Milwaukee avoided a series sweep in Cincinnati on Wednesday afternoon, taking advantage of a pair of home runs from Rickie Weeks and Cody Ransom en route to an 8-4 victory. With a record of 34-41, the Brewers climbed back to within 7.5 games of the first-place Reds.
The biggest storyline of the game, however, did not surround the outcome. Instead, it focused upon Zack Greinke and his potential trade market this summer. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees both had scouts present at the game to evaluate Greinke; whether or not the organizations were doing anything more than their due diligence, though, remains unclear at this point.
What’s clear is that organizations across the league expect Greinke to become available prior to the July 31 Trade Deadline. Milwaukee would much prefer to re-sign the right-hander and secure the top-end of the rotation for the foreseeable future, but the likelihood of agreeing to a contract with the former Cy Young winner appears to be dwindling as the months get warmer. In that case, it would behoove Doug Melvin and the organization to gauge the market and evaluate the available options.
According to Doug Melvin, though, the Brewers have not reached the selling point … yet.
Melvin, however, said the Brewers still “haven’t really made a fundamental decision” on whether to trade Greinke or any other player.
“I haven’t sat down with ownership,” Melvin said. “I haven’t talked to any club yet to say, ‘Give names.’ I haven’t had that conversation. We’ve got to make a decision on what we’re doing overall. We’re hoping we can put a good week together. If we don’t, we’ve got to be prepared to go both ways. A lot more clubs are starting to call now. Clubs are calling on different players.”
Again, more and more teams are obviously understanding the position of the Brewers. The postseason chances currently sit at 10.2%, according to Baseball Prospectus. Without improved performance, the organization may have no other choice than to open up shop and see what contending teams have to offer.
The Brewers have a legitimate chance to bolster what has become one of the worst farm systems in all of baseball. The overall depth of the system has drastically improved since Melvin shipped a parade of prospects to Kansas City and Toronto in return for a Greinke, Marcum, and a trip to the NLCS — but the system lacks premium talent. It lacks a franchise prospect. It lacks a cornerstone.
If the season continues its current direction, perhaps that cornerstone prospect can be acquired in the 2013 Draft, but the trade market serves as a safer avenue for that type of prospect. A player acquired via trade has already established a track record in professional baseball. Much of the uncertainty tied to recently-drafted prospects lies in the transition from amateur baseball to the professional ranks. Since a team cannot trade for a player until at least a year after their draft date, much of that uncertainty is gone.
Now, that’s not to suggest prospects garnered in a trade are sure things. We all know that to be unequivocally false. When attempting to scout skills and attempt to translate those skills to the major league level, however, it is much easier to do with a player who possesses a track record in professional baseball.
Small markets such as Milwaukee are built on the backs of cost-controlled, star talent. The organization snapped a 26-year postseason drought by drafting a slew of top-end talent — Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks, Yovani Gallardo, J.J. Hardy, Corey Hart, etc. Even the trades for Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum were predicated upon top-end talent in the minor league system. The currency to acquire those arms was not money, but prospects.
If the Brewers are not in contention prior to the July 31 Trade Deadline, expect to hear many more rumors about Zack Greinke. That is not to say the organization moves the right-hander. Mark Attanasio is not only running a sports team, but he is also running a successful business. He needs to balance a long-term vision of winning with a public image that will continue to generate high ticket and merchandise sales. Maintaining that public image may necessitate keeping Greinke in Milwaukee. Heck, it may necessitate not selling as a whole.
Baseball is a business, whether we want it to be, or not. The best baseball situation for this Brewers team — if things do not improve in the next couple of weeks — may be to sell players such as Greinke, Marcum, George Kottaras, and Francisco Rodriguez. The organization needs top-end talent in its minor league system, and this summer projects to be a perfect opportunity to acquire that talent.
Still, considering Mark Attanasio has strived to maintain a competitive culture in Milwaukee, I’m not completely convinced the Brewers’ owner will sign off on selling a big name such as Zack Greinke. Or, if they decide to make him available, the asking price will be so high that potential trade partners backpedal from the discussions.
Don’t expect that to quell the Greinke rumors that will continue to surface over the next month, though. Greinke makes his next start against the Miami Marlins. I’m already looking forward to the slew of rumors regarding which major league team had scouts present to reportedly watch the right-hander.