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**
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?
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.
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.
Like I said, it’s stupid. Let’s move on to something worth talking about…
**Headline: The Brewers are rebuilding**
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?
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.
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.
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**
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?
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.
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.