If you’re like me, last night’s intrigue that spanned dinner time to bedtime occupied your thoughts. The Brewers and Mets were prepared to agree on a trade involving Milwaukee superstar Carlos Gomez, and both teams went so far as to inform the players involved. The Mets reportedly were prepared to send RHP Zack Wheeler and IF Wilmer Flores to the Brewers in exchange for Gomez. Flores provided one of the most honest reactions of the night, tearing up on the field upon hearing the news. Of course, as many on social media asked, something seemed amiss as soon as the Mets consummated the deal without immediately pulling Flores. Sure enough, late in the evening, word leaked that the trade was off due to medical issues. I went to bed when it was assumed that there was an issued with Wheeler’s medical information, as even Gomez’s agent Scott Boras suggested as much. However, this morning it was announced that the issue was Gomez’s hip, which made the Mets uneasy. Boras again advocated for his client, downplaying the hip issue and giving a mysterious air to the proceedings.
In the end, this event will only add to the excitement of the 2015 deadline, which somehow appears to be living up to the activity that began with the 2014-2015 offseason. Major stars such as Troy Tulowitzki and Cole Hamels are on the move — not to mention Gomez’s pending deal — which pumps up the level of entertainment beyond the standard “contenders fortifying their rosters” narrative. Notably, Gomez, Hamels, and Tulowitzki are each under contract beyond 2015, adding a “future outlook” to some of the more immediate trades involving expiring contracts. MLB arguably has the most interesting and exciting roster moves of any sport, with true, unfettered free agency and farm systems full of talent that teams can use to either build teams or acquire players. But 2015 seems to go beyond the basic thrill of watching teams jockey for pennant position or surrender their hopes for contending; stories like the Nationals demoting Drew Storen from the closer’s role once again, or Tulowitzki allegedly disapproving of his trade scenario already made the deadline dramatic before the failed Gomez swap.
— Martin Maldonado (@Machete1224) July 30, 2015
- MLBTradeRumors provides a nice timeline of last night’s proceedings, including Bob Nightengale’s report that the Brewers did not like Wheeler’s medicals. This report casts some doubt on whether it was Gomez’s hip or Wheeler’s arm that dissolved the deal. One might also question whether the front offices were truly happy with their deal, given the relatively quick medical dismissal (compare this to the Matt Kemp medical issue during his trade, which took more than a few hours to resolve).
- BrewCrewBall also captures the timeline of the deal with embedded tweets. The “no you backed out,” “no you backed out” sense of the deal is clear from the tweets included.
- BrewCrewBall provided a brief look at Wheeler and Flores, who present a challenge for Brewers fans expecting a big prospect haul for Gomez. Instead, the Brewers went for young MLB players that also arguably had some upside, and Noah Jarosh noted that Flores is still young enough to develop beyond his current batting line. This potential return shows an interesting, general prejudice for baseball fans in evaluating trades: somehow, the idea of a “ranked” minor leaguer that most fans have never seen is preferable to acquiring a young player that fans are already familiar with on the MLB level. It is almost as though potential downsides for prospects are easier to ignore than rough stretches for young MLB players learning the game (after all, the immediacy of batting statistics gives us some sense of a player’s ability, even for the non-stathead; imagine, “I would have hoped the Brewers could have gotten better return than a .245 hitter for Gomez”).
- ReviewingTheBrew likes the potentially “incredible” rotation that the trade return provided, and questions whether the Brewers will match the excitement of this potential trade by the deadline.
- One clear line from the fallout of the Gomez/Wheeler-Flores deal is that the Brewers still seek to trade their superstar centerfielder. With teams like the Indians interested, it remains to be seen whether a deal will transpire by the deadline, or whether the Brewers will wait for the offseason to drum up a larger trade market for Gomez’s final season on his current contract.
- EDIT AT 10:25 AM: Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that the deal was nixed due to financial issues, rather than medical issues. The deal purportedly involved CF Juan Lagares at one point, as well as a request for the Brewers’ 2016 Competitive Balance draft pick, and, finally, cash to cover a portion of Gomez’s contract.
Judging the Return
I have to say, by the time the deal was cancelled, I was upset, given that I had come to accept the return for Gomez. I was one of those fans that expected the Brewers to go for prospects with their centerfielder, but the fact is, they made a legitimate decision to go after young talent that already cracked the big leagues. This is a trend seen in recent deals, especially trades involving position players like Yoenis Cespedes, Dee Gordon, the Brewers’ own Adam Lind, and even Jason Heyward (although that trade also featured a Top 10 organizational prospect in return).
So, before you go criticizing the Brewers for their lack of a prospect haul, it is worth noting that there is clear precedent among current MLB front offices to go for the “MLB established talent” where available. This is pure speculation on my part, but I do wonder if it is more difficult to extract prospects from GMs that now generally place a premium on controllable young talent across the game. When even big market clubs like the Cubs, Dodgers, and Mets insist on relying on their own farm systems to populate their rosters with stars, it is arguably more difficult for front offices to exploit the old stereotype of the “big money win now” teams and the “small market prospect hoarders.”
As a fan, it is exciting to see a deal fall through in the sense that now we know a concrete return for Gomez, and can use that return to potentially judge future deals (that is, if the Brewers use the same strategy; obviously if they change course and decide to go for prospects, this deal does not necessarily provide as strong a template). So, let’s meet Flores and Wheeler:
|Gomez Return||Last Contract/Reserve Year||Performance Note||Best BA Ranking (Year)||Scouting Note|
|Wheeler||2019||-5 runs prevented / 285.3 IP (271 K / 125 BB / 24 HR)||#11 (2013) / Top 100 ’10-’13||95 MPH w/ equal slider & curve / Deep arsenal with need to improve control|
|Flores||2019||.245 / .278 / .367 (736 PA)||#47 (2009) / Top 100 ’09-’11||Aggressive contact bat w/ developing power / Future 1B with bat control and natural power|
Let’s take the positives and negatives together:
- In grabbing two players with deep contract control, the Brewers would have gained cost-controlled roster flexibility. Cost-control in that both Wheeler and Flores could potentially be renewed in 2016, before three years of arbitration (I do not know if either is a super-two candidate for early arbitration). Both players provide roster flexibility given that Milwaukee could decide to keep both players for four years, eventually trade both players, and even potentially extend either or both players, depending on their effectiveness and development.
- Both players could potentially bridge the gap between a clearly rebuilding 2016 and a 2017 campaign that will likely see the arrival of more impact prospects from the Brewers system. There is a real sense that Flores and Wheeler could be assessed as depth players for a potentially contending Brewers squad by 2019.
- Flores has noted defensive issues in the middle infield, and could have a potential 1B pedigree according to some (3B according to others). In this case, his potential power must develop, which arguably makes him more of a gamble.
- Wheeler’s recovery from Tommy John surgery makes his development into an ace no sure bet (and in fact, according to some, his injury may have dissolved the deal).
- Of course, Wheeler is also a pitcher with a hard fastball and several off-speed pitches, which gives the Brewers a different look in their rotation (given the common fastball / slider or sinker / slider thread from 2014-2015 rotations).
- With his aggressive, contact-oriented approach (and power potential), Flores arguably would have rounded out the Brewers’ current skillset in the batting order.
Like most players, both Wheeler and Flores have their areas that they need to develop. It is too easy to pile on the negatives, however: injuries, rough starts to MLB careers, etc. For any prospects that the Brewers acquire will be also no sure bet, and will have their own developmental journeys. To land players that have already made the leap to the big leagues, with room to grow as players, is a solid haul for the Brewers, and perhaps one that hints at their assessment of their own minor league system and the potential length of a Brewers rebuild. If the Brewers make the right moves with their current roster, and trade to bolster their organization, it makes sense to land controllable-but-somewhat-established players to bolster the big league roster, provide depth during a rebuilding season (or two), and serve as a core for potential contending seasons to boot. Can the Brewers match that combination in their next deal for Gomez?