There are several fan outlooks of the Yovani Gallardo trade, but those outlooks need not frame the trade in an either/or fashion. Certainly, there is always an urge to judge a trade immediately, stating who won or who lost, who got the best of the other General Manager, etc. In this case, however, there’s not an easy way to do that for the Brewers: realistically, this trade could take a decade to pan out, depending on what happens with Marcos Diplan, and even Corey Knebel and Luis Sardinas are too young to have established MLB-level resumes. If Brewers President of Baseball Operations & General Manager Doug Melvin decides to trade any of these players down the road, that will change the outlook of this trade; if the players don’t pan out, or if they’re great, or in-between, that will impact the view of the trade; and, as always, Gallardo’s performance will make us inclined to judge whether or not the trade was worth it. There are many avenues for analyzing this trade, and, to some extent, they contain truths:
- Melvin dumped salary by trading Gallardo’s last year (basically $9 million, after cash considerations in the trade), in favor of three cheap returns.
- The Brewers are taking a full chance on Fastballer Mike Fiers and Jimmy Nelson in the rotation.
- The starting rotation depth for the Brewers appears to be somewhat problematic.
- The Brewers improved their infield defense, infield depth, and added a contact-oriented bat to their core of infielders.
- Milwaukee now controls a deeper set of potential high-leverage relievers.
- Milwaukee improved their farm system.
- The Brewers’ Dominican League talent, and starting pitching depth in the minors, has improved.
- The Brewers added another boom / bust prospect with a potentially high-ceiling to their system.
This list is really just a start. The point is, there are many ways to look at this trade, and none of them must necessarily exclude every other vantage point. The Brewers did dump salary, they did improve the big league club (adding depth, defensive ability, and need at two positions), and they did make the team better for the future. Brewers fans ought to ask themselves, when was the last offseason where Doug Melvin both improved the immediate team and the farm system?
There is an easy argument to be made that Melvin is orchestrating exactly the type of offseason he needed to. For, his watch included:
- A middle-of-the-road ballclub that could be great or win 75 games (in a strange, transitional National League climate).
- A previously poorly-regarded minor league system that featured a few impact prospects that advanced in 2014.
- A rather high payroll (for Milwaukee) that included several players in their last contract year.
Each of these areas remain stable or improved after the Marco Estrada and Gallardo trades. Without touching a single impact prospect (thus far), Melvin has improved several areas of the ballclub (at least 1B, SS, and RP). Furthermore, the farm system is now one prospect deeper at a crucial middle-diamond position (starting pitcher). The best part of Melvin’s offseason is that one can affirm these truths while still noting other areas of concern; certainly, the big league club could still use a few tweaks, and every single player returned in the Gallardo deal could fail to materialize at the MLB level. That type of pessimism is dangerous, however, but it’s attractive because it has such a far reach (for example, a capitalist market system necessarily produces crashes, and yet it is necessary to use those markets to invest for retirement; no one says “because the market could crash, I won’t invest for retirement”). Melvin has to make some gambles in order to improve the Brewers, as he demonstrated with a gutsy boom / bust draft in 2014. Basically, by doubling down on that ideal with the Gallardo trade, Melvin not only produced a deeper, cheaper, and arguably more flexible MLB club, but he also took another bet to potentially make the team better in five years.
In that regard, this is exactly the offseason that Melvin needed to have. Certainly, he could make new moves that confound all this, but his offseason work appears to be measured, patient, and focused. It will be fun to see how a roster with more talent around the edges, and a farm system with another potentially solid prospect, work out as 2015 advances.