Tuesday Morning Coffee: Braun, Garza / Gallardo | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

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

J.P. Breen presented an extended reaction to Ryan Braun‘s suspension, and his summary captures a range of emotions about the story. I thought I’d add a round-up of some of the most intriguing areas of the story to hit the news pages.

Ryan Braun Reactions

Jim Powell’s tweets on Braun’s suspension capture an interesting angle on the outrage to his suspension. While many people who are outraged about Braun have been outraged about his potential PED-use since news of his allegedly positive test was leaked after 2011, Powell’s angle is interesting because he supported Braun. Given Braun’s statement and suspension, there’s not a whole lot left to say from those who continuously argued in his favor.

— Perhaps the most stunning aspect of this story is the reaction of Braun’s teammates. Jeff Passan reports that the Brewers’ players were unaware that Braun used PEDs, and he went so far as to say that Braun “lied” to them. Presumably, this means that the word in the Brewers’ clubhouse prior to yesterday;s announcement was that Braun had not used PEDs. This is a stunning announcement because a typical fan assumption is that enough ballplayers use PEDs that their use is probably assumed in some way. However, Braun’s case and his rapport with his teammates suggests that PEDs have shifted away from the “open clubhouse” policies of the 1960s and 1970s to a private affair.

Furthermore, these attitudes among the players should lead one to question the solidarity among the players. It’s worth noting that in his agreement with the MLB, Braun did not enact his right to an appeal, and it’s worth questioning the length of the suspension (compared to the Joint Drug Agreement and Collective Bargaining Agreement outlines). Those questions aside, if the players are not openly supporting one another, one of their weapons against MLB is simply tossed aside. It is becoming rather clear that MLB’s labor peace might be less of a result of brilliant, good-faith negotiating by ownership parties and more of a result of an individualist, isolated core of players.

— Watching clubhouse reactions to Braun’s suspension on Fox Sports, it’s easy to see how much this has worn on the team. Our beloved Milwaukee Nine seem guarded and tired talking about this. One can hope that their second half is stronger simply by virtue of being free of the uncertainty of Braun’s case.

— Jon Heyman uses Braun’s story to suggest that MLB has even more evidence against Yankees’ centaur-third baseman Alex Rodriguez. In that story, he buries quite a telling line about the MLBPA:

Players union chief Michael Weiner told the New York Daily News, speaking generally and not necessarily about A-Rod, that appeals aren’t necessarily automatic, explaining that in cases where the evidence is overwhelming the player might simply accept a suspension.

Players are being advised that their answers to MLB investigations could be used in other legal matters, so one gets the impression that players are staying quiet to MLB and making deals with ownership instead of fighting them. In this regard, Braun’s lack of an appeal could turn out to be a smart legal strategy, should this Biogenesis case move forward in a legal arena. (For anyone that was confused or disappointed with Braun’s lack of cooperation, the legal implications of his cooperation should help to explain why he was justified in failing to cooperate with the MLB).

— If you thought this was the end of the scandal, think again: Weiner also noted that appeals for Biogenesis scandal (in the cases that players use them) could move into 2014. One wonders whether MLB’s new approach to showing that they’re serious about PEDs is to drag the league into constant scandal involving players. At what point are scandals like this, and the league’s treatment of them, going to turn fans off to MLB?

Anyway, the Heyman article is full of labor goodies and information about the types of evidence involved in these cases, too (including “receipts” and “checks”!).

— Craig Calcaterra is arguably one of the best commentators on baseball labor issues, and he’s been consistently pro-labor on Braun’s part of the Biogenesis story. Against a media corps that is largely moralistic and judgmental, Calcaterra’s analysis throughout the scandal has been a breath of fresh air. It’s not surprising, then, that he has one of the most straightforward takes on Braun’s suspension:

Financially, though, now is the time for Braun to take his medicine. People may not realize it, but Braun is a pretty low-paid superstar at the moment. His 2013 salary: about $10 million. That’s part of a structured long term extension he signed in 2011 which has things really starting to escalate from 2016 through 2020, when he’ll make around $19 million. Sixty-five games at his rate right now is way better than 50 games — or less — next year.

Brewers fans are likely to be happy that Braun can start the 2014 season with the club (I don’t care what your position is on PEDs, Braun, or his suspension, the Brewers are a better club with him playing at LF), but it is interesting to note that Braun had some financial incentive to negotiate a suspension sooner rather than later. By next year, everyone will be happy.

— And finally, has anyone heard Doug Melvin‘s comments on the scandal? While many fans and analysts (rightfully) pointed out that the JDA’s demand for confidentiality was not upheld since Braun’s positive test was announced, one area of confidentiality was in fact upheld: Melvin, as the JDA requires, was kept in the dark about the investigation:

“Every year is challenging, but this has always been a cloud over the ballclub, not knowing what’s going to happen…There was a lot of speculation out there; you read about it, you hear about it. I didn’t have any idea what was going on. I only knew what I read in the paper the next day. So you move forward and you play each day as it comes.”

Frankly, I can’t imagine what it’s like to have to handle the daily operations of an MLB organization while also potentially planning for a future that may or may not include one of your best players. One could sense, when the Brewers Radio Network aired Melvin’s comments, that the GM truly was relieved to have this scandal behind him, in order to focus on his club’s roster. Not only can fans and players rest now that the outcome of Braun’s case is known, but Melvin can focus on the roster with some certainty for 2014. This is a good thing.

— By the way, it is worth mentioning that the Brewers Radio Network did an exceptional job of covering the Braun suspension in a straightforward, unbiased way. While so many sources are pontificating, judging, and moralizing, it’s great to be able to tune into Bob Uecker and Joe Block and hear the straight story. It’s always a pleasure listening to those two, and they showed great professionalism last night.

Matt Garza Traded
The MLB non-waiver trade deadline is approaching, and arguably the first blockbuster has occurred, as Matt Garza is heading to the Lone Star State for a gang of prospects in return. In return for a couple of months of Garza and a shot at loads of playoff revenue, the Rangers sent Mike Olt, Justin Grimm, C.J. Edwards, and a choice of PTBNLs to Lakeview. This is an important trade because even though Brewers’ Franchise Starter Yovani Gallardo is not pitching as his usual self, Garza outlines the right-handed pitching market for midseason 2013.

It’s worth noting that although Olt previously suffered vision impairments in 2013, he is working with doctors and has solved part of his vision troubles. This impacts Olt’s original ranking, as the power bat fell from #22 (preseason) to #44 (midseason) on the BaseballAmerica prospect charts. Olt is an intriguing return for the Cubs, since Chicago drafted (and has since signed) one of the most polished bats of the 2013 draft pack, Kris Bryant. If anything, the Cubs will be solid around the corners with Olt and Bryant together, but one wonders whether Olt is as much an impact prospect at this point. On the other hand, even if Olt is more of a project than an impact prospect, he is still a strong midseason return for the Cubs.

One potential argument about the Olt/Garza trade is that the deal does not necessarily beat the Brewers’ Segura/Greinke dish last year. In terms of potential impact, Jean Segura was arguably the stronger prospect at this point last year than Olt is this year. In this regard, the deep return that the Cubs received is perhaps more interesting than Olt. One might argue that Grimm and Edwards are stronger arms than those received by the Brewers last year, and the Cubs get their pick of another prospect (or two) on top of that. MLBTradeRumors reports that if the Cubs do not select hurler Neil Ramirez as the PTBNL, they could select two additional players from the Rangers farm.

In the context of exploding RHP contracts over the last two years, as well as the extreme increase in trading value (see Greinke/Segura, for instance), the Garza trade shows that the RHP market is stabilizing. If the Cubs’ trade return for Garza shows any increase in RHP value to MLB clubs, that value is shown in the depth of the deal, rather than the headline talent for the deal.

Analyzing the haul for the Garza trade is important because it can help us set our expectations, should the Brewers trade their Franchise Pitcher. Garza is a unique pitcher insofar as he is not an ace, but rather, someone who works year-in and year-out to pitch a lot of innings at a very consistent performance level. He might not have the persona or stuff that got a lot of people excited about Zack Greinke, and his very best seasons haven’t come close to Greinke’s elite 2009 campaign, but he is also arguably more consistent than Greinke (and that’s worth something). Gallardo fell into Garza’s camp, until 2013.

2008 184.7 119 24 228
2009 203 110 185.7 110
2010 204.7 100 185 105
2011 198 118 207.3 112
2012 103.7 105 204 112
2013 71 125 120 85

The big question about Gallardo is, “how much are clubs looking at his 2013?” The benefit of negotiating about Gallardo is that the Brewers can sell multiple years of contract control for the pitcher. Since his contract is extremely reasonable for his service and performance level, that is a strong selling point for clubs that might be looking to compete in 2014 and 2015 (not to mention 2013). Furthermore, if one notes that Gallardo outplayed his Fielding Independent Pitching ratios in 2012, it’s worth noting that he’s underplaying his FIP in 2013 (although, this is not necessarily a meaningful statement in front of the Brewers’ defense).

Furthermore, their pitcher’s health is one benefit that the Brewers have in negotiations about Gallardo. Garza has struggled with injuries over the last two years, eating into his innings-eating persona. Gallardo suffered his freak knee injury in 2008, but has largely been healthy ever since. As a result, Gallardo’s health track record is arguably cleaner than Garza’s at this trade deadline. One might ask which is less desirable: a pitcher coming off of a series of injuries over the course of a year, or a pitcher suddenly underplaying his potential and previous performance record.

It would be great to simply plug Gallardo’s contract control years into a trade equation, and argue that the Brewers should expect something akin to an Olt+arms type package for their top pitcher. However, there are real questions about Gallardo’s 2013 performance, and how that weighs against the positives of his extended control and overall track record. Nevertheless, even if the Brewers received a trade haul in the vicinity of the Garza/Olt deal, they could arguably expect a solid return of controllable talent for their longest tenured homegrown starter.

IMAGE: http://scores.espn.go.com/mlb/recap?gameId=330720108

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