As we sit on an off day (with the Brewers still in first place), speculation has been circulating around what Milwaukee should do if they’re in contention come the trade deadline. Some say buy, others say to stick to the game plan that got the team here and not move off course. Both sides have their arguments.
While I’ll be introducing how I’d like to see the team approach this matter, let me say that I do think it’s a bit early to be discussing this. We’re only 44 games into the young season, and given the fact that many weren’t expecting this well of a start, it can be easy to quickly jump on board of the playoffs ship. But for the sake of argument and fun, let’s discuss this debate.
Prior to the season, I pegged this Brewers team to tally 78 wins. They’re on pace for slightly more, but remember — they haven’t had too much of a cold spell yet. A week or two of inconsistent play could derail much of the work that’s been achieved. Now, I’m not trying to be a pessimist. This team is good and could contend. I’m just stating it’s going to be a tough task.
In fact, I wanted to gauge just how many wins would likely be needed to make the second Wild Card in the National League. I took the last three teams (and the only three teams) that have made it in that spot (2014 Giants, 2015 Cubs, and last year’s Giants) and divided their win totals. It came back to be 91 wins. Now, that does include the Cubs’ 2015 season where they were 33 games over .500. If you were to take that out as an outlier, the win total needed would be about 88 victories (87.5, to be exact).
Now, let’s play a version of “what if.” What if the Brewers are in contention for one of the Wild Card spots come the All-Star Break, or; even leading the division? How might they want to approach the deadline?
It could be a clash of two different proposals in the front office. General Manager David Stearns has shown that no matter the current state of this team and how they perform, he’d like to adhere to the rebuilding-esque mentality that this team (and so many others) have embarked on to acquire a World Series.
Now, while David Stearns would likely be content in this scenario, would Mark Attanasio be as well? The Brewers owner has definitely shown his competitive side in recent years. We all know of the deals he can produce when he smells the postseason. And maybe he still has a sour taste in his mouth from the collapse of 2014 and will want to jump the gun and want to play the role of buyers at the deadline. While these two polarizing mindsets seem like they could inflict drama, I think some of it might be overblown by the media. If anything, I’d see the playing board leaning in favor of Stearns.
So, what kind of deals would I be for come the deadline, you might ask? There are a few. First, I don’t think it’s necessary to trade the top prospects if the Brewers are in fact in first place come the deadline. I don’t want to see Josh Hader traded. I don’t want to see Corey Ray traded. Could they nab you some top-notch players? Absolutely. But again, the Brewers will be battling teams that have shown they can make the postseason and that have had those rosters intact for years (AKA the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, etc.). It’d be mighty difficult to outlast those teams and nab a playoff spot. Who knows, maybe a player like Hader could come up and produce solid play in the starting rotation, thus eliminating the need for a move to be made.
I could see the Brewers making some small moves. Small moves meaning players that show some value, but are blocked because of the overloaded talent down on the farm in front of them at their positions. I’m talking about players like Michael Reed, Clint Coulter, & Co. They might not bring back the flashiest guys, but look at last year’s deadline and its market. Who could the Brewers possibly give up to reel in top level bullpen help without giving up key pieces to the future? It’s not happening. The relief market was the highest its ever been last year, and it’ll likely be even more expensive this time around.
It might be tough to find a starting pitcher too. You’re going to see the Cubs wheel and deal for a starter themselves, and we all know they have a greater chance of winning the World Series than the Brewers. That means that they’ll put forth a much stronger package, which in turn will make the Brewers offer look diminutive, unless they part ways with some of their top prospects.
Could you deal some of the higher end prospects? Sure. But why do it now when your team isn’t even close to reaching what it could potentially be? It might pay off to hold steady this deadline and deal those types of prospects down the road when the Brewers can in fact win the World Series. Look at what the Cubs did last season by trading Gleyber Torres, for example. And if you are inclined to bolster your lineup to possibly contend, I think it can be achieved in small doses. If there’s a general manager that has shown he can find diamonds in the rough through small trades and waiver claims, its David Stearns.
Although it might disgruntle some fans, I think it’s hard to find a scenario where the Brewers are in fact big buyers come the end of July. It just doesn’t mesh with Stearns’ way of thinking. Remember, the team can still have a successful season; even if they don’t make the postseason. Would it be nice? Absolutely. I’ll be at Miller Park every night if the team is in a Wild Card race. But is it worth selling the farm for? You’ll have a hard time convincing me so.