Tag Archives: Jimmy Nelson

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.

The Brewers should trade Jimmy Nelson

Posted by Steve

If you chose to be critical of the Brewers’ approach over the last 8 years or so, I don’t know if I could disagree with you. They have made big win-now trades that have propelled them to two playoff appearances, but they have also traded away a lot of future talent. It is not the recipe for sustained success in the mold of the Rays, A’s or Cardinals.

However, the Brewers’ bed is made. They don’t have a continual stream of prospects reaching the big leagues like they did 8 years ago. They had an unexpected hot streak at the beginning of the year and somewhat unexpectedly found themselves in contention. For the reasons I’ll lay out, the Brewers need to make a big trade to reach the playoffs this year.

The Brewers have been in first place most of this season, but that does not mean they are the best team in the division. Their pythagorean record indicates the Brewers have been lucky to have their current record of 59-49. Worse yet is their upcoming schedule in August. The Brewers will play the Cardinals, the Giants twice and the Dodgers twice over the next month–a brutal stretch. Without a boost to the team, I fully expect the Brewers to fall out of the division lead.

PECOTA has 7 teams in the NL with a greater than 50% chance of reaching the playoffs. Obvious, two of those teams won’t make it, and I think it’s pretty likely the Brewers will miss, given their remaining schedule and regression to their true talent level.

Dodgers: 96.1%
Nationals: 85.8 %

Those two teams should be off the Brewers’ radar, as they will likely have playoff spots locked up and won’t be competing with them for a spot. Here’s where it gets more interesting.

Cardinals: 60.8%
Giants: 60.5%
Brewers: 59.3%
Braves: 58.7%
Pirates: 53.5%

Three of those five teams will make the playoffs, barring some other team getting very hot and coming out of nowhere. The Brewers, Pirates, and Cardinals have the most to gain, as one of them will win a division and not have to play a stupid play-in game.

Basically, the Brewers are in a position in which an addition can really impact their chances. It would mean more for the Brewers to go add a big piece than the Dodgers, because the Dodgers are just about a lock for the postseason. Conversely, it could be a back breaker for the Brewers if the Pirates or Cardinals add a pitcher like Jon Lester while the Brewers stand pat. The NL Central race is that close.

Another reason it makes sense for the Brewers to make a big move is because of the “window” that Doug Melvin likes to talk about. The Brewers have all of their starting rotation under contract for next season, but after that, Lohse and Gallardo are free agents. Not that this makes it impossible for the Brewers to be good after 2015, but it’s seems somewhat likely that the Brewers will be due for a drop-off. So, why not go for broke in 2014 and 2015?

Finally, another factor to consider is that prospects very rarely reach their ceilings. In trades for CC Sabathia, Shaun Marcum, and Zack Greinke, the Brewers traded many prospects. At this point, only two look like true difference makers (Michael Brantley and Jake Odorizzi). Think of all the other highly rated guys who didn’t amount to more than average-ish players: Matt LaPorta, Jeremy Jeffress, Alcides Escobar, Brett Lawrie (Still young, but nothing impressive so far). Plus, they got three young players back for Greinke the following season.

So what is my more specific point? It’s that the Brewers should trade Jimmy Nelson.

Nelson is the highest rated prospect they’ve had in years, so why would they trade him? Looking deeper, it makes sense. The Brewers do have some intriguing prospects, potential difference-makers in their system, but none are close the the big leagues. You ideally want a wave of young guys reaching the big leagues around the same time. Nelson is not part of any wave.

I also think it’s entirely possible that Nelson’s trade value is higher now than it will ever be at any point in his career. He’s number 38 on Baseball America’s mid-season prospect list. He’s dominated in AAA all year, and he’s now broken into the big leagues, where he hasn’t yet proved he’ll fail. He projects to be a good pitcher, but not an ace-type–more like a 2-3. And he likely won’t be a good MLB pitcher this year yet.

If the Brewers could use him to acquire a substantial upgrade, either in the form of a better starting pitcher or a left-handed slugger (preferably first base), then it greatly improves the Brewers’ chances of winning the division. Someone like Jon Lester would be a great fit, or even John Lackey. Cole Hamels would be great, but he’d likely require more than the Brewers have (under contract for multiple years) and so would David Price (Rays back in the race), but neither are very likely. Other players may or may not be available (Justin Morneau would look pretty good in a Brewers uniform), but I won’t speculate much when I don’t know who.

The reason I mention Lackey and Lester is they are both clearly on the block, and they both could likely be had for Nelson. Lackey because he isn’t quite as good of a pitcher (still having a nice season), and Lester because he’s a free agent after that season. Both of those factors make their price lower than Price or Hamels, and it’s possible that if Nelson is included, the Brewers could expand the deal and add another piece from Boston (perhaps Mike Carp or Koji Uehara).

All I know is that a number of factors support that the Brewers should be aggressive in their goal of winning this season. Nelson is the biggest trade piece they have, and it makes sense to use him.