As the Brewers fell out of postseason contention extraordinarily early, much of the attention turned to young players on the roster. The second half of the season morphed into a big-league audition for guys like Scooter Gennett, Khris Davis, Tyler Thornburg and Johnny Hellweg.
While some young players took better advantage of their opportunity than others, many Brewers fans also paid close attention to the out-of-town scoreboard throughout the month of September — not to keep tabs on division leaders or Wild Card contenders, but to watch the league’s bottom feeders. Milwaukee played solid baseball to end the season, so much so that it threatened to knock the organization out of the top-10 picks for the 2014 Draft.
Indeed, it boiled down to the final couple series, and the Brewers won one too many games and now find themselves with the 12th pick of the ’14 Draft. That’s significant because it’s not a protected pick, which means the organization would sacrifice the selection if they were to sign a Type A free agent this offseason. Essentially, a repeat of the Kyle Lohse situation that sent many fans clamoring for their torches and pitchforks.
Before dealing with the latter, let’s sketch out the landscape. The organization owns the 12th pick in next year’s draft, and here are the teams who will draft before the Brewers:
|3||Chicago White Sox||63-99|
|9||Toronto Blue Jays||74-88|
|10||New York Mets||74-88|
|11||Toronto Blue Jays||74-88|
A couple points must immediately be highlighted to avoid confusion:
(1) The Toronto Blue Jays do have two selections at #9 and #11 next year. The 11th-pick is a compensatory pick for not signing their 2013 first-rounder, Phil Bickford. By rule, the compensatory draft pick must come one selection after the location of the pick a year ago, and since the Blue Jays picked at #10 last year, the compensatory selection was always going to be #11 and it was always going to be protected.
(2) The Brewers are one of four teams with a 74-88 record. Why did Milwaukee receive the short end of the stick and get bumped all the way to #12? Why not Colorado, Toronto or New York? When dealing with tie-breakers for the MLB Draft, the team with the lowest winning percentage in the previous season receives the best pick. Thus, because the Brewers had a better record than the Rockies, Blue Jays and Mets in 2012, they “lose” the tie-breaker and receive the lowest pick.
It’s frustrating to not have the team’s first-round pick protected, but it’s unreasonable to criticize the team and coaches for not tanking well enough, which was a common refrain over the weekend. I don’t believe in tanking. Ron Roenicke and his players should try and win every ballgame in which they play. That’s better for the development of the players, better for the fans and simply better for the game of baseball. Tanking (if it happens at all) is done through roster construction, not through intentional poor play on the field. When the organization refused to trade some of their more marketable pieces at the July 31 deadline, they essentially chose not to tank in the second half.
Ultimately, though, the consternation surrounding the Brewers and the 2014 Draft is likely overblown. Moving down four spots is significant, but only because it means the organization will miss out on potentially more-elite talent. The fact that the Brewers’ draft pick is no longer protected shouldn’t matter. Some are squeamish because the Kyle Lohse signing should never have happened. If history teaches us anything, though, it’s that Doug Melvin and the Brewers don’t pursue Type A free agents very often.
In fact, it’s only happened four times in franchise history — and only one time since 1990.
|Year||Free Agent Signed|
One could easily argue that Doug Melvin has never signed a Type A free agent and sacrificed a first-round pick. The Lohse signing was reportedly orchestrated by Mark Attanasio, while Melvin was simply along for the ride. Attanasio could perhaps pressure the front office to make another splash in the free agent market, but the Lohse signing feels like a one-time deal. The organization was poised to compete from 2007-2012 — and not without roster holes — and the Brewers never signed a Type A free agent in that time frame. If Attanasio was going to consistently lean on Melvin to sign Type A free agents, it’s a trend that would’ve started much earlier than the 2013 season.
There’s a chance the Brewers sign a Type A free agent and sacrifice their first-round draft pick for the second-consecutive season — because almost nothing is impossible — but I put the likelihood of that happening at maybe one percent. Doug Melvin hasn’t shown a propensity to sign Type A free agents throughout his career as a general manager, including his time in Texas. If we give Melvin a pass for Lohse (which I’m certainly willing to do, based on what I’ve heard), he’s forfeited a first-round pick exactly once in his career. That was in 1994 when the Rangers signed free agent Will Clark.
I struggle to understand how Doug Melvin is suddenly going to change his career tendencies and begin signing Type A free agents every season. It’s uncomfortable to have an unprotected selection, but I wouldn’t be concerned about the organization losing their first-round pick for the 2014 MLB Draft — especially in what’s being touted as a strong draft class. The chance that happens is extremely small.