Milwaukee Brewers need to carefully consider cost of David Price | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

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

Early summer is a fun time of the year to be a baseball fan. Whether or not your team happens to be in the thick of the pennant race, there are likely to be rumors floating around about possible trades your team could make. Teams in the race can find missing pieces of the puzzle that can help push them over the top and into the playoffs. Teams that are out of it can still do themselves a lot of good by adding young players who have many years to go before they can become free agents in exchange for veterans that don’t figure in the team’s future plans.

With the Brewers currently sporting a National League best 48-32 record, they are clearly in the former category of teams looking to add talent to the roster this summer. In fact, the team is already out taking a look at some of the more “high end” commodities out there on the market, namely Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price:

It’s hard not to think of the 2008 addition of CC Sabathia when the name David Price comes up in connection to the Brewers. Both players were among the very best pitchers in the American League, both were recent Cy Young Award winners and both came with tons of “big name” recognition. It’s easy to excuse any fan for getting excited at the prospect of adding that kind of player.

The problem is that the Tampa Bay Rays aren’t going to let Price go cheaply. Unlike Sabathia, Price actually comes with not just the remainder of the current season under team control, but also all of next year as well. While that is useful on one hand, in that it allows whatever team is going after him two chances to make it pay off with multiple potential World Series runs, it’s also going to significantly raise the value in return the Rays will be expecting  for him.

Kiley McDaniel from Scout.com just broke that down in a recent post that was focused on the idea of the Brewers division rivals, the St Louis Cardinals, trying to trade for Price:

The practical value of Price on the trade market is much higher than this, maybe as much double the figure I list below, when you factor in a reasonably-priced Cy Young candidate with 1.5 years of control is available with lots of teams on the precipice of the playoffs. This is the limitation of a system like this that looks to value the average win for the average team, rather than valuing the wins that are (potentially) the difference between winning the division and going home for a large market team.

With the injury to a struggling Kolten Wong and the subpar Mark Ellis filling in at second base, the Rays second biggest tradechip (sic), utilityman Ben Zobrist, also seems like a nice fit for the Cardinals. Packaging these two players together could enable Tampa Bay to have their pick of St. Louis’ young players, akin to when they traded RHPs James Shields & Wade Davis to Kansas City for Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi and two others. Zobrist is good enough to “break” BUBBA, so his actual value is close to what I list below.

The upshot here is that the Rays are in a tremendous position to demand the sun, the moon and the stars (future stars?) in exchange for Price. The Cardinals certainly have a lot of farm system depth from which to deal, and if they throw their best possible offer on the table for Price, it’s hard to see anyone topping it.

The Cardinals under general manager John Mozeliak are shrewd operators, though. They haven’t often been willing to give up big time prospects in exchange for a star upgrade, despite being perennial contenders and having ample opportunity to do so over the years. Outside of their acquisition of Matt Holliday in 2009 in exchange for prospects who ended up busting out, their mid season trades have mostly been for role players rather than stars.

The Cardinals unwillingness to part with prospects in exchange for short term solutions is actually a big part of the reason why they have been perennial contenders, rather than a “boom and bust” operation that swings back and forth between contention and also-ran status on a regular basis. It payed off for them in 2011 with a World Series title and has them in a position to contend for years to come with a solid core of young players, both in the major league level and in the minors.

This should serve as something of a warning for the Brewers as they proceed in this trade market. Their much maligned farm system is on something of an upswing right now. They have a very highly thought of pitching prospect in the major league ready Jimmy Nelson. Any trade for Price would probably have to start with him or Wily Peralta. The Crew would almost certainly also have to part with a player, or more likely two, from the group of Tyrone Taylor, Orlando Arcia, Devin Williams, Clint Coulter, and Jorge Lopez as well.

In other words, the Brewers would probably have to gut their farm to make a deal for Price. There is the possibility that Price could be the missing piece in the Brewers puzzle for 2014, and help lead them to that elusive World Series title. There is also the chance that he could struggle or even get hurt and leave them without the boost they were looking for and a significantly weakened farm system.

What this all comes down to is a philosophy of team building. Under owner Mark Attanasio and Doug Melvin, the team has routinely made big, splashy trades in an effort to win as many games as possible in the near term. They did it with Sabathia in 2008, and with Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum before 2011. Those moves did, unquestionably, help them make the playoffs in 2008 and 2011.

Giving up the players they did for short term rentals rather than controllable young players also left them without the talent to truly contend for a playoff spot in 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2013. This was a trade off they were willing to make then and certainly suggests they might be willing to try something like it again in 2014.

This is whythe Brewers need to proceed very carefully this time around. If they do end up making the big play for a player like Price, they need to be careful they aren’t giving up the chance to consistently contend in the coming years in the process. World Series teams are rarely the best team on paper heading into the postseason tournament, but rather the team that gets hot. Since it’s impossible to control with any certainty when your team will get hot, the best way to win a World Series is to just make the postseason as many times and possible with good teams and hope it all comes together for you.

Monster trades for big name players are a lot of fun, but they aren’t the best way to win consistently at the big league level, especially in a market where you can’t paper over holes with a 200 million dollar payroll. As much fun as it would be to add Price, chances are pretty good it’s not in the team’s long-term best interest to put so many eggs in this 2014 basket.

H/T to @AndrewVrchota for pointing me towards that Topkin tweet here

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Comments

Tell us what do you think.

  1. Nate Huiras says: June 26, 2014

    Yeah I wouldn’t add Price either. With 80% playoff odds right now just get in and hope you catch lightning in a bottle.

  2. Josh says: June 26, 2014

    I really hope we don’t trade for Price. Sure, we have a great chance of going to the WS this year, but the future is once again floundered for many years. Although, the CC and Greinke deals helped us win for one year, I would much rather have sustained success for years to come as we are expecting.

    • dbug says: June 26, 2014

      Agreed. Given what the article says it would take to complete a trade, it just doesn’t seem worth it. All of the potential trade pieces come with a full six years of team control. That’s too much for a season and half of Price.

  3. D Rock says: June 26, 2014

    I hope they don’t trade off the pitching depth that they have in the system right now for a short-term gain. If anything, a big bat for corner infield would be the most obvious and glaring hole for the next couple of years- someone who can fill either 1st or 3rd and DH in AL parks. Ramirez just turned 36. Reynolds, while solid, isn’t making anyone’s All-Star list. Infield depth is never a bad thing, either.

    Also, at this point, we could probably afford Sabathia again! (j/k)

  4. Jacoby W says: June 26, 2014

    I would trade that list in a heartbeat for Price. The Rays accepting an offer without both Peralta and Nelson is dumb on their part. I don’t think trading several of those minor leaguers mentioned is “gutting” the system either. Yes, they have all shown potential, but seriously, would you feel comfortable calling any of those guys future All-Stars? None of these players would have fetched Sabathia or Grienke, so why do you think they can land Price?

    Look at the top 100 prospect lists. The Rays are likely seeking at least 3 top 100 guys. The Brewers don’t have the talent to get it done without trading Major League players. Not going to happen.

    I’m against trading several minor leaguers for short term players, but Price is so much better than the majority of targets, the Brewers just cannot pass up such a deal.

    • dbug says: June 27, 2014

      If Price were under contract for four more years I might agree, but trading off your best prospects and a young major league pitcher for 18 months of Price?

    • akschaaf says: June 27, 2014

      Yeah I’m with you, if the Rays want a few A Ball projects for one of MLB’s best players, the Brewers would be sort of foolish not to do it.

      They of course don’t and I doubt throwing in a 25 year old AAA pitcher like Nelson would move the needle either.

      If the roles were reversed and the 2006 Brewers traded Ben Sheets in his prime for 4 guys in A-Ball (none of which are a top prospect) and a 25 year old AAA pitcher, would you be happy? Of course not.
      .

      • Ryan Topp says: June 27, 2014

        Jimmy Nelson is one of the top pitching prospects in baseball right now, so I’m sure the Rays would be quite happy to get him as part (but only part) of a deal. It’s going to take a few more players to make that move, though.

        • akschaaf says: June 27, 2014

          We can disagree on the “top prospect” thing I guess, would be splitting hairs.

          I’m sure any team would take him, he’s at minimum a cheap guy who is likely good enough to make most rotations, he’s just not going to be the Laporta or Will Meyers type that you can use to blow away the other team and fill in the rest with A ball projects.

          • Ryan Topp says: June 27, 2014

            I think that all depends on what other offers are out there on the table. I think the Brewers can probably put together an offer that the Rays would accept, unless the Cardinals just lose their mind and decide to unload whatever it takes from their system.

            I also think calling guys like Taylor, Coulter, Arcia and Lopez “A Ball projects” is a bit dismissive of how productive they’ve been. None is particularly close to the majors at this point, but each one has quite a bit of upside and has shown the ability to play at the level they’re at and be productive.

            I guess when I think about a “project” I think of a guy who is nowhere near productive but is loaded with tools that a team is hoping to tap into. I guess maybe that’s just semantics, but the point is that the players I listed are close enough to being productive major leaguers that this isn’t all just some “dream on the tools” situation.

    • Ryan Topp says: June 27, 2014

      Prospect lists are fluid things. The guys that I listed all have role 6 upside, though some are closer to realizing that upside than others.

      This offseason, you’ll see quite a few of these guys start landing on top 100 lists. Others will probably get there later. So just because they haven’t shown up on Keith Law, BA’s, MLB’s and Parks lists yet, don’t just dismiss their upside.

  5. Dogan Gregory says: June 26, 2014

    I think the Brewers are close enough that they should go for broke!!! If you know they would win the World Series THIS year, but be out of it for the next 2 or 3, I would pull the trade….. All Day…

    • Jackson says: June 28, 2014

      I’d only go for it if they Wanted Nelson and a few other prospects, as much as I think the guy has great stuff, the only thing that’s missing is an ace, (Gallardo is not an ace he’s a 2 or 3) Price would get that, I would never, deal Peralta for a guy who isn’t going to be with the team more then half a season.

  6. Matt says: June 26, 2014

    The thing with Price is that, with 1.5 years, you get to make your run this year and if all else fails, you’ll get half a king’s ransom next year. Best case scenario, you’re looking at a second playoff run and the compensatory draft pick that comes along with it.

    But for the record, I’d hate to lose either Nelson or Peralta

    • Hans says: June 27, 2014

      That is a good point. I guess you can look at what we got for grienke, but I wouldn’t count on that return again. I’m totally opposed to giving up Nelson or peralta and roache, coulter, and taylor or hanniger would be comming up when some of our current stars sunset

    • Ryan Topp says: June 27, 2014

      That’s the key when looking at the Greinke/Segura deal. Can’t count on something like that happening again. Players get hurt, players struggle, or sometimes you just don’t get the kind of offer for a player you really like in a “must deal” situation like that.

      I’m also very against trading either Nelson or Peralta. I think that duo has a lot of potential to anchor the rotation here for the next 5 years.

  7. dbug says: June 27, 2014

    If you trade for Price and you give up Nelson or Peralta, what do you have two years from now when Lohse, Gallardo and Price are all gone? Garza, Peralta (if isn’t part of the Price trade) …. and nobody. You would have to bank on some minor league pitchers being ready to fill out 3/5 or more of the rotation in two years. Back to the 65-win seasons for a few. Forget Price, just bring up Nelson as your deadline move.

    • Josh says: June 27, 2014

      Agreed, it would be interesting to see what we could get for Estrada and Weeks. They are the obviously pieces that have no future with the crew. It would be interesting to see what we could get.

      • Klim says: June 27, 2014

        Interesting?? They are pretty much worthless. Weeks isn’t going to get you anything unless you buyout his contract and even then you aren’t going to get hardly anything. We are better off with the most productive 2nd base in the league with the platoon. Estrada is probably worth a middle reliever? I’m all for bringing up Nelson and sending marco to the pen.

        If it takes peralta and nelson to get Price, I don’t see how that really helps us. Peralta has been more than we could have ever hoped this year and at this point it seems like the sky is the limit for Nelson. We drop our 2nd best pitcher to add a pitcher that may or may not be any better than Peralta this year plus lose a guy in nelson that looks to have top of the rotation stuff and is ready to slot right in?

        • Josh says: June 27, 2014

          I agree that we will have to buy out his contract, but it is better to get something from him than leave in free agency. If he swings the bat well over the next month, his stock will rise. Shockingly, he is 4th in all star voting this year! haha. Estrada is still a 1-1.5 WAR pitcher and has versatility as both a starter and reliever. He has had a bad month, but if he starts playing better his stock will also rise. He is also young enough.

          • L says: June 27, 2014

            “I agree that we will have to buy out his contract, but it is better to get something from him than leave in free agency. If he swings the bat well over the next month, his stock will rise.”

            We are getting something from him (Weeks) before he leaves in free agency — a highly productive platoon at 2nd base and winning games. The other good news is that with the platoon in place we’ve ensured that he can leave via Free Agency next year instead of dealing with his big salary for another year had he of obtained a starter’s worth of plate appearances.

    • Nicholas Zettel says: June 27, 2014

      Right on, dbug, I agree with bringing up Nelson. That could be a solid replacement move.

  8. Nicholas Zettel says: June 27, 2014

    What do we make of the fact that Price is kind of an average pitcher right now? In fact, he’s perfectly average (57 runs allowed, which is his expected average for AL / Tropicana).

    Granted, one would argue that neither his stuff nor his ceiling are average, and the Brewers did the same with Greinke (who wasn’t anything special in 2010, nor 2011 for that matter). From a scouting perspective, I gather Price is worth the prospects, but it’s not like this guy is Kershaw or even Sabathia prior to the Brewers/Indians trade.

    Who thinks Nelson could be average? He would instantly improve the rotation and cost the Brewers about $500,000 at most.

    • BrewersAA says: June 27, 2014

      I agree with this entirely. IMO 6/7 years of Jimmy Nelson is more valuable than 1+ year of price. Obviously there is a lot to like about price and how he would fit this team, but i think/hope the brewers are just acting involved to raise the price of price specifically to the cards.

      I also think its worth mentioning how political and absolutely worthless top 100 lists are… Mark A has stated more than once that it costs TONS of money to get your guys on top 100 lists and it has more to do with how much you spend on influencing the guys doing the rankings and less on the actual talent and upside of the players. The previous brewers ownership spent in this area, focused on this area, and reaped the reward of having a ton of attention on these lists, how did that work out? Granted the top 10-20 are pretty accurate, past that its all hype. Sure the guys are skilled, but the advantage they have are that these scouts and guys doing the rankings are actually watching them. Khris Davis is my best example of why these lists are not accurate and its my belief that the teams themselves pay no attention to these lists. The biggest thing that hurt Kandy Khrush Davis is that Keith Law (insert any name you want) never saw him play consistently, never focused on him, and never cared to see how he stacked up against their current guy they have ranks 75 or wherever. Is laughable that you can take the Oriels consensus 4th ranks prospect and put him in the brewers system and hes barely in the top 20, yet the oriels are considered to have a far superior farm…

      • BrewersAA says: June 27, 2014

        Sorry for the poor spelling/grammar… not sure what happened there

      • Jacoby W says: June 27, 2014

        6 years of Nelson should clearly be “more valuable” in terms of WAR, and obviously would achieve greater counting stats, but those things don’t win literally put you into playoff games, or win them.

        I f’ing love projecting future players, but Price really pushes the needle.

        • Nicholas Zettel says: June 28, 2014

          Does Price REALLY push the needle, though? Right now, he’s even for runs prevented. Perfectly average.

          I gather Nelson can do that, and he won’t cost a prospect (or more) to do so.

  9. Daniel says: June 27, 2014

    Some people are pretty insistent that the Sabathia, Greinke, and Marcum trades destroyed their farm system, but I really don’t see it that way. Michael Brantley is the only player Cleveland got who has been a good everyday player, and that’s a recent development, and the Brewers don’t need him. Lorenzo Cain has been good for KC but the Brewers don’t need him either. They managed to get an upgrade over Alcides Escobar. Jake Odorizzi is just now entering his rookie year, and he’s off to a slow start. Jeremy Jeffress ended back up in the Brewer’s system. Brett Lawrie hasn’t been very good. I guess I don’t have any real point here, I’m not pushing for a Price trade.I just wanted to rant. But it’s something to keep in mind the next time someone inevitably writes about those trades’ “detrimental” effect on the farm system.

    • Ryan Topp says: June 27, 2014

      The issue isn’t so much what the players they gave up ended becoming, it’s that they used the young talent they had to get only short term rentals and then the value went away. Players like LaPorta, Lawrie and Escobar may have ended up being worth less than what their receiving team’s hoped, but they did have quite a bit of value when given up.

      My issue is that the Brewers model has been to trade off such large quantities of young players for short term rentals. If you’re talking about making moves like, say, the Mat Latos deal where the Reds got 4 years instead of 1 or 2 years, then I’m not complaining. Hope that clears things up.

  10. L says: June 27, 2014

    I’m just glad the Brewers are showing interest in Price because even if we don’t make a trade for him, which would likely be way to costly to any Brewer future plans, at least we’re likely helping raise the price for Price in case the Cardinals were the ones pulling the trigger; and if they do pull the trigger for a Cy Young winning pitcher I want to be sure that the Brewers are forcing them to risk shit tons of their future talent for the acquisition… just saying. Go Brewers Go!

  11. Sphere says: June 27, 2014

    From my perspective getting another starting pitcher on the trade market shouldn’t be a concern for the Brewers. They are on track to win the division and possibly home field advantage with the roster as is. If Estrada really struggles, Fiers or Nelson can fill that 5th spot.

    Once the playoffs start you ditch that 5th starter (and possibly the 4th) and that problem is solved. As of right now the brewers top four starters have an average ERA of 3.41 (The top three 3.21). Price’s ERA is 3.63.

    If the Brewers really needed a boost in the rotation to win the division (like Sabathia gave them), Price would make more sense. But the Brewers are looking strong, and given Price isn’t pitching his best this year, it wouldn’t be a very wise move to spend your ammunition on.

    If I were the Brewers GM I’d be looking around for a big name first basement or a veteran 4th outfielder to fill out the playoff roster.

    • L says: June 27, 2014

      I won’t even be looking for a “big name” 1st basemen, but instead a lesser known switch hitting or left handed bat who knows how to work pitch counts at the plate in order to get on base and is a super utility player who would cover the infield corner positions and all 3 outfield positions w/ solid defense; though, I’m not sure there’s anyone available who can do that. This player could potentially make Overbay expendable.

    • Nicholas Zettel says: June 27, 2014

      Agreed!

    • BrewersAA says: June 28, 2014

      I agree with this. Gallardo owns a 2.08 career ERA in the playoffs, Garza 3.48 and and ALCS MVP, lohse has not been so good post season but I definitely trust him to keep any game close, and willy is the real wildcard because he could be really good or really bad there doesn’t seem to be much of a middle with him.

      I also think trading Estrada might bring in that other piece at first or the solid utility guy that the bench currently lacks. Also I think it’s worth mentioning that weeks has played himself into some trade value between hime Estrada and Morris I would imagine the brewers could add someone at first from the left side, and good utility guy and possibly and effective reliever. Not to mention that in this scenario they also our.grade the rotation by subtraction.

    • Jackson says: July 1, 2014

      That fourth outfielder could potentially be Michael Cuddyer, the Rockies are out of it and Dickerson looks like their future their, I don’t think Cuddyer would be expensive to get a hold of for one season (he’s a FA after this year), and he’d be a great off the bench guy and an excellent 4th outfielder. Herrara could remain an infield only reserve, and they could dump Bianchi, who’s been garbage this year. But I’m still unsure if the Rockies would even deal him.

  12. Ryan says: June 29, 2014

    I’m just going to comment on the minor league system…Tyrone Taylor, Jimmy Nelson, and Coulter are the only “prospects” that should be off the table. Peralta is no longer a prospect and the Tampa Bay Rays don’t want someone who they will lose in 4-5 years via free agency. They want double A guys or borderline AAA guys. Tyrone Taylor is replacing Gomez when Gomez’s contract is up and Nelson replaces Gallardo in next years rotation because they would be dumb to pick up the player options of 15MM for a guy who is at best a #3 starter. Coulter will be a corner infielder at some point because we will have Lucroy for his entire career and Coulter is crushing the ball. We need to be aware of the fact that some of these minor league divisions these teams play in are either pitcher friendly or hitter friendly. The lineup for years to come will be IMO…Scooter 2nd, segura SS, Braun RF, Taylor CF, Lucroy C, coulter 3rd. Plug in a first basemen and LF and that’s an extremely solid lineup. You will have a rotation of Peralta, Garza, Nelson, Jungmann, and hopefully Lohse until he retires.

    Make the smart move and try to trade away Weeks for a AA/High A first baseman and then send down Estrada and bring up Nelson or once Wang’s 90 days are up, send Wang down Estrada to the pen and bring up Nelson. Nelson has been tearing up AAA hitters the entire year. Best part about it is that he is a ground ball pitcher like Peralta which always helps when playing your home games at Miller Park.

    I’m a giant fan of the Milwaukee Brewer’s and follow each of their minor league affiliates very closely.

    Let’s go BrewCrew!

    • Josh says: June 30, 2014

      Wang’s 90 days are up, I just don’t think we can send him down unless he goes on the DL. I would be shocked if we could get any kind of prospect for weeks and Estrada can’t be sent down because of his service time. Estrada should be in the bullpen, he is a better long man than Fiers. I would rather trade Fiers for a corner infield prospect.

    • Jackson says: July 1, 2014

      I’d rather let Davis walk then Gomez, unless Gomez just suddenly drops off the face of the earth in terms of defense, he should be resigned, unless of course his asking price is in Yankee range only…

  13. Jason says: June 29, 2014

    The painful truth is, for good or for bad, this is the lineup the Brewers will go into October with. Price is not a big enough upgrade to make the expect price worthwhile. Contrary to what Melvin has been saying, there will be no trades to improve the bullpen. If anything a bullpen arm will get traded for a high ceiling arm in AA with “command issues.”

    The easiest way to upgrade their team would be to add a quality bat at 1st base or 3rd/SS utility infielder, but I don’t see any good targets out there where the Brewers could swing a trade.

    BTW, I don’t like Gallardo’s contract price either (I’d let Fiers, Smith, Estrada, Nelson and Thornburg compete for the last two starting spots next spring), but that IS the going rate on the free agent market for a Gallardo-type pitcher.

    • dbug says: July 1, 2014

      As long as you are getting him at the going rate, why not just keep Gallardo? Fiers, Smith and Thornburg are most likely best-suited for the bullpen. Same may go for Estrada as well. Provided there isn’t a minor leaguer making a major push to be added to the rotation next year, seems like replacing Estrada with Nelson and moving Estrada to the bullpen would be a pretty good start.

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