What If The Brewers Sell? | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

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

“Baseball is drama with an endless run and an ever-changing cast.” — Joe Garagiola

One of the reasons I adore baseball is its eternal nature. I certainly enjoy the intricacies of the game itself, but baseball is more expansive and far-reaching than just the three hours between the foul lines each night. It’s about roster construction, player development, talent evaluation and business. It’s about striving for a championship this season, but simultaneously positioning the organization for long-term success.

That’s why you never throw in the towel on a season. The Brewers are currently 13 games under .500 and have a 0.7% chance of making the postseason — according to this methodology — but even if the team is unable to turn their record around in the coming months, the season is not lost. The purpose has merely been altered. It’s like reading a particularly dry and slow-moving chapter in your favorite book. The chapter felt disappointing and uneventful, but its importance laid in its character development. It laid the groundwork for later, more satisfying chapters in the story.

Now, if you’ll kindly excuse the forced literary metaphor, we can bring this back to baseball and the Brewers.

It needs to be said the season is not over. The Brewers should be getting healthy in the coming weeks, and we’ve seen the team climb out of such a large hole in the past. After all, they were 12 games under .500 in mid-August last season and still finished the season above .500. So it’s not as if I’m here to suggest the team has zero chance of making the postseason. I am, however, pointing out the odds are very, very slim.

With that in mind, the Brewers may need to shift directions and focus on roster construction and player development for future seasons. That may include trading one or more established players for young talent — either in the form of controllable major-league talent or unproven prospects.

If the organization opts to move in that direction — and if the on-field performance doesn’t improve in the next month, they will have to — who may be placed on the trading block? Who could be moved?

**Note: The potential suitors are not based upon any inside knowledge. They are simply projections based upon seasonal performance at respective positions.**


Pros:  Hart is the most obvious trade chip on the Brewers’ roster. His contract expires at the end of the year, and he could potentially be one of the only impact bats available at the trade deadline. He owns a career .354 wOBA and has hit at least 26 home runs in each of the last three seasons. For contending teams desperate for an upgrade at first base or designated hitter, the 31-year-old slugger may be very attractive in late July.

Cons:  The knee. Hart has missed more time than expected this season. For the Brewers to acquire something of substance in a potential trade, Hart will have to absolutely mash the baseball in his first four or five weeks back from the 60-day DL. Teams simply won’t surrender impact talent for a two-month rental with severe question marks surrounding his knee. If the Brewers wish to shop Hart at the trade deadline, he will have to quell all possible concerns upon his return from the DL.

Potential Suitors: San Francisco, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Texas


Pros:  Any contending team eager to add thump to the middle of their lineup would love to acquire a career .286/.344/.503 hitter with multiple years of control. Some may be scared of his age, but he’s coming off back-to-back seasons with a .300 batting average, .360 on-base percentage and 25+ home runs. Not to mention last season was arguably the best of his career, as he was almost a six-run player and had a 157 wRC+. He can clearly still swing the bat.

Cons:  In a vacuum, it appears the Brewers could net a haul if they traded Ramirez this summer, but as with most things this season, it’s not that simple. Ramirez will turn 35 years old in June and suffered a nagging knee injury this spring — one that will admittedly limit his effectiveness throughout the entire season. Will teams be willing to part with potential impact talent to acquire a compromised asset? It seems unlikely.

There’s also the issue that few teams project to be in the market for a third basemen. Perhaps a team would be willing to transition him to first base, or an American League could move him to designated hitter. It’s unclear whether Ramirez would be open to changing positions, though.

Doug Melvin and his front office staff would also have to consider what the organization has for a potential replacement at third base this season and beyond. Taylor Green is injured and hasn’t shown the ability to hit at the major-league level. Also, the farm system doesn’t have any potential third basemen prospects. The closest is Stephen Parker, who’s largely considered a non-prospect and currently hitting .244/.326/.400 in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. In short, the Brewers would be forced to look outside their organization to plug the hole at third base for next season.

Potential Suitors: Toronto, Boston, Baltimore — more if 1B/DH becomes an option


Pros:  Gallardo has always projected to be one of the more intriguing trade chips, if the Brewers decided to sell this year. At his best, he is a solid, durable number-two starter. His contract is extremely team-friendly and would help a contending team simultaneously push for a championship now without sacrificing the long-term vision. He is under contract through the 2014 season and would have a club-option for 2015, so other organizations wouldn’t be trading young talent for a rental arm.

Cons:  Of course, the primary problem is Gallardo is not currently performing at a high level. His velocity is down, his ERA is above 4.00 for the first time in his career, and he has been especially inefficient on the mound. To truly fetch a worthwhile price on the trade market, Gallardo would have to excel for the next two months. He would have to prove he can find success with diminished velocity and that he’s able to help a contending team reach the next level.

Even then, though, the Brewers are unlikely to trade the right-hander. The team desperately needs starting pitching and sacrificing one of their top starters would signify a long-term rebuild, and that’s something the Brewers’ management is very consciously trying to avoid. A team would likely have to back up the truck and unload a massive haul of prospects to get the Brewers to move Gallardo.

Potential Suitors: San Francisco, Baltimore, Oakland, Los Angeles (AL), Cleveland, Boston, and likely others


Pros:  Contending teams are always looking to bolster their bullpen at the trade deadline, and the Brewers’ closer has been almost perfect this year. He’s nine-for-nine in save opportunities and owns an impressive 0.92 ERA. He’s striking out 10.53 batters per nine innings and has a better-than-average walk rate. In short, he’s been brilliant.

So why would the Brewers consider trading Henderson?

For several reasons: (1) he’s 30 years old, (2) he’s performing at an unsustainable level, and (3) closers are extremely volatile assets. The Brewers had one of the best closers in the league in John Axford, and he was almost booed out of Miller Park earlier this season. Closers do not regularly find sustained success. If the Brewers do not improve and become sellers this summer, they would be wise to shop Henderson.

The Brewers were able to replace Axford with a 30-year-old reliever in his second big-league season. He was never a top prospect and didn’t even garner a midseason call-up last season until late July, despite a terrible big-league bullpen that desperately needed reinforcements. Replacing a closer isn’t impossible, and if the organization could potentially land an impact prospect for an aging reliever, that would make a lot of business sense.

Cons:  The organization would be creating a hole in the roster that would simply need to be filled. They would be forced to find a short-term replacement for Henderson, who has largely stabilized the team’s bullpen this year, and also potentially address the position once again this offseason. A bullpen without one or more anchors for high-leverage situations can become a mess in a hurry. And acquiring a closer in the offseason can quickly get expensive. In general, trading away assets with multiple control years remaining is not a prudent practice for small-market organizations.

Potential Suitors: St. Louis, Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, Washington, Pittsburgh


Pros:  At his best, Lohse can be expected to eat innings and have an ERA hovering in the low-to-mid 3.00s. He’s exactly the kind of veteran workhorse teams love to add at the trade deadline, and the fact that he has two additional years of control remaining on his contract only sweetens the deal for potential buyers. For teams worried about his age, they can be comforted to know his velocity hasn’t changed in four years, his swinging-strike rate is climbing and his changeup continues to improve. He would be a valuable addition to many starting rotations across the league.

Cons:  Trying to trade the right-hander would only cause the same concerns that plagued him this offseason to resurface. Teams may not be willing to part with much for a 34-year-old starter who will be owed $11M in each of the next two seasons. After all, teams didn’t want to sacrifice a first-round draft pick this year. Why would they all of a sudden be willing to part with more proven talent than would otherwise have been acquired in the draft?

Then, there’s the elbow irritation that caused him to miss a start this past week. Not only would potential buyers be locking themselves into an aging pitcher for the next two years, but they would be locking themselves into an aging pitcher with (admittedly slight) elbow concerns. Again, that doesn’t seem to be a recipe for whipping up a trade this summer.

Potential Suitors: San Francisco, Baltimore, Oakland, Los Angeles (AL), Cleveland, Boston, and likely others


Norichika Aoki:  Numerous teams would love to acquire a high-average, high-OBP option like Aoki and slot him into the leadoff role. He also has a $1.5M club-option for 2014.

Francisco Rodriguez:  He hasn’t surrendered a run in his first 5.1 innings with the Brewers this season, and he could get some action in the closer’s role with Henderson on the DL. His velocity is way down. He’s relying more on his changeup, though, and he’s given up exactly one hit thus far in six appearances.

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