The Boston Red Sox won the World Series last night, and that couldn’t be a better transition into the Brewers’ offseason. While we know that the St. Louis Cardinals have an enviable organizational model, building a homegrown roster that gives them a core to compete for a handful of years (at least), the Red Sox had a more unique path to the MLB’s top spot in 2013. While we can all be skeptical about the Brewers’ ability to balance competing and rebuilding their farm system, the Red Sox provide a specific example about how a team can shift from worst-to-first. Their extreme makeover might lead one to wonder about the merit of long-term building plans (or rebuilding plans), but given their consistent core over the last couple of years, they also provide evidence that keeping a similar roster core in place can nevertheless produce wildly varying results.
At the beginning of October, J.P. may have said it best, on the Brewers’ offseason:
This is something that will be addressed much further in my upcoming offseason preview article, but Mark Attanasio, Doug Melvin and the Milwaukee Brewers have to get creative. By that, I’m trying to drive at a concept that’s deeper than “rebuild” or “win now”. The same can be said of “buy” and “sell” at the trade deadline. I’m tired of that binary framework. It’s too simplistic and isn’t how elite organizations are operated.
Look at the Tampa Bay Rays. They willfully traded away a four-win player last winter, yet they’re still playing baseball in October. The Rays could have retained right-hander James Shields and put themselves in better position to make a deep run in the postseason. Instead, the organization restocked their system with elite young talent (Wil Meyers, Jake Odorizzi, etc.) for future seasons and stayed active in free agency (Kelly Johnson, James Loney, etc.) to compete this season.
Baseball is a delicate balancing act. Organizations must keep one eye firmly placed on the future — three to five years out — while optimizing their current roster for the upcoming season. Occasionally, that scale can be slightly tipped in either direction, but the truly elite organizations in baseball attempt to keep the scale even at all times. That’s how to build a perennial contender.
If a baseball website could have a type of research statement, I think that’s a fitting definition of the challenges the Brewers’ “theory” face for 2014: While the club stands between competing and rebuilding, perhaps the best chance for success comes from neither pole. A successful Brewers’ offseason may be defined by aggressive trades for the future, as much as it may be defined by balanced approaches to roster construction (between pitching and hitting).
We’ve been preparing for the Brewers’ offseason for a few weeks at Disciples of Uecker, and I think it’s fitting to recap some of the areas of concern that we’ve covered before the Hot Stove warms up. There’s an attitude about organizational questions and concerns running through some of these posts, reflecting the Brewers’ transitional position. In a way, we’re covering as many angles as possible, simply because there are so many angles to 2014:
-Jonathan posted the Second Installment of his “How Good Are the Young Brewers Hitters?” series. (Part I is here). His debut also included a take on the Brewers’ approach to contending in 2014.
-J.P. analyzed Carlos Gomez‘s defense, charting his performance compared to Andrew McCutchen.
-Adam has a few posts that capture the Brewers’ financial situation, from franchise value to potential arbitration figures and payroll range.
-Ryan and Steve recently tackled the issue of instant replay.
-Tim analyzed unwritten rules and Carlos Gomez.
Our offseason begins, now that the baseball is over. We should be hopeful about worst-to-first potential, and we should also be hopeful for an organizational outlook that is stronger in the future than it is now. One only needs to wait and see how the Brewers meet both aims. As much as we’d love a piping Hot Stove, I gather that a creative, balanced, and aggressive stove will do just fine.