10 Worst Doug Melvin Moves | Disciples of Uecker

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10 Worst Doug Melvin Moves

By on August 12, 2015

Originally posted May 23, 2013

Earlier on, we looked at the 10 best moves in the tenure of Brewers’ president and general manager Doug Melvin. Before delving into the negative side, it’s worth looking back at those. Some of the items on this list are going to spark some disagreement. I’ve tried to spell out my reasoning as clearly as possible, especially on the deals that may not seem so bad on the surface or in the apparent results. Some of these things come down to philosophical differences, and those sorts of differences are always going to spark the most heated debate. Once again, I look forward to seeing what people think in the comments section.  Alright, ready for the bad stuff?

10) CC Sabathia trade

OK, put down the pitchforks and torches and let me explain why this wasn’t Doug Melvin’s finest moment. This isn’t about CC, he was obviously amazing for the Brewers, and a key component of the franchise’s first playoff run in over a quarter century. It’s also not about the players that were traded turning into stars, as clearly Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, Rob Bryson, and Zach Jackson didn’t become the kind of stars that you regret trading. The problem is more philosophical. The fact of the matter is that Melvin used a big chunk of his most valuable minor league trade pieces to rent a player for three month’s time. Make no mistake, those players traded away had considerable trade value, even if they didn’t turn out as was expected. The mistake isn’t so much trading them away, but rather putting all of those assets towards one, and one only, playoff run. The team did happen to scrape in, but they paid the price for this (and other moves) over the next two seasons as they found no way to build a playoff caliber rotation despite having a fine young offense to work with. Context is also important here, because if the Brewers had more pitching coming up through the farm system at the time maybe this makes more sense. They didn’t, and thus long-term needs of the franchise were only temporarily met, and then the club was once again left searching for pitching.

9) Hiring Ken Macha as manager.

One of the hardest things any general manager has to do is to hire a field manager and obviously Melvin hasn’t hit a home run with any of his three managerial hires. Still, at least Ned Yost accomplished the successful “breaking-in” of those 2000-05 draftees and Ron Roenicke has a career 197-172 record. The Ken Macha hire was basically a disaster from start to finish. Yes, it’s true he wasn’t given much in the way of a starting rotation to work with, and he was tactically more in line with my thinking than either of the other two, but his inability to run a functional clubhouse ultimately kept him from being given the chance with a good rotation in 2011. What makes the hire worse was that he came to Milwaukee with a reputation for being hard to get along with, but that didn’t seem to matter. At the end of the day, 2009 and 2010 represent tremendously blown opportunities for contention and Ken Macha was at the helm for those two debacles.

8) Signing David Riske.

This is what happens so often when teams invest money in relievers, especially those without much in the way of velocity and already on the wrong side of 30. The Brewers gave Riske 12 million over three years and were rewarded with 66 2/3 innings of 5.40 ERA (77 ERA+) pitching. This was also a very poorly timed move, in that the team was committing to paying him four-plus million a year through the key 2009 and 2010 seasons, but more on that later.  Fortunately, Melvin seems to have somewhat learned from this mistake since then, having given out no more than a two year contract to any reliever since then.

7) Allowing the first rounds of the 2009 and 2011 drafts to happen.

Neither list has included much about the draft to this point, other than Melvin choosing to retain Jack Z, and that is completely by design. General managers don’t run the drafts of their teams in baseball the way that they do in other sports. That is left to scouting directors who spend all year evaluating amateur baseball talent through their network of scouts and cross-checkers. Still, the responsibility for these decisions ultimately falls to the general manager, and Melvin has never been shy about taking responsibility for his involvement with first-round picks. It really appears as though the Brewers, in a perpetual quest for starting pitching, took three college starters with limited upside but who could theoretically help the team sooner rather than later. 2009 first-rounder Eric Arnett has been a bust basically since the word go. 2011 15th overall pick Jed Bradley has struggled mightily and has scouts questioning if the Brewers will ever get anything out of him. Only 2011 12th overall pick Taylor Jungmann appears to be on a clear path to the big leagues, but he has struggled to miss bats and seems destined more for the back end than the front end of a big league rotation at this point. Getting that little out of three first round picks, especially when two of them were in the top 15 of a loaded 2011 draft, isn’t something that a team in a small TV market can do and sustain success for long.

6) Trading Doug Davis for Johnny Estrada.

Yes, Doug Davis was frustrating to watch at times. He walked too many batters and didn’t strike many guys out. He took forever to get the ball to the plate and every start seemed like a trip to the dentist. He also ate a ton of innings from 2007 to 2009 (542 IP) and did so with solidly above average run prevention (4.22 ERA and a 109 ERA+). He did so with the Diamondbacks, and for the cost of 22 million dollars. In return, the Brewers primarily got back Johnny Estrada, whose one year of occasional power, quick and numerous outs and painfully inept defense couldn’t end fast enough. The team also got back Claudio Vargas and Greg Aquino, but any value gained there was basically wiped out by giving up Dana Eveland, who did post one useful year for the A’s when he still would have been under Brewers’ control. Perhaps the worst thing about this deal is it then left a hole in the Brewers’ rotation for an inning eater….but more on that later.

5) Trading Brett Lawrie to get Shaun Marcum.

Yes, Marcum was a key piece in the 2011 playoff run and Lawrie has been hurt and intermittently awful with only flashes of  brilliance. This one, like the Sabathia trade, really comes down to a philosophical difference on the best way to run a small market franchise. Trading away high-upside, talented prospects for limited control of players is a dangerous game, and not one that financially strapped teams cannot afford to play very often. Even if the Brewers were dissatisfied with Lawrie’s attitude and wanted to trade him, targeting an often hurt pitcher with modest fastball velocity hardly seems like the best possible use of a consensus top 50 prospect. When panning this deal in the past the common response has often been “well, without making this trade they don’t get Greinke.” Even if that is true, that speaks more to the failure over the years on Melvin’s part to acquire enough pitching through other means than it justifies a course of action like this. If we want to be most charitable to Melvin, we could perhaps say that the sin wasn’t making the trade so much as it was being in the position to feel the need to make the trade. Of course, Melvin had already been at the helm at that point for eight seasons, so the position they were in was mostly his doing to begin with.

4) Bill Hall‘s contract extension.

In 2005 and 2006 combined, Bill Hall hit .280/.344/.525 over the course of over 1,154 plate appearances and showed enough defensive utility that giving him a four year deal for roughly 25 million seemed like a slam dunk. Unfortunately, Hall would never again hit like anything close to that again, and the contract would become something that had to be worked around from that time forward. There were rumors (most notably the now infamous ESPN “Player X” column in 2010) that Hall became a party animal after getting paid, something he denied. If that was the case, then it’s hard to really fault Melvin for making the deal, since no one can know for sure what another person is going to do in a situation like that. If not, then the failure is primarily a scouting one, and scouting is more of an art than a science and mistakes are inevitable. Either way, it hurt the team and Melvin did it, so it belongs on this list.

3) Ryan Braun‘s second contract extension.

Again, with the pitchforks and torches. This one gets really tricky and could still work out reasonably well for the Brewers if Braun can sustain something like his current level of performance for the next five or six seasons. Like the Greinke for Segura trade being on the good moves list, this one involves a good deal of projection since it doesn’t even begin for almost three more years. The main issue is that the Brewers simply didn’t have to do this deal. They already had Braun under a fantastically team friendly deal through his age 31 season. Getting the years that comprise most players’ “prime” years at such a massive discount was a huge coup, but then they went out and paid an additional 100 million to get his age 32-36 seasons. To be sure, some players are highly productive through those years, but others see significant decline. Many start dealing with chronic injuries that keep them off the field or hamper their ability to be the player they once were. The best thing that can be said about this deal is the Brewers didn’t have to pay anything like the premium that other teams paid for their starts, but if Braun can’t justify the contract on its own merits, how it compares to other deals won’t matter.

2) The Carlos Lee trade with Texas.

As much as acquiring Lee goes to Melvin’s credit, the way in which he handled Lee’s departure was flawed on a number of levels. First off, Melvin failed to deal him after the successful 2005 campaign, when he could have conceivably gotten more for a full year than for two months of Lee. He also then made the mistake of including Nelson Cruz in the deal, just because Texas didn’t want to be left empty handed when Lee walked. While it did take Cruz a couple more years (and a trip through waivers) to produce, and he probably never gets that long of a leash in Milwaukee, it still was an odd decision to include him just to get back what they did. Kevin Mench, Laynce Nix and Francisco Cordero all plugged holes for the team, and allowed the team to claim that they weren’t “giving up” on the season, but they simply were not very valuable. Cordero was the best of the bunch, but he was merely a solid relief pitcher made out to be more because he had the Proven Closer Seal of Approval. Perhaps most glaringly, Melvin did not acquire any starting pitching in this deal. We can’t know what sorts of guys were offered for Lee, but considering the mediocre return that did come back, taking a chance on an upside arm or two wouldn’t have kept them from achieving anything they did achieve and could have possibly led to much more.

1) Signing Jeff Suppan.

Was there really any other way to go with #1 on this list? Suppan was really the wrong player, at the wrong time on the wrong contract and it was pretty apparent from the get go that it wasn’t a good idea.  Suppan was an aging pitcher who relied heavily on the outstanding Cardinals’ defense to turn his ground balls into outs. His stuff was showing steady decline and it was never realistic to think that he would hold his value through the contract. Despite that, the Brewers decided to backload the deal and pay him almost 2/3 of the contract’s 42 million price tag over the last two years when he predictably became a sub replacement level pitcher. The timing couldn’t have been worse for the club, as 2009 and 2010 became prime years for the young offensive core put together by Jack Z through the draft. Each of those years, the Brewers began the season with essentially 20 million-plus  in “dead money” between the Suppan, Hall and Riske contracts that could have been used on pitching but instead went largely to waste. This was an epic miscalculation and it played the biggest role in costing the team two prime years of contention.

Moves that just missed the top 10: Signing Wes Helms, trading Jorge De La Rosa for Tony Grafanino, signing Eric Gagne, the Derrick Turnbow extension, bringing Trevor Hoffman for a second season in 2010.

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Tell us what do you think.

  1. Hyatt says: May 23, 2013

    Just to expand on #7. The following guys Melvin and the front office passed on, including 2013 BA top 100 prospects ranking or 2012 if they’re already in the majors:
    2009- Nick Franklin, SS (79), Rex Brothers LHP (already 3.8 bWAR), James Paxton (87). They then took Kentrail Davis right before the Dbacks took Tyler Skaggs RHP (10). They also took Kyle HEckathorn, passing on guys like Jason Kipnis (6.8 bWAR), Billy Hamilton (You know who Billy Hamilton is) and Nolen Arenado (1.4 bWAR). Now before you say “Everyone passed on those guys.” Yes, but specifically Doug and co did.

    I am not exactly comfortable giving them a pass on 2010. but then we got a makeup pick the next year so passing on Taijuan Walker wasn’t a complete disaster.

    But then comes 2011, where Jungmann would’ve been available at 15, and we could’ve had Jose Fernandez (#5 and already in the majors due to poor management decisions), Not to mention taking Bradley and passing on Matt Barnes (48), Taylor Guerrieri (62), and Alex Meyer (59).

    These guys I mentioned may all die in a BA top 100 party bust crash and become nothing. But you are looking at big time missed opportunities that lead me to think that before it’s all said an done that #7 on the list will end up being in the top 5.

    • Ryan Topp says: May 23, 2013

      Some good points. I think there is some evidence that they failed in the first round of 2009-2011 fairly severely. What’s interesting is that they really haven’t had much trouble finding prospects who profile well compared with (or much better than) the rounds they were drafted in later. Not sure what that means, but I do think it’s worth bringing up.

      Also, I am uncomfortable just pulling SPECIFIC names from the draft out and saying “why didn’t you draft so and so” instead? Fact is, lots of teams passed on most of those guys, and it’s unrealistic to expect a team to always draft the guy who will turn out to be the best player.

      End of the day, it’s on the list because it is a considerable failure under Melvin’s watch.

  2. Mathdude says: May 23, 2013

    I still remember all of us in the ole’ BC chat room that night, me chanting “Sonny! Sonny! Sonny!” for the #15 pick. I know, I know– he’s too short, doesn’t project the same, bla, bla, bla

    Then I watched the game the other night where he K’d 11 in AAA for Oakland. Argggggg

    To DM’s credit, I don’t think anyone can’t be impressed with the later picks of Gagnon, Goforth, Barnes & Moye. So far, they’ve looked as good (if not better) than our #1′s & 2 (Lopez) have looked. I think that’s why it’s so frustrating too. Let’s get all of them into AA so we can really see what we have.

    • Ryan Topp says: May 23, 2013

      Yeah, the 2nd (Nelson), 3rd (Thornburg) and 4th (Morris) picks in 2010 are all looking pretty good too.

  3. Scott says: May 23, 2013

    Oh man… I had forgotten all about Wes Helms up until you put him in the honorable mentions… I would put him just about at the top of the list of all-time Brewers I hate the most, maybe second only to Jose Hernandez. I think the only good he ever did for the franchise came after his Brewers days and hit a pinch-hit home run to put the Marlins ahead for good against the Mets on the final day of the 2008 season. But you pretty much nailed everything with this list and the “Best Melvin moves” list. I’d say I’m actually a little curious as to your reasoning for giving the Graffanino trade a mention as opposed to the hiring of Rick Kranitz. Granted his time with Milwaukee isn’t up yet, but given his past and the current situation of the rotation, failure with the bullpen last year and taking over a year to figure out that Axford’s problems were strictly mechanics has, I think, to account for something more than what most would consider a wash trade.

    • Ryan Topp says: May 23, 2013

      I don’t know what to make of Krantiz yet. It’s quite possible that he’s not up to the task, but he did a fine job in 2011 and hasn’t been handed tons of talent this year to work with. If they think they need to fire him, I wouldn’t argue, but I definitely don’t think I have enough evidence to say at this point.

  4. PMOinNYC says: May 23, 2013

    Weak. You have 5, maybe 6 bad moves, but the other examples are convoluted at best. #10 is just ridiculous.

    • Scott says: May 23, 2013

      How is #10 ridiculous? Granted Michael Brantley has been the only one to amount to anything of value in the big leagues, this trade had the potential to backfire on so many levels. We had to have Sabathia pitch on three days rest for just about all of September just to sneak into the Wild Card spot on the last frickin day of the season. A strategy that probably cost us in the postseason as he was essentially burned out by October (I still would have loved to have found out what would’ve happened had we pulled off a Game 4 win and gave the ball to CC for Game 5) But honestly, how high would that trade be on the list of great Melvin moves had we NOT made the postseason? Even worse, how bad would we be screaming had we missed the postseason and Matt LaPorta went on to have a successful career in Cleveland? That’s the point that’s made in this article, and it’s a reason the trade is only #10 and no higher. We understand the trade ended up working out in our favor for the most part, but even postseason-aside, the fact that we knew we pretty much weren’t going to resign him, and with the Yankees signing Tex AND CC, the Brewers got a little shafted on the draft picks, this was a very high-risk trade. Like what was noted in the article, the downsides of #10 didn’t occur until 2009 and 2010…

      • PMOinNYC says: May 23, 2013

        You’re dealing with a lot of hypotheticals.

        What if The Brewers did not make the playoffs? They did. For the first time since ’82. That alone make the trade for CC one of DM’s best.

        What if Matt LaPorts turned into a player? He didn’t. He never will be.

        Your point about how they used CC (every 3 days) is confusing. So it’s better that they DON’T have him and not sniff the post season? Or they should have got him and then used him only every 5 days and missed the playoffs?

        Ask anyone in baseball and they’ll tell you Melvin’s move for CC was stellar.

        • Kris says: May 27, 2013

          The point is, if you were to attempt a similar trade again what are the chances that everything works out as perfectly as it did in that trade? Not very good odds on that.

  5. JR says: May 23, 2013

    I’ve got my pitchfork. It’s kind of dull, not much good for attacking villagers.

    The Sabathia deal (I know it’s at the bottom of this list) for me creates a different philosophical debate. What’s better — finally GOING to the playoffs after years of frustration or the *possibility* of sustained playoff contention, even if it means you have to sit 2008 on the sidelines (I think this is essentially what you’re saying). I was so starved then for playoff baseball that I absolutely felt the former, and looking back objectively, I still feel that it was the best thing. Maybe that’s my headspace as a fan who hasn’t observed perennial contention, viewing the every-few-years playoff berth as the acceptable end (and everything else as gravy).

    Michael Brantley has evolved into a nice player; would he have fetched a pitcher to tip the scales in 2009 or 2010 for the Brewers? I wager no, and Matt LaPorta seemed to reach his ceiling right around the time he was dealt. Though perhaps Melvin didn’t strike when the iron was hot on Carlos Lee, it’s hard to see him striking a better time with LaPorta.

    You mention the pitching depth in the system at the time — isn’t that why this deal was so crucial, because the odds of piecing together a formidable rotation in the subsequent two years seemed so bleak? They didn’t surrender a pitcher that would have been part of the next great Brewers team and they didn’t surrender a piece that could have brought one in (in my opinion), so I feel like it’s a major Melvin achievement.

    • Ryan Topp says: May 23, 2013

      The sentiment expressed in the first paragraph is something I hear quite a bit…including from other writers on this site, as a matter of fact. I think there are a few important points to make:

      1) It may seem in retrospect like trading for CC Sabathia was inevitably going to land them in the playoffs, but it very nearly didn’t. If they had spent all those resources and ended up 1 game behind the Mets, then they would have effectively been left holding nothing. That didn’t happen, but very easily could have.

      2) On the day that CC Sabathia was traded for, they needed an impact starting pitcher to fill the hole. Of course, Melvin had 5 full seasons before that to build up the pitching staff, and in failing to do so was put in the position of needing to make that trade to give them the best possible shot at October. His failure to do better than that and build up a more sustainable pitching staff should not excuse having to make the last ditch effort that he did, even if it was successful. There were other routes, more sustainable routes, to the same destination, he just didn’t take them.

      Finally, I do think that if Melvin had committed to getting young pitching, the group of LaPorta, Brantley, Gamel, Green, Angel Salome and perhaps some others could have brought back some impact guys. Would have had to taken some chances, played the long game, but it could have been done. Just like Carlos Lee could have brought in some starting pitching. And perhaps Geoff Jenkins. Or Bill Hall before 2007. Lots of roads to potential pitchers not taken.

      • PMOinNYC says: May 23, 2013

        Ryan, did Melvin steal your girlfriend or something? You’re really, really reaching here and I can’t figure out why. Your arguments are fallacious at best.

        What if they finished behind the Mets? It would have been a failure. But in reality they didn’t, proving it to be a great move. Actually, it was the move that put them in the playoffs.

        Melvin put them in the position of needing a starter? Yes, and he got one. Not only that but he got the best one on the market, to everyone shock. He was also the one who changed a losing culture and turned around a 100+ loss team.

        And finally, please realize, no one trades away good, young pitching. Particularly not for Angel Salome.

      • Ross says: September 1, 2015

        I see your point Ryan but this was definitely a trade that did a lot more than it took away. I see your point about not building up our starting pitching enough to where we needed this trade, but that is really an issue with our drafting and developing of pitching not with this trade. The reason we only squeaked into the playoffs is that monumental collapse in Sept. It was so bad (almost as bad as 2014) that it cost Yost his job. The combination of CC’s stellar play(Sheets did as much as he could as well) and firing him was just enough of a jolt to right the ship to make it in the playoffs. We should have made it easier on ourselves but after so many years of awful Selig ownership I would have gladly given up more for a post season berth(even as short lived as it was).

  6. icbeast says: May 23, 2013

    Rickie Weeks extension

    • Ryan Topp says: May 23, 2013

      I evaluated it, and considered it, but the math just didn’t work.

      Weeks has been worth 3.4 and then 1.1 Fangraphs WAR over the first two full seasons of the deal while making 17.5 million in that time. Paying 3.8 million per win above replacement is not a steal but it’s also far from bad. Obviously if he continues on the way he has so far this year for the next year, then the deal is a real problem and would belong on the list.

      I could see putting it on a “potential bad contract to watch” list if I had such a thing on here, but I don’t. Thanks for bringing it up, though, because I imagined that some people would wonder.

  7. Ryan Topp says: May 23, 2013

    Just in case anyone was wondering, Jeff Suppan’s Fangraphs WAR over his 4 years in Milwaukee were: 2.2, -0.5, -0.7, -0.1, though that last year was split and he was worse in Milwaukee than he was in St. Louis. So that adds up to a whopping 0.9 WAR or just about one win over replacement. The Brewers paid 42 million for that win.

    I apologize for bringing that up for anyone who might have just eaten.

    • Ryan Topp says: May 23, 2013

      Hall: 1.9 wins over the life of the 24 million dollar contract, or about 12 million per win.
      Riske: -0.6 wins over the 12 million dollar contract, or something that is too sad to comprehend: they paid him to hurt them.

  8. BOB says: May 23, 2013

    WE MIGHT AS WELL THROW THE LOHSE DEAL IN HERE… Signing a over 30 500 pitcher to a 13mill a year deal and giving up the 1st round draft pick would get any other GM fired but like RR Doug can do anything and still have a job! WE NEVER develop our own pitchers and have a terrible pitching staff to begin with so why give away a 1st?? We need all the picks we got!!
    Until Mark gets fed up this is what we will see for years to come!

    • Ryan Topp says: May 23, 2013

      Thanks for bringing up Lohse, BOB.

      I did consider him for this list, and on it’s own merits it would be on here. But as has been laid out on this site before, I think there is ample evidence to suggest that Attanasio was driving the bus off that particular cliff himself and that Melvin, at best, is an unwilling passenger. So that one was deliberately left off.

      • icbeast says: May 23, 2013

        2 years would have been a lot nicer than 3, but Lohse has arguably been their best starter this year. I can see the argument that if you wanted to give up on this year before it even started and keep the pick, then sure signing him doesn’t make any sense. However my opinion was that this year and next is still their window to be competitive so they needed more starting pitching. Turns out they needed a lot more starting pitching still, but I still have hope for a playoff run next year with Lohse being a key piece. After that a combination of numbers 10, 7, 5, 3 and Weeks’ contract if his option vests (and Lohse’s probably less productive 3rd year) is going to lead to one ugly rebuilding period.

        • Pitches Brew says: August 12, 2015

          “Lohse has arguably been their best starter this year.”

          You’re going to have a very hard time defending that thought.

          • Ronnie Gardocki says: August 19, 2015

            Check the date on that comment, dude, he wrote that in 2013.

    • Sam says: May 26, 2013

      How can that be a Doug Melvin move that gets Mark fed up? I’m pretty sure Mark came out and said that he was the one who made that deal happen, he forced Doug’s hand to make the deal…..

  9. Ryan says: May 23, 2013

    Almost all of you are talking about that CC Sabathia trade. I agree that it wasn’t a great deal for Melvin in hindsight but at the time it was what needed to be done to keep the attendance up as well as the atmosphere going at Miller Park. The main problem I have with Doug Melvin and Co would be the fact that they leave their young pitching in the minors way to long. Why have them pitch 150+ innings at level of the minors only to have injuries and have their arms tired and wrecked by the time they reach the majors. After 50+ innings of quality pitching at one level of the minors and I mean consistent quality innings, move them to the next level. I follow the minor league pitchers extremely close to see what we have coming through the system and the only two pitchers I see making any impact on the major league scene in the minors on the starting rotation are Ariel Pena and Jimmy Nelson. All of the the other pitchers that people talk about (Thornburg and Hellwig) will be relievers because they show no consistency. Jungmann will be a #4 starter at best because he cannot miss bats with his off speed pitches. Stop depriving these young arms of the major league roster and get them in the bigs Doug. It isn’t tough to take a page out of other organizations pitching philosophies.

    • icbeast says: May 23, 2013

      If Mark Kotsay is never on the roster he can’t be put in the starting lineup in the playoffs…

      • icbeast says: May 23, 2013

        That was not supposed to be a reply…

  10. Darth Zilcho says: May 23, 2013

    Don’t take any crap from anyone who tells you the CC trade was a good one. GMs shouldn’t get praise for getting lucky, and the Brewers got very lucky to make the playoffs in 2008. Not only did it take one of the greatest half season performances ever by a starting pitcher, a performance that could not have been expected under any reasonable circumstances, it also took a late season collapse by the Mets. I know it seems counterintuitive, but GMs should not be judged based on their results. They should be judged on the process that leads to those results. In this case a flawed process lead to great results. It happens in baseball all the time, both in the front office and on the field. It’s what makes evaluating the game so difficult. The correct response to the CC trade is to say “Wow that worked out really well! Now let’s never do that again.”

    • PMOinNYC says: May 23, 2013


    • Ryan Topp says: May 23, 2013

      In fairness, I think that’s a little strong. They did quite a bit right to get to that point as well. Looking at my top 10, I count 4 different good decisions that quite directly led to them making it to that point.

      That being said, you’re right, there was quite a bit of luck involved in making the playoffs that year, and that does cast a bit of a shadow on the decision to go after CC instead of a pitcher with more control years. It’s always very dangerous to justify any decision by looking solely at the outcome and not taking into account what the probability for success was originally.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Nick says: May 26, 2013

      If your logic is that a GM cannot be judged on results, just the facts that were available at the time, then couldn’t you also argue #7 is a moot point, especially in the case if the 2011 draft? At the time of the draft, weren’t Jungmann and Bradley considered to be very good picks? They were both supposed to be pretty good, quickly advancing prospects that our farm needed. While those picks haven’t seemed to workout, at the time they didn’t seem like bad picks. I’m not arguing the logic on the Sabathia deal, merely pointing out that shouldn’t the same logic be used on #10 and #7?

      • Ryan Topp says: May 27, 2013

        Thanks for responding, Nick.

        You’re not wrong about different types of moves being held to different standards, and I think that is appropriate given the different types of moves being considered. When you make a trade like the CC trade, you’re making the decision to give up some of your most tradable assets for a one year shot at contention. I was skeptical of that at the time, and though it “worked” I’ve come to see in the years since that teams in the Brewers situation can’t really do that if they want to contend consistently. If your goal is consistent contention (and that seems to be the owners mandate) then you have to always be on the lookout to add years of control of promising young players and also not trading away your long term assets for short term bursts. Otherwise, you’re destined for occasional contention, with many years where you underperform.

        The draft is a different situation. Ultimately, it comes down to whether or not you’re consistently adding talent commensurate with the sorts of picks you’re getting. You can’t hold a team always picking at 25 to the same standards as one that’s always in the top 5, obviously. But you do have to judge them on how well they take advantage of their opportunities, and they’ve had some issues in that department the last few years.

        I think the biggest issue is that they seemed to draft for need from 2009 to 2011. Heck, you could make the case they did it again in 2012, though I think the returns there are likely to be a lot better so I’m really not that concerned about that one. What it comes down to in the draft is what Jack Z used to tell his scouts all the time: Just be right. Whatever evaluations you put on guys, be correct. Looking at that 2011 draft, either they weren’t right multiple times in a loaded draft, or the evaluations were ignored by the people ultimately making the decision. Either thing is, at the very least, troubling to me.

  11. PMOinNYC says: May 23, 2013

    Any Brewer fan killing the CC trade is absolutely mind boggling to me. it’s beyond reason.

    • Ross B says: May 24, 2013

      Why? They Brewers turned the best farm system in baseball into 2 playoff appearances in 4 years and are now devoid of impact talent in the minors and have a .500 at best ML roster that they can’t really afford to improve. Sure, the CC deal was an EXCELLENT short term move, but it was just that, a short term move. They could have done much better leveraging those assets for the long run, attempting to create a sustainable playoff roster. Now, just a few years later, they are stuck in a cycle of having too much talent to blow it up, but not enough to actually contend.

    • BrewersWorldSeries says: May 24, 2013

      That’s what I’m saying. Ask Royals fans or Pirates fans or Blue Jays fans if they would mind giving up 3 mediocre prospects (hindsight is 20/20, I know…) for a superstar pitcher who would get them to the playoffs. Baseball (and pretty much all sports for that matter) exists because people like to watch it. It exists for the fans! They get excited about their team and the possibility of contending for a championship. We hadn’t sniffed anything like that for almost 30 years!! I kind of get the philosophical “this is a bad idea” argument, but come on. The deal worked, we got to the playoffs, the FANS loved it, and the prospects we gave up turned out to suck for the most part anyway. End of story in my opinion.

  12. Aaron says: May 24, 2013

    I do find it absolutely mind-boggling how, besides Yovani, we’ve developed zero pitchers who were better than a 4 or 5 from our own system in the last decade. And I realize it was a one-year deal, but how about signing Looper?

    Also, is this an appropriate spot to express my (extreme) concern that Mark A. is the next Drayton McLane?

    • Ross B says: May 24, 2013

      You hit it on the head with the Looper signing, it was only a 1 year deal and it wasn’t all that expensive.

  13. Beep says: May 24, 2013

    Missing from the Dishonorable Mention: Offering K-Rod arbitration after 2011. Everyone knew that no one wanted to trump his arby number so DM got greedy trying to pick up a compensatory draft pick.

    • Ryan Topp says: May 24, 2013

      At one point that was on the list, but I was talked out of it by Steve Garczynski. Oh well.

    • Isaac says: May 24, 2013

      Not sure what was so bad about it…it was a win-win situation for Melvin at the time.

      At the time, there were a handful of closer positions open around MLB and K-Rod was pretty much set on only taking a closing job (and multi-year deal if he could). And if he did accept the arbitration offer, then the Brewers had another year of the most dominant duo from 2011 in K-Rod (1.86 ERA in 31 appearances) and Axford (0.86 ERA in that same span).

      • dbug says: May 24, 2013

        Agreed. It didn’t turn out well, but at the time, it was a win-win proposition and made total sense.

  14. Lee says: May 26, 2013

    I disagree about including Nelson Cruz in the Carlos Lee deal. Cruz was not the highest rated prospect. Cruz was in the Mets and A’s system before he played for the Brewers. Additionally Cruz did not begin to shine until 2 years after joining the Rangers.

    • Ryan Topp says: May 26, 2013

      You have a good point. Over the years, I’ve generally defended Melvin for including Cruz for some of the reasons you listed. He was a flawed prospect, the Brewers could have had him on waivers even after trading him to Texas, and even if they had kept him they probably don’t give him a long enough leash with how hard they were trying to compete. Also, LF, RF and 1B were never open anyway. As far as how bad the trade was, that’s not at all a big reason it was a bad trade, just a more minor one.

      That being said, it still counts as poor asset management. The package they got back from Texas was really bad. If you’re negotiating a deal and someone tries to trade you that for Lee alone, you should be saying no. But accepting that for Lee AND giving up Cruz is just bad. Lets say they didn’t want to include him in that deal, he still had trade value and they could have gotten something for him on his own.

  15. Flharfh says: May 26, 2013

    Some of these are valid, but I the judgment of the CC Sabathia trade is a case of hindsight being 20/20. The Brewers were a legitimately good team that year and a win-now trade made sense – and while they didn’t get Sabathia permanently, the two biggest prospects they gave up were position players, so it isn’t like they crippled the long term pitching future of the team (anymore than it already was).

    The Gagne deal shoud be in the middle of this list imo – he fell apart the season before MKE gave him 10 million(!!) dollars. Just a stupid signing, but GMDM seems to have a thing for “proven closers”. The Suppan and Riske deals are the only two other egregiously bad moves – ones that were obviously bad when they were done. Riske wasn’t a closer and didn’t even have dominating stuff, and the Suppan deal was just awful.

    • Ryan Topp says: May 27, 2013

      As I’ve said, I think that big “win now” moves and consistent contention don’t really go together in markets like Milwaukee. You sort of have to choose one or the other most of the time. Teams like Milwaukee cannot sign the biggest name free agents, and they cannot afford to have a lot of “dead money” on the books. So when they “go for it” it almost always has to be giving up prospects of substantial value to get that short term rental. That means that those assets are then gone, and unless you’re churning out prospects at a rate that basically no one ever does, you just can’t sustain that without having to take a step back, lose, add some more top prospects and then go again.

      What Tampa is trying to do is defy this….and they basically never give up long term assets for short term gains. When they trade, they give up less control time to get more. This may or may not work long term, but it’s really the only way to try and win consistently in MKE.

      As for winning consistently, I think it’s a good idea for a couple reasons. First off, it’s more fun. Following a team in it every year is more fun than following a team that’s really good one year and then out of it the next 2 or 3. Second I think it’s the best way to win the WS. The baseball postseason is such a crap shoot, where the best team often doesn’t win in a 5 or 7 game series. So for any one franchise, the best way to win is to get in 4 or 5 times in 6 or 7 years as opposed to just loading up once or twice and praying things work out.

      As for the Gagne deal, as bad as it was, the fact that it was only one year means that at least it didn’t hurt long term. They apparently had the money in the budget for him and went out and spent. Not sure the opportunity cost was really that high given the timing of the deal. The Riske thing was worse, IMO, because it tied them down when they really needed that money (and the Hall and Suppan money) to get starting pitching to go with all the hitters they had.

  16. Paul B says: May 29, 2013

    C.C. Sabathia was a worthwhile trade. The key player Matt LaPorta was a total bust and when you lose a Type A Free Agent like Sabathia, you still get two first round draft picks. Shawn Marcum for Brett Lawrie is not so hot, but a lot of that is hindsight. Also, it’s not like Lawrie is setting baseball on fire just yet. I think the reason Doug Melvin should be fired is his inability to hire a good Manager with half a brain. Ned Yost must have a Jedi Mind Trick power to keep himself employed, as he underachieved with a good Brewers team for years and now he’s bombing in Kansas City DESPITE a very talented roster. Look at the re-treads and declining or injured former super stars (C.C. sucks and A-Rod, Teixeira, Granderson, Jeter, Pettitte, Pineda and Youkilis all injured) that Joe Giardi is winning with in New York this year and then look at what Yost has in Kansas City. Then after sticking with Yost too long, Melvin blows it with Sveum and Macha. Don’t know much about Roenecki to be fair.

  17. Paul B says: May 29, 2013

    Doug Melvin seems to do a nice job with most of the roster, except for the bullpen where he’s done a beyond awful job. Doesn’t seem like he’s doing that well of late with the farm system either. I think Melvin needs to find a Buck Showalter or Davey Johnson. Why those two guys were out of baseball for so long is beyond me. Is Joe Torre interested in returning? Torre was screwed by the Dodgers Ownership situation. I think a guy who you know can win given a good roster is what Melvin needs. Torre was brilliant handling mass injuries in 2007, his last with the Yankees. The problem with Torre is that he leans hard on his bullpen and that is the Brewers GLARING weakness. Who else is out there, who is a proven when given the horses?

    • Paul B says: May 29, 2013

      I know he was a TERRIBLE fit in Boston with a bunch of way too comfortable veterans, but Bobby Valentine is much better than he showed last year. There aren’t too many (potentially overly sensitive) superstars aside from Ryan Braun on the Brewers, so Valentine might work. I think Joe Giardi’s right hand man, Tony Pena, should get another chance to manage someday.

  18. Truth be told says: June 15, 2013

    Surprised the Scott Linebrink trade didn’t make this list. Joe Thatcher has had a very solid career, and is still under team control for one more year. Linebrink disappeared without trace.

    Trying to muddle through the 2013 season without a recognised first baseman is looking pretty dumb too. Was a low level prospect really too much to give up for Mike Carp? Hindsight says “you have to be kidding me.”

    • Ryan Topp says: June 16, 2013

      The Linebrink trade isn’t one I worry about, really. Yeah, it’s generally bad practice to trade 3 players for a RP like that, but it turns out their internal scouting on Inman and Garrison was spot on: they weren’t MLB players. As for Thatcher, he’s a LOOGY who benefits greatly in being able to pitch in SD. I doubt he would be playable out of that environment, and even if he is: he’s just a LOOGY and they’re mostly just a waste of a roster spot. On the plus side, when they made that move they did so knowing that Linebrink would bring back type A compensation, and thus they got 2 draft picks for him. Trading what they did for a couple of draft picks makes perfect sense to me, so no issues here.

      The first base situation is odd, but I can see why it’s played out the way it has. The Hart thing didn’t happen until fairly late in the winter, and they did have a replacement all set to go in Gamel until he went down after players reported. That being said, I was pro-Carp and was hoping they would pick him up. Or Overbay. Not sure why that didn’t happen, but I am happy they now have Juan Francisco who I think can be an effective offensive 1B against RHP.


Websites mentioned my entry.

  1. Was hiring Ken Macha the 9th worst thing Doug Melvin has ever done? | Ron Roenicke Stole My Baseball
  2. Daybreak Doppler: The Unofficial Start Of Summer, Minus The Temps & Frost Warnings That Is | PocketDoppler.com
  3. Rounding The Bases: Doug Melvin’s Tenure | Disciples of Uecker

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