonzalez, who joins Gamel with a torn ACL, is a different story. Gonzalez had been impressive this season. He came up with some big hits, but more importantly, his defense was terrific. The Brewers have in-house options Gamel and Narveson, but there are no passable replacements for Gonzalez currently in the organization. If the Brewers want to contend this season, they’ll need to add a new shortstop somehow.

This should be the focus. I have no interest in adding Derek Lee to play first base. Not because he wouldn’t help; he’d fit in nicely as a platoon with Taylor Green. But who actually believes Roenicke wouldn’t play Lee most of the time? He’s a 36-year-old who had a .325 OBP last year; Lee won’t help as a near full-time player.

So, much like we did a few months ago, let’s look at some shortstop options.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many. It’s too early for teams to give up on the season, therefore you won’t find many sellers. Two who are so bad that they shouldn’t have qualms would be the Twins and Padres.

Jamey Carroll was just benched. The Twins gave him a two year deal for $6 million. He’s 38 and can’t play every day. I’m not all that interested in Carroll, but he wouldn’t cost much of anything in terms of prospects.

The Padres have Jason Bartlett signed for $5.5 million this year. Bartlett doesn’t do much for me, either. He hasn’t reached a WAR of 2 since 2009, and Fangraphs doesn’t think much of his defense.

Gonzalez already had a .4 WAR this season (Yuni had 0.5 all of last season!) The Brewers aren’t going to find someone to play at that level, although Gonzalez wasn’t going to keep that up either. Bartlett and Carroll just aren’t worth the money; they aren’t that much better than replacement level at this point.

The Brewers do need a new shortstop, but the reality is they will likely need to wait until sometime in June to get one. That means it’s up to play well enough in the meantime, so the team is still in position to buy once others are willing to sell.

I’m not all that worried yet, to be honest. Rickie Weeks, Aramis Ramirez, and Ryan Braun (save for one game, really) have yet to hit their stride offensively. Yo is going to turn it around. They should be able to hang around .500 and be in position to add a shortstop within the next 4-6 weeks.

Aoki, K-Rod, and others

Posted by Steve

It’s been quite a while since the last post, but that’s really because there has been virtually no Brewers news to discuss. Then all of a sudden, today we were hit with rapid-fire Brewers news.

How about an off-season Cornucopia of Thoughts?

K-Rod
I was pleasantly surprised that he agreed to a base salary of $8 million. I was expecting at least 11. At 8 mil, the Brewers no longer need to trade him. Or if they want to he’ll be easier to trade. My guess is they end up keeping him, because their bullpen is fairly weak without him. I can’t say I’m excited to watch him pitch, though.

Aoki
A possible fallout of the K-Rod deal might very well have been that the Brewers could now afford to sign Norichika Aoki, although I’m guessing this would have happened anyway. Since I’m pretty much resigned to the fact that Braun will be out 50 games, I’m happy about this signing (with the caveat that the yet-to-be-revealed salary isn’t insane). Hopefully he will be a competent fill-in for Braun for those 50 games. If nothing else, he will be a nice improvement on defense. In fact, when Hart is playing first on occasion (as Melvin recent admitted he’s planning for), an outfield of Aoki-Gomez-Morgan will be fantastic defensively. Even though two of those guys can’t throw, that outfield will rival Arizona’s or any other as one of the best in baseball because of all the ground they’ll cover. When you consider the Brewers have Alex Gonzalez over Yuni and Aoki over Kotsay, you might come to the conclusion that the defense this year could be much improved.

Mainly though, I’m just hoping Aoki can get on base at a pretty nice clip. The Brewers sorely need some OBP guys with Gomez/Morgan, Gonzalez, and Jonathan Lucroy in the everyday lineup.

Other signings
The Brewers have agreed to terms with Kameron Loe, Manny Parra, Carlos Gomez, and Nyjer Morgan on one year deals to avoid arbitration in recent days. When I was projecting the budget, I thought guys like Parra and Loe might be non-tendered. It sure seems like the Brewers will have a larger payroll than I expected; they’ll be pushing $100 million. Pretty crazy considering they were around $40 mil when Mark Attanasio took over the team.

Ryan Braun
This thing is sure dragging out. As I said earlier, I am fully expecting Braun to be out for the first 50 games. I have no idea whether he’s innocent (nobody really does), but my guess is he might be able to save some face in the public eye, but will fall short of overturning his suspension. MLB doesn’t care about intent, so whether there was intent to use a drug as a performance enhancer or not doesn’t really matter.

Craig Counsell
Craig Counsell is joining the Brewers’ front office as a special assistant to the GM. Most everyone seems excited that Counsell is staying in the organization. That’s fine, I guess, but wow is this one of those things that justifies my decision to abandon my pursuit of a job in baseball. Some of my friends have been in Baseball Ops for over five years, are really good at what they do, and are still going year-to-year on low-paying internships. Meanwhile, Craiggers waltzes into a nice cushy job with no front office experience. I’d be much more annoyed if I was still trying to make it, I suppose.

Cool off-season, Brewers. Not.

Posted by Steve

When the Alex Gonzalez signing broke Friday, I figured I could wait til Monday to post about it. What was going to happen over the weekend, anyway?

So basically, we have the good (Alex Gonzalez signing), the bad (Aramis Ramirez signing), and the ugly (Braun).

It seems silly to talk in depth about Alex Gonzalez, which is what I would have done a few days ago. So for now, I’ll just say that the fact I’m excited about his signing goes to show how truly awful Betancourt was. Gonzalez isn’t a great shortstop by any means. He’s an awful hitter with just as poor OBP skills as Betancourt, or at least almost as poor. The reason I’m excited is because no matter what metric you consult, the consensus is that he’s a good fielding shortstop. That means he’s a fairly significant upgrade, and he was cheap and only for one year. Not bad, all things considered.

Really, this has to be about Braun…. But what is there to even say at this point? Other than this seems like a bizarre case, not too much. At the risk of sounding like a Giants fan defending Barry Bonds, the few details we do have seem so fishy that it sounds like he could be innocent, so I’m fully willing to reserve judgment until more information comes out. Even if he does end up looking to be clean, I am fully expecting him to be suspended. MLB is trying to look tough with their new PED program, and what better way to do that than by making an example of a superstar? Short of proof that some guy spiked Braun’s sample for banging his girlfriend or something, I don’t think MLB will accept his appeal.

One thing that seems hopeful are the reports that it was not a PED, but simply a “banned substance,” whatever that means. That could mean his suspension would be only 25 games, and might save Braun’s public image a bit.

I know I haven’t really said much, but I don’t know that there is much to say about it at this point.

So, let’s talk about Aramis Ramirez. You know, the guy who threw his helmet at my favorite player of all time. The guy who hit a crippling walk-off homer against the Brewers years ago. The guy who has been criticized for laziness, can’t field anymore, and is 34 years old.

The guy who now plays third base for the Brewers. Ugh.

Even putting aside the fact that I don’t like him at all, I hate this signing. I detailed why a couple posts ago, and Ramirez ended up getting even more money that I would have figured. I hate the fact that there’s a third year. Who was Doug Melvin bidding against? Nobody else was even reported to be interested in him. Why a third year? He can’t even play third base right now; I cringe to think of three years from now.

Really, the Brewers acquired yet another first baseman. Their overall disregard for defense is really getting old, as Ramirez is  worse than McGehee at third.

If the Brewers had $36 million or whatever burning a hole in their pocket, I wish they’d have spent it in a place where they didn’t have a viable replacement already. Edwin Jackson to replace Chris Narveson would have been a better use of that money, for example.

So now Taylor Green remains a backup for the next three years. To be honest, they might as well just trade him now. They’d get more value out of him that way.

For what it’s worth, and I’m just rambling now, if Braun is out I’d like to see Ramirez at first, Green at third and Gamel in left during that time.

But anyway. Some good news: as I was typing this, the Brewers traded Casey McGehee to the Pirates for reliever Jose Veras. I’m shocked they got something in return, but I’m glad they won’t be paying 3 million bucks or whatever for McGehee.

So I guess we’re looking at an infield of Ramirez, Gonzalez, Weeks, and Gamel. Probably about average offensively, while still below average defensively. I’d love the infield if it was only going to look like that for a year, but like I said, I don’t want Ramirez for three years.

So, I guess there isn’t too much left for the Brewers. They need to sign a utility infielder–I wouldn’t mind Nick Punto as a good defensive utility player, since Green is an offensive player. They also probably need to trade K-Rod, as their payroll is now over $100 million.

The Brewers, depending on Braun’s status, should still be good next year. My problem is that they could have still been good without overpaying for an aging Aramis Ramirez.