Could Doug Melvin Be On The Hot Seat? | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

Considering the preseason expectations that the Brewers could have an outside shot at a playoff berth, the 2013 season has proven to be disastrous. Milwaukee currently sits 16 games under .500 and has major contributors wasting away on the disabled list. Furthermore, the starting rotation continues to handcuff the team, as it owns an NL-worst 5.12 ERA in 443 innings.

Not to overstate the point, but the season has largely been the epitome of “what could go wrong will go wrong.” Star players are injured, prime trade chips are underperforming, the pitching staff hasn’t seen any of their young starters take a legitimate step forward. Breakouts from Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez have slightly dulled the pain, but ultimately, fans have been slowly sipping a cocktail of disappointment for the last three months.

And while Mark Attanasio has brought deep pockets and enthusiasm for baseball back to Milwaukee, he’s also proven that he’s not one to exhibit extreme patience while his team flounders. It has been rumored he was the driving force behind firing Ned Yost back in 2008 during the final month of a postseason race. Some have also wondered if Attanasio largely authored the controversial Kyle Lohse deal this spring in a last-ditch effort to upgrade the rotation.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone, then, if Attanasio unexpectedly makes another bold move this year and removes Doug Melvin from the general manager role. Something that seemed unthinkable only three months ago may not be as far-fetched as many of us may have assumed. Jonah Keri of Grantland wrote a wonderful piece on the Milwaukee Brewers today, and at the end of the article, he dropped this little bombshell:

But behind the scenes, there’s anxiety, especially at the lower levels. A source close to the situation said some baseball ops people below the GM and assistant GM level have started preparing résumés, with the Cubs confirming they’ve received one such résumé for a job posting they put out. The Brewers have called on a tech-savvy friend of Attanasio’s son to help build a new database, with rumors that the new system might be designed to be used by a new regime and a more quantitatively inclined general manager. Melvin is the sixth-longest-tenured GM in the majors, a smart and respected baseball man who’s quick to give others such as Zduriencik credit for Milwaukee’s recent turnaround, but who deserves his own fair share of credit, too. Many of his top lieutenants are also industry veterans who’ve been with the team for a while, through bad times, then good, and now bad again.

Still, nothing lasts forever. The Brewers are losing, and with losing often comes change. Stay tuned.

That certainly suggests people in the organization are preparing for a regime change. The Brewers could potentially be on the cusp of transitioning to a more new-age front office, like many franchises have done in the past half decade. The Red Sox, Cubs, Astros and Blue Jays have all recently moved to organizational models that rely more heavily on sabermetric theory and attempt to blend traditional scouting with in-depth analytics.

Melvin receives plenty of criticism for his inability to develop starting pitching, but there’s legitimate evidence that Melvin is one of the more underrated GMs in the game. For the most part, he has adroitly locked up useful homegrown players over the past half decade. The Brewers do not currently have any terrible contracts on the books — aside from perhaps the Aramis Ramirez deal due to its backloaded nature — and players such as Jonathan Lucroy , Carlos Gomez, Ryan Braun (the first time), and Yovani Gallardo were signed to incredibly team-friendly deals. Melvin and his executives have been proactive in signing young talent. Aside from the Bill Hall deal, the contract extensions have largely proven wise, and none of the deals are currently weighing down the payroll and preventing the organization from adding talent.

Additionally, one of Melvin’s strongest skills in recent years has been adding talent on the margins. Whether it be Norichika Aoki, Scott Podsednik, Kameron Loe, Casey McGehee, Marco Estrada, Alfredo Figaro, Brady Clark, or Derrick Turnbow, the Brewers’ general manager has done a very nice job acquiring useful major-league talent for pennies on the dollar. Most of the gems listed above were claimed on the waiver wire, but some of them, such as Aoki and Figaro, have also come from playing in Japan. Small-market organizations need inexpensive, useful talent to fill out a roster. Melvin has historically found talent on the margins of Major League Baseball throughout his tenure in Milwaukee.

And although some of the swaps can justifiably be criticized as win-now moves, Melvin has a strong track record of executing strong trades for the Brewers. Think of some of the major trades in recent years.

Year Received Given Up Result
2008 CC Sabathia Matt LaPorta + Michael Brantley + Rob Bryson + Zach Johnson Win
2009 Carlos Gomez J.J. Hardy Win
2010 Shaun Marcum Brett Lawrie Neutral
2010 Zack Greinke Alcides Escobar + Lorenzo Cain + Jeremy Jeffress + Jake Odorizzi Win
2011 Nyjer Morgan Cutter Dykstra Win
2011 Francisco Rodriguez Adrian Rosario + Danny Herrera Win
2011 Jerry Hairston Erik Komatsu Win
2012 Jean Segura + Johnny Hellweg + Ariel Pena Zack Greinke Win

Doug Melvin doesn’t have any major blemishes on his recent trade record, unless you want to include the Scott Linebrink trade as a negative — though I’d argue that wasn’t a win for either side. The trades listed above helped the Brewers reach the postseason in 2008 and 2011. That’s twice in four years for a franchise that hadn’t played October baseball for 26 years. That matters. We could peel back the onion and argue the Brewers could have enjoyed a better run had they not needed to acquire pitching from the outside, but they needed to. And they did so successfully.

Recent success in the MLB Draft has been a significant problem in recent years under Melvin’s watch. As mentioned earlier, developing starting pitching has also been unproductive for years. It’s not as if Melvin’s tenure in Milwaukee has been pristine, but he does possess many positive attributes for a big-league general manager. One could easily argue he’s done very well with the resources available in Milwaukee over the last decade.

This article is not meaning to suggest Doug Melvin is on his way out the door. Keri’s article quoted above, though, makes it seem the wheels are beginning to be put in motion, and losing in professional sports does naturally bring about change. Even if the change is not always warranted.

Ultimately, it will be interesting to see if Melvin retains his job if the Brewers are not able to show a semblance of improvement over the next couple months. It will likely say a lot about whether the organization is willing to embark on a rebuilding mission or if Attanasio will continue to insist on trying to win and compete every season, no matter the long-term cost.

Because that’s really the crux of the Brewers’ current situation.

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Comments

Tell us what do you think.

  1. crichar3 says: July 3, 2013

    See, I know that Linebrink deal would bring them down eventually…

    Kidding aside, I appreciate this thoughtful piece. A very fair, clear-eyed assessment of where things are for Doug Melvin and the Brewers.

  2. Mathdude says: July 3, 2013

    Thank you for sharing. This I found of particular interest: “Cashing in a dump truck full of highly rated prospects to make go-for-it trades played a big role in downgrading Milwaukee’s farm system. But so, too, did a talent drain of another sort: an exodus of highly regarded scouts.”

  3. Jake says: July 3, 2013

    I can’t see Marcum as a wash. Lawrie has done very well with the Blue Jays and while Marcum was pretty good in the reg season at times, he was a disaster in the playoffs. I know Lawrie didn’t want to be in Milwaukee but the return the Blue Jays got for giving up Marcum seems well worth it.

    • J.P. Breen says: July 3, 2013

      Blue Jays just sent Lawrie back to the minors because they didn’t think his bat was ready for the big leagues. Marcum helped propel the Brewers to their first NL Central crown in almost thirty years. That matters — and it’s looking less and less like Lawrie will be a stud. Heard rumors that the Blue Jays really messed with his swing and it has him all fouled up.

    • Nicholas Zettel says: July 3, 2013

      How do you judge Lawrie’s potential in Milwaukee, though? if he didn’t want to be a part of the organization, one cannot say his performance in Toronto is representative of his potential production / talent in Milwaukee.

      Furthermore, Marcum’s regular season performances more than make up for the playoffs; he was arguably the best starter on the 2011 club, and he was a Top 30 starter in 2012, too. He prevented a lot of runs for the Brewers in 2011-2012, and helped them make the playoffs. That extra revenue alone is in part due to Marcum’s performance — an added benefit over Lawrie.

    • Bob says: July 4, 2013

      Keep in mind that Milwaukee was on Grienke’s no-trade list. It was after we aquired Marcum that he agreed to waive it.

  4. Anton W. says: July 3, 2013

    I think that we need to appreciate what Melvin did for us. His only knock, as this piece correctly points out, is drafting since Zduriencik left. Our farm system left town with Zduriencik and that’s why things look so bleak right now. If Melvin gets canned, it better be solely because of recent drafts. Performance this year is not his fault. At all. In reality, we owe everything, ultimately, to Attanasio, and we have to ride where he takes us.

    • Scott says: July 6, 2013

      I agree that the main reason he should get fired is his lack of building up the farm system. However, I think the icing on the cake should be the way he’s attempted to handle the positions where the Brewers had no depth. 1B is a perfect example. Granted we were expecting Hart back end of May, but regardless of that, Melvin decided to fix that hole with three guys who never played 1B at the major league level, the backup catcher, and most recently, the 7th best 1B Brewers prospect… They had plenty of cheaper (and better) options to choose from.

      • The logical man says: July 15, 2013

        Great point To start the season with a washed up Alex Gonzales at first. what a joke

  5. Chris says: July 7, 2013

    Wow, no mention of Jeff Suppan anywhere. Wow, good job of erasing that one from the history books.

  6. The Realist says: July 8, 2013

    Melvin has mortgaged the future. The minor league system is in shambles. Milw has second worst record in N.L.. Future is not bright- Anywhere else- He’s gone

  7. The logical man says: July 11, 2013

    I agree Melvin needs to go- Milw needs to retool- where are all these guys from last year who kissed his ass. they have had injuries yes but St Louis has had more and look where they are. To go into the season with the pitching staff they had was a crime. Hey it could be worse. Look at their triple a team- They are 30 games under 500- Sad

  8. Bratwurst says: August 1, 2013

    Is Melvin still in Milwaukee- Dump him

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