Rounding the Bases: Brewers Inactive at Trade Deadline | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

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

Doug Melvin and Mark Attanasio

Disappointed by the Milwaukee Brewers inaction at the trade deadline? Follow @RyanTopp and @SteveGarczynski on Twitter to join the discussion.

Steve Garczynski:

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?

Ryan Topp:

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?

Steve Garczynski:

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?

Ryan Topp:

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.

Steve Garczynski:

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.

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Tell us what do you think.

  1. SecondHandStore says: August 2, 2013

    Everything you two said is exactly what I’ve been thinking. Thank Science for beer.

  2. Lee says: August 2, 2013

    Would the Crew have the depth to replace any of the mentioned players? Or would an average MLB player also have been aquired in the trade to replace the player traded?

    • Ryan Topp says: August 3, 2013

      Replace in the sense that they’ll be ready to be as good as those players next year? No, but winning next year isn’t the point.

  3. Eugene Mannarino says: August 3, 2013

    Still dont think Loshe was a bad move but think they need to come with a better Plan to move forward

    • Ryan Topp says: August 3, 2013

      It isn’t that Lohse was a purely bad signing. It’s that the team wasn’t in a position to make it worth while to commit that kind of money for 3+ years, and give up the draft pick just to try and hopefully squeeze another year or two out of him.

      If the Brewers were actually in any sort of position to contend this year or next, and he was a supplementary player, OK. But they weren’t, he’s not and it was a waste of money and the pick from the get go.

      • Vin B says: August 3, 2013

        Hopefully the draft pick lost in the Lohse signing will come back in return of prospects when they trade him in off season. If they keep him and Brewers are a 70-80 win team again it will have been one of the worst moves in recent history.

  4. Joe Lawrence says: August 3, 2013

    I don’t think the Lohse signing was bad at all. He has proven to be the best the Crew has and there is no reason he can’t be as good for two more years. With the Brewers lack of success for their draft choices, there is a much better chance they would have bungled another pick. Even if the pick was any good, there is never a guarantee on any draft pick getting to the big leagues. Melvin and MA thought they would be much more competitive this year. They thought Hart would be back, never could forsee Braun’s mess, and who knew that Ramirez would get hurt and be on the DL?

    • Steve Garczynski says: August 3, 2013

      The problem with the Lohse signing is that even if he added 3 wins (in WAR) over the projected 5th starter coming into the season, the Brewers still weren’t going to win more than 83-84 games. That isn’t a playoff team, so Mark Attanasio was paying for wins that really weren’t going to be a return on that investment. It would have made a lot more sense if they were closer to an 88 win team and booting the projected win total above 90 had a greater chance to produce a playoff appearance.

      • dbug says: August 3, 2013

        There are just some people you will never reach. The Lohse signing was a mistake, but you’ll never be able to convince some people to see why.

    • Ryan Topp says: August 6, 2013

      Going bit by bit here:

      There are reasons that Lohse won’t be as good next year and the year after as he is this year. It’s not a guarantee, but Lohse will be 35 and 36 the next two years, and players of that age are in physical decline and, more often than not, lose some effectiveness. Betting that he won’t decline may end up paying off might turn out to be correct, but it’s still a bad bet to make.

      As for the volatility of draft picks, of course that’s true. It’s also true that a team in the Brewers market, and increasingly ANY MLB team, must build from their farm system. You can supplement your core players with smart trades and bargain free agent signings, but if you don’t have a group of cost controlled young players playing well above their pay grade, you’re not winning anything in this market. So even though any individual pick is far from a sure thing, the only way this team is going to be successful is to draft well. The volatility of picks makes it that much more important not to give up the chances the team does have.

      When they signed Lohse, they were aware that Hart had surgery and would miss considerable time. They also knew that Braun was under investigation from a motivated MLB. They also knew that Ramirez had already had partially torn his knee in camp and that he’s 35 years old and injuries often take longer to heal at that age.

      The move was the wrong player, at the wrong time, on the wrong contract from the get go. They’re compounding their mistake now by refusing to salvage whatever value they can for him and get out from under the contract. Whole big pile of fail.

  5. Tsxu says: August 3, 2013

    Mark A doesn’t seem to know how to properly run a small market MLB team from the lack of success up to this point and Doug Melvin is an overrated GM who doesn’t seem to know how to put together a consistent all around team. And I don’t even want to start talking about the Brewers lack of high upside top talent overall in the minors for a long time now and the lack of proper player development. I mean the Cardinals, Giants, Rays, and some other clubs keep bringing up MLB ready talent year after year but the Brewers do not. Any comments would be appreciated here. Thanks.

    • Ryan Topp says: August 6, 2013

      I would agree that Mark Attanasio seems to want his cake (selling the notion of yearly contention) while eating it (loading up for short bursts by trading away young players for rentals) too. Melvin is a tougher one, because his actions have to be viewed through the lens of owner expectations, demands and in some cases, outright meddling. As Jonah Keri so accurately pointed out, ( the Brewers suffered massive brain drain after the influx of all the young talent in 2005-2007, losing tons of scouts and having to revamp on the fly.

      Of course it would be wonderful if the Brewers were to emulate the Cards and the Rays (not so much the Giants) but that has to start at the top. You have to have a patient owner who values consistent contention over splashy moves that help short term but drain cost control years of young talent from the org. It would be interesting to see what Melvin would do with a different mandate from above. His skill in trading and patient demeanor seem like assets, but who knows? It’s all hypothetical.

  6. Evan says: August 4, 2013

    It seems like everyone in here is sipping on the same kool-aid the bloggers are putting forth. Actually the Brewers have been relevant in the past 9 years since Attanasio took over. Do you want to remember what it was like before him? He’s the best thing that could have happened to this franchise. He spends money and actually tries to win in a sport where the cards are stacked against you. Sure they blew up the minor league system but would you rather be Pittsburgh and never make a deadline deal to get over the hump? The Lohse signing is fine… If this team isn’t going to win it doesn’t matter that we signed him. We can trade him for something when necessary or ride him out and earn his draft pick we lost when he leaves again. I can’t go to Brewers games that are trotting out Darren Hand and company. Brewers fans should at least see one decent start every five days.

    • Bob M says: August 5, 2013

      I seriously doubt the Brewers will offer a 38 year old Lohse the qualifying offer, let alone have him decline it and have another team still sign him. This is the same Lohse that was unsigned until late in spring training because people didn’t want to give up a draft pick for the 35 year old version.

      That is the exact same reason you can’t assume that the Brewers are going to be able to get anything worthwhile in trade for Lohse, let alone more value than that first round draft pick.

    • Ryan Topp says: August 6, 2013

      As Steve pointed out, they’ve won more than 83 games twice in the 9 years Mark has owned the team. I understand that 2005-2007 were still “building” years so perhaps it’s more fair to point to 2008-2013, but that’s 2 83+ win seasons in 6 years. Considering the massive pile of cheap talent that came up in 2005-2007 (Braun, Gallardo, Fielder, Hart, Weeks, Hardy) and the prospects that followed (Lucroy, Escobar, Cain, Lawrie, Odorizzi) I really think good management accomplishes much more than 2 83+ win seasons.

      As for Pittsburgh, yeah, I would MUCH rather be in their situation. They have the best record in baseball, have a massive core of young talent, almost no bad contracts, a stocked farm system and a management group that doesn’t panic. Sign me up, please.

  7. Bob M says: August 5, 2013

    “This club was an 80ish win team entering 2013 and they’ll have less talent next year.”
    I disagree that the team will have a less talented roster entering 2014 than entering 2013. The roster is going to be primarily the same. You can argue age-related decline for older players like Aoki and Ramirez, but that also comes with age-related improvement from younger players like Gomez and Segura.

    • Clay says: August 6, 2013

      Dont forget Lucroy. Also, everyone overlooks the intangibles that Lohse can provide to the young pitchers. Did you really want the young pitchers learning from Gallardo, so they can go 5 innings 110 pitches, 10K, 4ER etc.? Lohse has minimal talent but has crafted a long sustainable career because he knows how to pitch. The Lohse deal has a chance to help in Years 2 and 3. My bet is more than we could ever know, as evidenced by the pitching improvements in June and July.

    • Ryan Topp says: August 6, 2013

      Segura may still improve. He also may get worse. Players that break out like he has a a relatively young age don’t always consistently improve and turn into complete superstars. Some do, but some don’t. As for Lucroy and Gomez, they’re both in their age 27 seasons, which is the general peak of players. They might get better. They might get worse. All in all, I would probably expect them to be collectively a bit worse than they have been this year, since both Gomez and Segura have yet to establish that this is a sustainable level of production for them. I wouldn’t expect improvement, though it’s certainly possible.

      As for the vets, Ramirez is hurt and is 35. Weeks is 30 and has struggled 2 years in a row. Aoki is 31 and prone to wearing down. Who the hell knows what to expect from Braun? Can Gallardo regain his lost velocity? Can Lohse sustain this performance? The bullpen has been really good this year, but it’s really hard to count on that from year to year, as we learned in 2011-12.

      For me, the hope lies in trying to break in Peralta, Nelson, Hellweg, Jungmann and perhaps even Thornburg, Pena or reestablish Fiers next year. If they’re going to compete again in the next 5 or so years, they’ll need some guys from that group to outplay current expectations. It’s more of a hope than a plan, but it’s the best thing they can do given the current circumstances.


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