The trade deadline has come and gone, and it was a quiet day around baseball. The Red Sox acquired Jake Peavy in a three team deal, former Brewers prospect Joe Thatcher was on the move in the Padres trade for Ian Kennedy, otherwise it was mostly relief pitchers and bench pieces getting shuffled around.
Milwaukee remained silent, much to the dismay of many Brewers fans. They received a nice player in return for Francisco Rodriguez which may have goosed expectations about what else they’d be able to bring in as MLB neared the deadline and teams with postseason aspirations started to get a little desperate.
The lack of movement was mildly surprising. Michael Gonzalez, Tom Gorzelanny, John Axford and Jim Henderson were bullpen arms that looked attractive. Players like Kyle Lohse, Nori Aoki, Rickie Weeks and Yovani Gallardo were less likely because they had multiple seasons of club control left or were performing so poorly recently that few teams probably wanted to take a chance on them if involved parting with legitimate talent.
Ryan, was the front office too cautious around the trade deadline this year, or are they just waiting for the waiver trade deadline at the end of August?
Yeah, it looks like we overshoot a bit with our odds piece, didn’t we? I’m glad we set the deadline at the end of August instead of July. I do think there is a really good chance we’ll see at least Michael Gonzalez moved before the postseason deadline to some team looking for a LOOGY. They may also be able to move someone like Weeks, Ramirez or perhaps even Loshe whose contracts may be viewed by some teams as disadvantageous and thus be able to slip them through waivers.
That being said, I think it’s pretty clear from the comments made by owner Mark Attanasio that he doesn’t view 2014 as a lost season. When he talks about how all the injuries have hurt the Brewers this year, he’s saying to his customers ‘once we’re healthy next year, we’ll be just fine.’ It’s a message that appeals to a lot of people, and it ignores the other very real problems that face the team right now, most notably the lack of plus starting pitching. So it doesn’t seem like he is inclined to give up anyone who might be a useful asset in their pursuit of winning in 2014.
General manager Doug Melvin quotes on the issue weren’t any more encouraging:
“I’m OK,” Melvin said. “After you look at proposals we made and things like that, I’m OK. The one thing on our club that has improved over the second half of the year has been our pitching. Do you agree that St. Louis and Washington have pretty good pitching staffs? In the month of June, we were better than the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals. In the month of July, we were better than the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals.
“So with the younger guys that we have [alongside] Gallardo and Lohse, I’m encouraged by our pitching and how it’s improved. I can’t defend April and May, but I’m seeing some improvement.”
Granted, part of any GM’s job is to sell whatever he has to sell about the team and specifically the moves he’s made, so it’s only natural that he would point to any improvements in the team’s weakest area after the decision was made not to trade off pieces for 2014 for younger players. It’s still somewhat concerning that he might really believe that guys like Tom Gorzelanny and Donovan Hand are long term solutions or that Wily Peralta has permanently turned the corner. As unlikely as it might seem that Melvin believes this, he does at least seem to be selling it.
Either way, I’m tempted to believe that they’re still focused on using their assets to win in 2014 and aren’t that concerned about trying to build for something bigger and better down the road. You?
I have a hard time viewing this trade deadline as a definitive answer to whether the Brewers are rebuilding or retooling to go for it in 2014. Lohse, Gallardo, Weeks, Aoki and the rest are under contract through at least next season. There isn’t an immediate need to flip them this year in an attempt to recoup some value.
The worst move is trading guys out of a sense of desperation. Buyers are getting more reluctant to part with legit talent for rentals. Doug Melvin is wise to avoid getting sucked into deals that will look underwhelming the moment they’re made. The farm system won’t be magically rebuilt by moving any of those players, even in a seller’s market.
I can’t say that the Brewers front office made the right move by not making a deal by July 31. They get an incomplete and we get to wait and see not only what happens in August, but over the winter and possibly the 2014 deadline. This club was an 80ish win team entering 2013 and they’ll have less talent next year. Will you be surprised if they’re sellers at the deadline again in 2014?
No, I think a repeat of this type of situation is pretty likely, unless they go further into hock and deal off still more young talent for short term rentals of starting pitching to make a run in 2014. That’s really my other fear here, since they’ve started to build up a little value in the farm for the first time since they cleaned it out to acquire Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, and I would hate to see them clear it out yet again on the hopes of everything going right for another short burst at contention.
I understand that the lack of movement overall in the market means that the prices probably weren’t that good. Of course, given that Melvin told people he wasn’t going to be trading some of his most movable assets, it’s hard to say they really looked around as hard as they should have. We’ll never know just how open they were to moving guys like Lohse and Aoki, but from the outside it sure doesn’t seem like they were very interested.
I guess the real problem that I have right now with the management of this team is that while they say over and over how they want to compete each and every year, so many of their actions aren’t designed at consistent contention, given the limitations of playing in a small market. Look at how the Rays run things. They don’t trade off young players for short term rentals. If they do move a younger player, it’s almost always for longer term control of another young player. They also don’t hand out 3 and 4 year deals to veterans and backload those deals, but the Brewers sure have done plenty of that under Attanasio and Melvin. The Rays are headed to what looks like their fifth 90+ win season in the last six years and seem built for a sustained run of contention going forward. The Brewers won 90 twice over the same time and the next 90 win team doesn’t appear to be anywhere on the horizon.
I guess I’d just like to hear a lot less talk about how they’re going to win every year and more actual winning, but they weren’t willing to make those decisions when the window was open to contend, and now it seems closed for the foreseeable future.
The dirty little secret of Mark Attanasio era is that they haven’t won that much. Two teams in nine seasons have won 90+ games and made the playoffs, and the rest have been barely .500. We’re routinely watching a team that finishes with 77 to 83 wins, win totals that don’t get into the playoffs. Yet the owner holds court in front of some eager microphones and always talks about being competitive again next season. His big talk and actual results don’t mesh.
If the Mark Attanasio vision is getting in the way of Doug Melvin’s ability to make these deadline deals because of a directive to win next season, the Milwaukee Brewers are going to be in trouble for a long time. The farm system is weak, the owner is willing to punt draft picks for vanity signings like Kyle Lohse, and now they won’t take a step back to flip what assets they have to get stronger a few years down the road.
It’s hard to assess if there is disfunction just because of the passing of this one trade deadline. In twelve months we’ll know exactly what direction this team is headed in and whether things will come crumbling down.