Rounding the Bases: Ryan Braun, Tony Bosch & Rebuilding | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

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

Normally at Rounding the Bases, we stick to one big topic per week. This was not a normal week for the Milwaukee Brewers, so welcome to pur first multitopic week! You can continue the discussion on Twitter with @RyanTopp and @SteveGarczynski.

**Headline: MLB gets Bosch to flip**

Steve Garczynski:

As we’ve all heard by now, Anthony Bosch  of the Miami Biogenisis Clinic crumbled under the pressure from Major League Baseball and has made a deal to work with them on their investigation into players using performance enhancing drugs.

It’s just another PED scandal that Ryan Braun has to deal with, and regardless of the outcome will follow him around for the rest of his career. When the Biogenisis story originally broke in January, Braun and his team of lawyers said that they only used Bosch as a consultant in during the appeals process of his positive drug test in 2011. Bosch even backed up that story a few weeks ago.

Maybe the only positive from this whole situation is that we may be headed down the road to resolving what, if any, punishment is going to be doled out and we can all put Biogenisis behind us. MLB can go after Braun, Alex Rodriguez and the other 18 players scribbled in Bosch’s notebooks, the players can appeal, and then it’s over.

Am I too optimistic to think that this could finally lead to some resolution?

Ryan Topp:

This whole thing is just really so stupid, I really don’t even want to talk about it. If MLB has legitimate means to suspend Braun for violating the rules, then have at it. Yet, what’s going on just looks more and more farcical as more info comes out. They seem to be willing to go to any end, sink to any level of shadiness to get these guys, and to what end? By doing it they’re turning it into a news story, and the sports press is more than happy to latch on to it over the coming low news months. They’re damaging their own product all in the name of cleaning up the sport, when the public has never seemed nearly as concerned about steroids as the media or Congress. People didn’t boo Barry Bonds because he was on steroids for the most part. They booed Barry Bonds because he was on someone else’s team hitting home runs and taking steroids. It’s just all so pointless.

Steve Garczynski:

As this season spirals the drain, it would make sense for Braun to just take the suspension and be done with this whole thing. Work out a deal where he’s suspended for something vague like one of those “detriment to the game rules,” but he doesn’t have to confess to PED use. He forgoes any legal battles or an appeals process, so MLB gets their suspension quickly and they can thump their chests about how they’re “protecting the integrity of the game.”

Now, I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know if any of that is even possible. From Braun and the Brewers perspective though, it does two things. 1) Braun serves his suspension in a lost season for the club. It doesn’t matter how many games the Brewers lose because they aren’t going to the playoffs. 2) Braun’s salary increases in 2014. Take the suspension now and save a few bucks versus getting suspended a year or two later. Mounting a defense for this can’t be cheap either, which means he’ll drop some cash regardless if he wins or loses.

Ryan Topp:

Like I said, it’s stupid. Let’s move on to something worth talking about…

**Headline: The Brewers are rebuilding**

Steve Garczynski:

The Brewers have dug a deep hole in 2013 and Doug Melvin has acknowledged that fact. In Michael Hunt’s column on June 3rd, he quoted Melvin as saying, “If we make any more trades this year, it’s going to be for two or three years from now instead of now. I’m not going to be trading any young players to win games.”

Maybe it isn’t a full teardown and rebuild, but Melvin knows that Band-Aid roster solutions will only make remaining competitive from year to year even more difficult. Ryan Braun and Jean Segura are untouchable, and anyone else can probably be had for the right price.

The Brewers front office should be totally surprised that this moment has finally come, and clearing the roster for a quick rebuild is something that every organization should look to do periodically. The farm system has been questionable to poor for a few years now and the price tag of the major league roster isn’t justified by the results.

What kind of moves can the Brewers make to rebuild quickly?

Ryan Topp:

I was really happy when I saw this. Not that losing is ever good, but it seems that the Brewers have gotten to the point where losing (or at least not winning) seems inevitable and if you’re going to be losing you might as well do so with a purpose. The goal, as Melvin said, needs to be about 2-3 years down the road, not trying to cobble something together for next year. Not that next year needs to be bad, get some of the right players and the team could legitimately surprise in 2014, but the priority needs to be more about the long term.

The kinds of players that I would target at this point would be a mix of high upside but raw prospects, nearly major league ready guys that may be surplus players for their current clubs and post-hype former top prospects who still have untapped potential but have worn out their welcome in their current cities, like Carlos Gomez when the Brewers got him from the Twins. In the current environment of MLB, it’s unlikely that most teams will move truly elite prospects, unless they simply don’t value them properly (see Segura, Jean). There is no need to be dogmatic, if a team really undervalues a player but he only has 2+ years of control left, go ahead and grab him, knowing that he can be flipped for better assets in the offseason or at the next trade deadline.

As for specific players I would move, I think the best thing they can do is right now let it be known that basically anyone is available for the right price, but make that price relatively high. As the deadline approaches, I would then lower the cost on the players that you really want to move. I would put a heavy priority on moving Aramis Ramirez, Kyle Lohse, Michael Gonzalez, and Francisco Rodriguez, basically taking what I could get for them at the deadline. I would heavily shop Nori Aoki, Marco Estrada, Jim Henderson, and really just about anyone else in the bullpen, but wouldn’t force moving any of them unless a truly reasonable return was offered.

I would put a pretty high price tag on Yovani Gallardo and stick with it because of the 2+ years of control remaining. Corey Hart would also get a fairly high price tag and if no one bites on him then offer him the qualifying offer and either get a compensation pick or bring him back on a 1 year deal for 2014 with an eye towards moving him later. Finally, everyone’s favorite divisive player, Rickie Weeks. He’s tricky because he has a contract that is paying him much more than the level he’s currently producing at. Of course, Weeks showed just last year that he’s more than capable of snapping out of a funk like this so panicking and paying someone else to take him probably isn’t called for. Ideally, he gets hot over the next 2 months and some team is willing to give up real talent to get him. If not, the team will have to see if they can just unload the contract.

Steve Garczynski:

Are fans in Milwaukee bored with their players? There doesn’t seem to be a sense of disappointment or anger from the fanbase following Melvin’s comments. Even in his best seasons, Rickie Weeks has never lived up to the (unreasonable) expectations placed upon him, Corey Hart frustrated many again with an extended DL stint to start the season, and even Yovani Gallardo is drawing ire for his sluggish early season performance (the DUI didn’t help his image either).  I get the sense that people are ready for a turnover in the core of this team. Braun is here for the long haul and Jean Segura is  more exciting than expected. There won’t be many tears shed if anyone else is moved.

Ryan Topp:

I think people are probably as ready as they ever will be for a youth movement at this point. Make no mistake, there will be nasty stories written about Mark Attanasio conducting a “fire sale.” Idiotic comparisons to Jeffrey Loria will be made. Ticket sales will slump. TV Ratings will drop.  That being said, these things are largely inevitable at this point, is just a question of whether or not it will be done on managements terms, or whether it will be forced upon them slowly over time by the forces of aging and attrition, as happened in Houston.

Now is the time for Mark Attanasio to turn to that PR department that did such a good job selling the contender to fans over the past half decade and have them sell the fans on the rebuild. Don’t be dishonest. Don’t be disingenuous. Don’t make band aid free-agent signings in an effort to sell a few more tickets. Figure out a date in the future to build towards and then stick with it. They’re already positioned to lose this year and get a top end draft pick and big international bonus allotment. Don’t try and stop that process, help it along. This team has enough marketable talent right now that they can get some legitimate returns in trade and, at the same time, help the losing. It won’t be pretty, but it’s better than the alternative slow slide into irrelevance.

**Headline: Brewers call-up prospect Scooter Gennet, platoons with Rickie Weeks**

Steve Garczynski:

Sorry Ryan, you need to weigh in this one.

Gennet was drafted out of high school by the Brewers in 2009 and shown decent contact ability through the minors, consistently hitting around .300. That batting average was accompanied by marginal on-base ability and little power. That hasn’t prevented fans and beat writers from dreaming on Scooter as a future contributor for the Brewers.

To make room for Scooter, Roenicke is managing a platoon with Rickie Weeks, which clearly favors the left-handed hitting Gennet. This all happened when Weeks finally started to break out of his two month slump and hit like Rickie Weeks. This seems like a good way to eliminate any trade value Weeks had left if the front office really had the idea that they could flip him for something before making Scooter the full-time second baseman in 2014.

I know you’re not a fan of replacing Weeks with Gennet, but are there any positives to take away from this situation?

Ryan Topp:

I really don’t get this one. Gennett is a legit big league prospect, and I think there is a reasonable chance that someday he’ll be an acceptable starter at 2B for a decent team. That being said, there is a pretty decent chance he’ll never hit enough to be a regular and he’s neither good nor versatile defensively.

My real objection to this move comes down to timing. As you pointed out, Weeks has actually been a little bit better over the last few weeks or so. Besides the improved numbers he’s also hitting more to right field, which has often coincided with a Rickie hot streak in the past. Even more importantly, Gennett just hasn’t been that good since April ended. He hit .244/.298/.336 in May and .216/.256/.324 over his last 10 games in AAA. Normally, when calling up a prospect for their first shot at facing MLB competition, it seems like a good idea to make sure the guy is having some success, so if nothing else he’ll at least show up confident.

The other issue, as you alluded to, is the fact that playing Weeks less certainly isn’t going to boost his trade value. Right now, if I was a team with a little bit of money to spend and worried about trying to fill in a hole at 2B over the next few years, I would probably try and see if I could get Weeks for little to nothing in return. If the plan is to move Weeks, benching him seems like a rather poor decision, no matter what the throngs of fans who boo Rickie at every turn think.

Steve Garczynski:

As I suggested earlier about the fans getting tired of the aging core, the front office may be fatigued dealing with the noise surrounding Weeks and they finally relented. Maybe they’re showcasing Gennett hoping that either he wildly succeeds and Wally Pips Weeks out of a job, or he struggles like many young players and fans can ease off a little knowing that the kid isn’t ready right now to be in the major leagues.

Scooter could end up having a nice major league career. He’ll have decent value when he’s cheap talent, and he could kick around the league as an “energy” that teams use to fill out a roster. Ideally, he plays well enough and demonstrates that he isn’t overmatched, even if he’s not a good player in 2013, and Weeks gets hot enough in his shared playing time to raise his value in the eyes of other teams. We’ll just need to wait and see how this plays out.

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Tell us what do you think.

  1. Chris says: June 7, 2013

    I wouldn’t say I am “bored” with the current core. I just think I see the writing on the wall. It’s time to move on and find he next core. I like these guys and they provided us with a lot of thrills and good memories, but they are aging and their price is rising; a more sustainable path needs to be taken.

    My only quibble: I think Ryan Braun should be considered “touchable,” too. He is at this peak, he will never return more in trade than right now. Nagging injuries are starting to pile up, and the weight of his PED sideshow is a distraction for the franchise and its fans. He is also about to start becoming very expensive. He’s a superb offensive player, but wears a blood-soaked apron in LF. I know he’s the face of the franchise and all of that, but I doubt he will be the same player by the time the Brewers retool things, so deal him now to help rebuild a core of guys that can help the team open another window of opportunity.

    • Ryan Topp says: June 7, 2013

      I didn’t bring up Braun because there are a couple of reasons I just don’t see him going anywhere, so it’s sort of a moot point. First off, I can’t see any way the owner agrees to part with him under any circumstance. Second, and more importantly, Braun right now is completely untradable because of the Biogenesis stuff. Brewers fans may not like that he’s a marked man in the game right now, but the reality is that he’s a toxic asset. No way any team in the game would willingly take on the 120+ million he’s owed and give up anything like the sort of talent the Brewers would need to move him. It’s a complete non-starter, as much as it would make pure baseball sense.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Steve Garczynski says: June 7, 2013

      “I doubt he will be the same player by the time the Brewers retool things”

      That’s the reason why the second Braun extension was questionable. We’ve said it before, but he was already committed to the Brewers during his peak production seasons. Paying top dollar for his decline years (which could still be very productive years) isn’t the best use of resources. The reality is that Braun is a “Brewer for life,” and his contract is probably too difficult to move. If he were traded, fans would expect to get the value of his production back in a trade, but that doesn’t take into account the financial responsibility the other team is assuming. The Brewers would have to either eat some of the contract to get young talent, or take fifty cents on the dollar in return.

      • Chris says: June 7, 2013

        I could not agree more that Braun’s second extension was unnecessary; it remains a puzzler to me.

        I can’t argue with your deconstruction of Braun’s trade balance sheet. However, it might be worth getting only one premium minor leaguer in return for Braun to get out from under that contract.

        On the other hand, a declining Braun might still have value in the middle of a line up five years from now after the team has retooled. I recall that Molitor and Yount brought value to the ’92 club even through both were far-removed from the production that helped propel the teams in the early ’80s.

        • Ryan Topp says: June 7, 2013

          Braun sticking around may be just be a thing we have to concede Mark in this rebuilding process. He’ll sell tickets and trading him will diminish good will with casual fans. If the Brewers put him on waivers today, I’m pretty sure no one picks him up anyway, not with this stuff hanging over his head. Maybe in a year or two when it’s hopefully all cleared up, but not now.

          • Chris says: June 8, 2013

            I think you’re right on all fronts. It’s just the situation we find ourselves in at the moment, at least.

  2. Jeff says: June 7, 2013

    People talking about moving Braun because of ‘diminishing returns’ as he ages may want to remember Molitor. I remember that argument back then, too. These stats people cite only tells you what other players have done. Molitor, it turns out, was NOT other people. But the fans knew that anyway!

    People would have come to watch Molitor in his declining years, regardless. They will come to watch Braun, too.

    This is where I think you guys miss some of the psychology in Milwaukee. We go into every year expecting not to win. So why do we go? Because we develop an interest in particular players. Yount, Molitor, Vaughn when I was a kid. (I used to root for Cirillo, too.) Braun, Segura, Ramirez maybe today. It may sound smarty-smart to move these players and do baseball business, but your fan base is actually only there for these players.

    We’re not going to win. Baseball in Mwaukee is doomed. The deck is completely stacked and will not be unstacked. You all know that. I know that. We go because of the players. Take them away, and what do I care? Turn over Braun, and you forget how Mwaukee works.

    And yes, I’ve still never gotten over them ditching Molitor. The first break-up is always the hardest. ;)

    • Ryan Topp says: June 8, 2013

      Thanks for taking the time to read and respond. I know this issue cuts close for a lot of people, and I get why. It hasn’t been easy being a Brewer fan. Many more bad times than good over the years.

      That being said, I think you’re wrong about Milwaukee baseball being doomed. I know it’s harder to win here than some other places. This team is never going to be the Yankees, the Cardinals or the other big boys. The game isn’t set up that way. Still, I think it is possible to run the organization well, go through extended periods of winning and then take a few steps back and reload for the future.

      Perhaps the most important thing is not being afraid of losing, and not being afraid of giving up good players. No, every trade isn’t going to work out and bring back star talent for star talent. But then again, some trade will bring back star talent when you didn’t give up star talent. The Cardinals payroll isn’t that much higher than the Brewers, they’ve just been run really, really well over the decades. Maybe it’s not realistic to hope for that level of competence, but we certainly can aspire to be well run and have more success down the road.

      As for Braun, you really don’t have to worry about him going anywhere. I don’t think they could pay anyone to take him (and his contract) off their hands right now. He is, as Ken Rostehthal said, “radioactive” and he’s not going anywhere. That’s OK, because perhaps they can use him to keep fans at least a little on board while they build a new core around Segura, Gomez, Lucroy and the young players already in the system and the ones that will come back in trades for guys like Ramirez, Hart, Lohse, the pen guys and probably eventually Gallardo.

      Don’t fear it. Don’t ask them to delay it, either. That will only make things worse. Look at what the Astros are going through because they refused to flip some assets in 2006-2008 and let the team go downhill slowly instead. They’ll still have some guys to root for. It’s just a question of getting young talent and going through the development process as smartly as possible.

    • Philboyd says: June 8, 2013

      I also disagree about Milwaukee baseball being doomed. But I do agree about Milwaukee fans becoming attached to certain players. I would hope Milwaukee wouldn’t devolve to being the type of fan who simply cheers for laundry – whoever is wearing the home team uniform. This is why it pains me that Brewer fans boo Rickie Weeks. It’s not like he doesn’t still play hard in spite of his struggles. If he was dogging it, OK. But he isn’t – he just hasn’t hit well while still playing hard. When fans boo under this circumstance it is just infantile – they’re upset because they didn’t get what they want.

  3. Jeff S says: June 7, 2013

    I wound’t call it rebuilding. The Astros are rebuilding. I would call it “retooling”. We have established pieces in Braun, Segura, Gomez, near ready prospects in Morris, Nelson, Hellweg, and Thornburg, and some far off prospects like Coulter, Roache, and Taylor. We also have Ramirez, Hart, Aoki, Yovanni(?) and the bullpen to trade for pieces. We could also have a top ten pick or two in the next year or so. I don’t believe the cupboard is as empty as we think. I think we could be back in contention in 2015 and then some of the higher upside picks could start to break into the majors and we would have a 5-6 year window of contention. I hope Antanasio doesn’t become a Herb Kohl and go “win now” every year and handcuff the GM.

    • Ryan Topp says: June 8, 2013

      Totally cool with that. I think there are varying levels of rebuilding they can undergo right now and still have a successful run in the future. But I think we’re agreed they need to do some sort of sell off of the aging assets and accumulating of more young players. It seems like time.

  4. Chris says: June 8, 2013

    I get the notion of attachment to players. I lived through and cheered for the group that turned the franchise around in ’78-82, the next group a decade later, and the most recent collection of guys. I loved ‘em all! (Well, except maybe Gary Sheffield.) The hardest thing for a fan might be letting go of played you’ve come to appreciate and feel you know. But what I’ve seen over the years is that new favorites emerge, particularly if they are attached to a winning team. Heck, a year ago I didn’t know a guy called Jean Segura existed; now he feels like family.

    This most recent period has been a blast, a great ride from the days when Jim Powell spent chunks of the big league broadcast talking about these kids at High Desert who were going to come up together and make a splash in MKE. It was fun watching them advance and arrive, put some winning seasons and a couple of playoff flags on the wall. Yeah, good times. But now those guys are older, starting to decline, and getting more and more expensive. We need another cadre of kids to follow, groom, and then cheer…hopefully to another playoff appearance or two.

    In places like MKE, that’s the nature of things. Time to get on with it.

    • Ryan Topp says: June 8, 2013

      I could not agree more. Well said!


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