Tag Archives: Mark Attanasio

Mark Attanasio, Kyle Lohse, and Shortsightedness

Posted by Steve

The Brewers’ front office continues to show it prefers year-to-year, patchwork solutions over anything resembling a long-term plan. Their owner meddles in baseball operations to the point that he pushes for acquisitions that are detrimental to the future of the team. It is more important to them to appear like they are making every attempt to win now, every season, than it is to actually do what is best for the long-term health of the franchise.

We saw this least season with their refusal to admit they were not a contender until the 11th hour of the trade deadline. We saw it this off-season with their decision to not shop around veteran players toward the end of their deals. And we saw it today, with their shortsighted signing of Kyle Lohse.

By now you’ve surely heard: the Brewers signed Lohse to a three-year, $33 million contract with performance incentives.  To put it another way, the same team that won an average of 78.3 games in PECOTA’s 2013 simulation and had the smallest chance at the playoffs in the NL Central just forfeited a first round draft pick, three years and $33 million on a 34 year-old pitcher.

Short-term, it seems to make sense. The Brewers have young, inexperienced pitching! That same young, inexperienced pitching has struggled in Spring Training! In a world where Spring Training stats matter (unfortunately, that’s not this world), there might seem to be a need.

If the Brewers were around a 85-win team or so on paper, signing Kyle Lohse could be a smart move that could put them over the hump and get them into the playoffs. Problem is, the Brewers aren’t that team. PECOTA at this point actually projects them with the same record as the Cubs and tied for last in the division. Lohse had above average seasons the last two years. His best year was 2012. If we take his WAR of 3.6 from last year and add it to the projected win total, that would put the Brewers at 81.9 wins—still not enough to reach the playoffs. That calculation isn’t foolproof either—if you add Lohse’s WAR, you need to subtract the pitcher he’d be replacing, which likely lessens the team win projection even more.

Essentially, this moves a team that was projected to win around 78 games to a team that is projected to win around 81 games. And for that, they hamstring themselves to another mid-30s pitcher who is somewhat likely to not even pitch to the end of his contract.

There is something that is even more concerning than the Lohse deal itself. Earlier in the off-season, the Brewers tried to land free agent starter Ryan Dempster. The Brewers would only offer him a two-year deal, and he eventually signed with Boston. At the time, Melvin talked of “learning a lesson” with past deals and not wanting to offer a third year. Later, when asked about Lohse, he said giving up a draft pick was a deal-breaker. So what changed?

The season got closer, the pitching looked poor in Spring Training, and the owner panicked.

It’s been widely reported that Mark Attanasio “remained in contact” with Scott Boras over the last few weeks. Why is Attanasio talking with a player agent? That is Doug Melvin’s job.

We know Attanasio was behind the Suppan signing to a degree. Presumably he’s been involved with others as well. And sure, owners should be involved, but he shouldn’t be negotiating the deal.

The Brewers have had a couple of very good seasons in the last handful of years. Sprinkled in between them, however, were some years of failed free agent pitching signings rather than focusing on a long-term plan. A forward-thinking front office might have seen that the Brewers have several key pieces nearing free agency and/or reaching the end of their primes, and that it might be wise to cash in those pieces before they lose value or leave for nothing.

Instead, the Brewers did the opposite. They overpaid by a year and forfeited a draft pick for yet another mid-30s, past-his-prime pitcher, and they gave up a first round pick to do it. Lohse might still be solid this year, but it’s the same story as all the ex-Cardinals pitchers the Brewers sign: his defense behind him won’t be as good as the one last year, and that’s likely to end poorly. Jeff Suppan was 32 when he signed. Randy Wolf was 33. Kyle Lohse is 34. That is not trending in the right direction. I could say more about Lohse and what he’s expected to do, but I almost think that’s for another post. My focus here is on the Brewers’ overall philosophy.

In his presser, Doug Melvin just said, “This signing makes us a better club than we were yesterday.” This perfectly illustrates the problems with the current makeup of the front office. Lohse would have made the Astros better too. That doesn’t mean it would make sense for them to sign him.

Here’s what you can see coming a mile away: The Brewers will be around .500, maybe even a few games below, and rather than selling, they’ll make a deal for a reliever, or a #4 -type starter, still miss the playoffs, and start the cycle all over again

Just lose, baby.

I have the misfortune of being a Milwaukee Bucks fan. Save for one season in 2001, the Bucks have wallowed in mediocrity for most of my life. One reason for this is while they are often bad, they are rarely bad enough. The NBA is constructed in such a way that tanking can pay off. It’s near impossible to contend for a title without a superstar, and superstars are generally drafted in the top five picks.

Yet, under the ownership of Herb Kohl, the Bucks refuse to tank. This year is a prime example. With an injured Andrew Bogut, the Bucks were sitting pretty with the fifth worst record in the NBA and a struggling team. Instead of building for the future, they made win-now moves, which was good enough to get them to ninth in the Eastern Conference and the 12th overall pick. Once again this season, they look to be patching things together for another season around .500 rather than rebuilding for the future. Awful. It’s a good thing I’m not nearly as big of a Bucks fan as I am for the Brewers.

So what do the Brewers have to do with the Bucks? Nothing, really, but the comparison can be made. It is time for the Brewers to invest in their future rather than this season, or even next season. Therefore, I’m now openly hoping the team loses for the next few weeks.

It’s not for the same reason I root for the Bucks to lose, because it has nothing to do with obtaining a higher draft pick. The MLB draft is much more of a crapshoot anyway, way too much for tanking to be a good strategy. No, I’m rooting for the Brewers to keep losing in order to protect them from themselves. I want there to be no doubt in Doug Melvin’s mind–or perhaps more importantly, Mark Attanasio’s–that the team should sell.

Even though things weren’t looking good, for weeks I kept the attitude of, “Well, they still could come back. They still have a 20-whatever percent chance.” Well, Baseball Prospectus now has that down to just a 6.3% chance at the postseason, the bullpen is in shambles, and in direct contrast to last season, the Brewers seem to find creative ways to lose games.

I was fine riding out this season and hoping for another playoff run. I actually thought they had a decent chance, and when you have a real chance, you need to go for it. However, they got hit hard with injuries, and the bullpen has been much worse than Doug Melvin probably ever imagined. It happens, and it’s not the end of the world. With all the impending free agents, next year’s team is going to look a lot different. My hope is that the team doesn’t take the patchwork approach of the Bucks and instead looks toward the future.

Things would have been entirely different if the Brewers could have signed Zack Greinke earlier this year. It’s entirely possible that the Matt Cain contract extension changed the course of the Brewers’ franchise. Before that deal, we were looking at $85-95 million as a hopeful extension for Greinke. I remember hoping they could keep it at $100 million or under. Now, there’s no chance of that.

Greinke is just a few months away from the open market, where he is very likely to exceed Cain’s deal. I am not even comfortable with the Brewers giving a pitcher Cain money, much less more than that, so I consider Greinke as good as gone.

Without Greinke next year, it’s hard to see the Brewers making a playoff run. And if they don’t have a real chance next year, why not overlook next season in order to increase their chances in 2014 and beyond? Trading not only Greinke, but Marcum (PLEASE GET HEALTHY SOON), Hart, Morgan, K-Rod, Axford, Aoki, or anyone else they can get good value for shouldn’t be off the table.

This would be a tough sell to Mark Attanasio, who needs to run a business and wants to continue drawing fans. That’s why I’m hoping the Brewers force his hand. If they’re 8+ games back around the trade deadline, it will be an easier sell.

Since I see that as beneficial for the franchise overall, I am rooting for them to lose. It feels strange, but honestly, it makes the games a lot less stressful. I still watch, and I’ll still go to games, but it’s nice not to get so frustrated by a team that would otherwise frustrate the hell out of me.

It shouldn’t be much longer now. By this time in 2008, CC Sabathia was a Brewer. Buyers are likely preparing their offers now. There have been reports of the Brewers scouting the Rangers’ and Braves’ minor league teams, so you have to think there has been plenty of dialogue between the Brewers and contending teams.

All we need now is for them to keep losing and push a deal over the edge.

Sorting through “Black Wednesday”

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.

Hardy

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.

Escobar

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.

Hall

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!

Castro

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.