With last night’s injury to Carlos Gomez, some of the talk around the Brewers has shifted from the left side of the infield to center field. With Nyjer Morgan playing most of the games and Brett Carroll looking like a fine defensive replacement, there is little reason to worry. Sure, there’s been some talk of the Brewers going out and grabbing Carlos Beltran — although for what cost is a question I can’t find a legitimate answer to — but the first priority should be shortstop. One of the rumors floating around has connected Milwaukee to Dodgers shortstop Jamey Carroll, and I believe he makes a perfect fit for the Brewers.
Carroll would be an initially unimpressive get for Milwaukee should a trade go down. He’s 37 years old and has a whopping 12 career home runs, and his .277 batting average don’t exactly jump off the spreadsheet. But Carroll has some legitimate skills that the Brewers lack at shortstop. Specifically, he has a little bit of range, and he knows how to take a walk.
For the fourth straight season, Carroll is posting an on-base percentage above .350, which is especially impressive in this year’s environment, in which the league average on-base percentage has dropped all the way to .319. He won’t add any pop — his SLG is below .360 for the fifth straight season — but at this point, the Brewers will take any sort of offensive production, and particularly at the bottom of the lineup, just getting runners on so the top of the order gets more hacks is good enough.
But the real issue with Yuniesky Betancourt isn’t his bat — it’s an issue, certainly, but there are three qualified shorstops with a worse wRC+ than Betancourt and ZiPS projects he’ll come around a little bit — it’s the defense. The Brewers’ team defense ranks 26th in the league, and although we can certainly place blame at the feet of Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, and Corey Hart, they at least produce on offense, and a run scored is just as good as a run saved. For opposing teams, Betancourt giveth at the plate, and Betancourt doth not taketh away in the field.
Carroll was an excellent second baseman with the Rockies, and his ability at the position has prompted the Dodgers to use him at shortstop. He hasn’t been the second coming of Ozzie Smith or anything, but Carroll’s ability at shortstop appears to be somewhere around average according to the litany of defensive metrics at FanGraphs, and nothing in his defensive reputation suggests otherwise. I’m pretty sure he would make this play.
Jamey Carroll is not a special player. But he is a MLB-caliber shortstop with a couple of key skills, and that’s more than Betancourt or Josh Wilson or Craig Counsell can really say at this point. The monetary cost will be minimal, as Carroll has less than $1 million remaining on his contract, and his value to the Dodgers isn’t high enough to warrant anything more than a C+/B- level prospect — think organizational filler or “live arms” in single-A. There may be better options out there –Carroll’s teammate Rafael Furcal, for instance — but if the Brewers do make a deal for Carroll, there is no doubt that he will be a fit in Milwaukee and make the team significantly better for a playoff run.