Where Future Meets Present: To Go For It Or Not? | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

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

Back on Tuesday, we looked at some comments from the editor in chief of Baseball Prospectus Sam Miller that related to the Brewers’ current position in the playoff  race and what they should be looking to do at the upcoming trade deadline. His basic premise was that the Brewers should be willing to give up significant talent in an effort to take advantage of the window they have opened for themselves this year, at least in part because their future doesn’t look particularly bright so they might as well try for it while they can.

It’s always a tempting to take the “flags fly forever” stance to justify making aggressive, win-now moves. The Brewers certainly haven’t been shy about initiating those types of transactions, using them to great advantage in their playoff years of 2008 and 2011. So it’s quite possible something like this could happen. Who knows, maybe it would be the thing that would push them over the edge and bring home a World Series to Milwaukee.

What we’re going to look at here, though, is just how accurate Miller’s assessment of the Brewers’ current and future competitive situation is. In other words, are the conditions for bold action as ripe as he seems to think, or should a more measured approach be taken?

Current Roster Age:

According to ESPN.com’s “roster analysis” tool, the Brewers currently sport the 10th oldest roster in MLB with an average age of 29.0. Not particularly good, but also somewhat misleading. Of the Brewers six most valuable hitters this year, only Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez are over 30 and Braun is just barely so. Moving over to the rotation,  Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza are both over 30. Like Braun, though, Garza is just now 30 and figures to still have some good years left in him, health provided. Three of the team’s most important players,  Jonathan Lucroy, Carlos Gomez and, Yovani Gallardo are currently playing their age 28 seasons, which is right in the sweet spot for peak ages for professional baseball players.

While the Brewers do lack for players putting up star caliber performances among their pre-arbitration players, they have no shortage of very useful role players and do possess more than a couple with some star upside. Jean Segura has already made an all-star game, though he has things he needs to fix to get back to that level again. Both Wily Peralta and Jimmy Nelson possess blazing fastballs, wicked sliders and mid-rotation upside or perhaps even better. Khris Davis and Scooter Gennett are not without their faults, but both are quickly establishing themselves as worthy of getting considerable big league at bats on an annual basis. Finally, out in the bullpen, youngsters Will Smith and Tyler Thornburg have shown themselves capable of being impact pitchers, and it would be premature to write either one off completely as a potential starting pitcher somewhere down the line.

Contact Situation:

According to the invaluable Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the Brewers currently have a total of 52.2 million owed to Braun, Lucroy, Gomez, Lohse and Garza for 2015. That figure also includes buyouts for two players, Gallardo and Ramirez, whose options are very likely and somewhat likely to be picked up, respectively. Assuming they make both of those commitments, it will add roughly 22.4 million to the 2015 payroll.

74.6 million for seven players may seem like quite a bit, but in reality it’s not so bad. Between the players locked up and those mentioned above that are still pre-arbitration (and thus subject to taking roughly league minimum salaries), the Brewers have players in place for seven of the eight everyday starting spots and the entire starting rotation. The only gaping need is first base and possibly a right-handed platoon partner for Gennett at second. The team will be free to spend quite a bit of money to fill those needs, as well as potentially adding some help for the bench and the bullpen, where there is no clear cut candidate to close after Francisco Rodriguez likely walks at the end of the season.

Things get a bit more murky after 2015, when Lohse, Gallardo and Ramirez are all free and clear to leave. On the positive side, the team isn’t saddled to any contracts that figure to be albatrosses in the near term. Sure, Braun’s annual salary in the middle teens will be pushing the $20 million mark, but he’s still relatively young and productive. If that contract hurts, it’s probably going to do so much further down the line. The only other real question mark on that front is Garza’s deal, which pays him eight figures annually through 2017. Both Lucroy and Gomez are currently playing for peanuts compared to their true value, and can’t leave until after 2016 at the earliest anyway.

Farm System Outlook:

With Jimmy Nelson graduating to the majors, the upper levels of the Brewers system look pretty empty for help in the near term. The only player above A-ball with any sort of pedigree that suggests he could have some impact as a starter is outfielder Mitch Haniger, though many scouts see him as more of a platoon or fourth-outfielder type. There are some potential role players in the likes of  Hunter Morris, Caleb Gindl and Jason Rogers. There are also some guys who currently look like potential back-end rotation options, at best, such as Mike Fiers and Taylor Jungmann. There are also a reasonable number of hard throwers who could maybe one day fill a useful role in the bullpen…but then again, most teams have those.

Further down in the system is where things start to get more interesting. Players like shortstop Orlando Arcia, outfielder Tyrone Taylor, and catcher Clint Coulter all profile as potential everyday starters, but none have advanced out of class A ball yet and each one has significant work to be done before doing so. Pitchers Jorge Lopez, Damian Magnifico, Tyler Wagner, and Taylor Williams (among others) who offer the potential to start somewhere down the line, but also have lots of developing to do. Even further down, things get even more intriguing with players like Devin Williams, Kodi Medeiros, Jake Gatewood, Monte Harrison and the newly signed Gilbert Lara all offering potential star-level upside but with timetables so far into the future that they’re just dreams at this point really.

Conclusion:

One of Miller’s key points in pushing for the Brewers to “go for it” this year was that he simply didn’t see them likely being in contention at this time next year, let alone in the more distant (and harder to predict) future. Frankly, I think he’s probably off by a year.

The Brewers get to bring back nearly every important piece for this year’s team in 2015, and on manageable contracts. Yes, they’ll probably lose players like Mark Reynolds and Francisco Rodriguez, though those players are neither critical to this year’s team nor irreplaceable on the market. They also figure to have a pretty decent amount of money to play with, especially if the team really does plan on running a payroll north of $100 million for the near-term future. If some younger players like Peralta, Nelson and Segura can step their games up to make up for some declines from the older players, there really is no reason to assume they’ll just fade away in 2015.

Things figure to get more dicey in 2016, with the team probably having to go through a somewhat painful roster transition around that time regardless of what happens over the next 16 months. An argument could therefore be made for picking up an impact talent like David Price, who is still under control in 2015, to augment their chances of winning in this current window. Besides the fact that he would cost a bundle they may not have in terms of prospects to land, though, he’s also going to cost something like 20 million in 2015. That kind of price tag would force the team to make a number of tough decisions and almost surely leave them with some rather gaping roster holes.

Another thing to consider here is that implicit in Miller’s call for the Brewers to go for it now is that he assumes that the best course of action would be to undertake a rebuilding effort after the window shuts. That would mean trading off players like Lucroy, Gomez and perhaps even Perlata or Segura for prospects while they still have value and then focusing on developing a new window for a few years down the line. Close watchers of the Brewers under owner Mark Attanasio and General Manager Doug Melvin know how opposed they have always been to tearing down the roster and rebuilding.

Melvin is saying all the right things at the moment about liking the team as it’s currently constructed and not wanting to make major changes. I think we should assuming everyone is doing their due diligence and exploring possibilities that could bear fruit, and maybe something does pop up and really set the baseball world on it’s ear. Ultimately, though, I think they’re already in a pretty good position for 2014 and 2015 and I think smaller, sensible upgrades make much more sense than giving up piles of value in an effort to win now.

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Comments

Tell us what do you think.

  1. Sphere says: July 25, 2014

    I know it is mostly a pipe dream, but dreaming is what baseball is all about.

    Right now would be the perfect time to get Prince back. His stock is at the lowest of his career and the Rangers might be willing to eat some of his contract, on top of what Detroit has already eaten. If the Brewers took his contract right now it would cost them this…

    2015–$24mil
    2016–$18mil
    2017–$18mil
    2018–$18mil
    2019–$18mil
    2020–$18mil

    If the Rangers are willing to kick in something like $3mil each year that gets the cost of Prince down to $15mil a year which would be exactly equal to Weeks’ + Reynolds’ + Overbay’s contracts -$500k/year to pay for a replacement level backup 1st baseman (Call up Jason Rogers?). That would get Prince back and be payroll neutral (if you ignore that you will have to figure out a way to pay Gomez and Lucroy from somewhere other than Weeks’ contract )

    If I were the Rangers GM I wouldn’t trade Prince right now, and if I did I wouldn’t eat any of his contract and would demand a Peralta/Nelson level prospect + 2 other minor league prospects. But I am not the Rangers GM so who knows right?

    • L says: July 25, 2014

      Prince’s defense has been a serious liability and will only get worse has he ages, plus if he’s not hitting like he use to in his prime then he’s not really bringing anything to the table. I’m 100% good with moving on to someone else instead and someone who’s probably much cheaper.

      • Sphere says: July 25, 2014

        $15mil would be worth it for a 4-5 total WAR 1st baseman. Which prince could possibly be again when healthy. (And in my dream of course he is.) Aramis Ramirez is getting $16mil and he is more like a 3-4 total WAR player when healthy. The backside of Princes contract is risky, buy when it expires in 2020 he will still only be 36. It could be worse.

        Then again Jason Rogers is progressing well and doesn’t seem phased by stepping up to AAA this season. A more prudent plan would be to call him up sometime next year and see if he really can be a .750-.800 OPS guy in the majors. That is more than serviceable and would gives the Brewers a lot more flexibility to extend Gomez and Lucroy.

    • dbug says: July 25, 2014

      I’d rather have Ryan Howard at $5M/year for the next two years.

      • Ryan Topp says: July 25, 2014

        Agreed. I have zero desire to bring back Prince for anything close to what it would cost. He’s already breaking down and has 6 years left on his contract.

        Pass.

      • dbug says: July 25, 2014

        I should clarify–not that I want Ryan Howard at all, but Howard at 2yr/$10M (or $20M for that matter) is preferable to Prince at 6yr/$96M.

  2. L says: July 25, 2014

    Call me an optimist, but I don’t see why the Brewers can’t maintain being competitive for more than just this and next year. I don’t think the franchise will want to let J.Lucroy leave via F.A. as he’s becoming the new face of the franchise, so I think they get a deal done with him and lock him up for an extended amount of time with the cost obviously being pretty high. They’ll also push real hard at retaining C.Gomez and it’ll probably have to come at the cost of moving someone like R.Braun in a trade to free up some money to pay him. I think they’ll try resigning A.Ramirez to a 2 year deal who at his age probably won’t command a salary that’s too crazy, but he’s still a player who can get it done offensively and defensively plus since his home is in Chicago he’ll probably seriously consider staying with the Brewers. There’s a good chance that the Brewers will also have the ability to resign M.Reynolds to back-up A.Ramirez at 3rd while also backing-up or continuing in a platoon at 1st. The hope will be that someone in the farm system can impress enough in the next two years to take over those roles full time at 1st and 3rd. Trying to retain K-Rod will likely be a bit more difficult as I’m sure he’ll go where ever the money will be coming from and I’m not sure the Brewers will be able to afford keeping him. Not sure what they’ll do after K.Lohse’s contract runs out; try resigning him to a 1 year deal or not? It’ll probably depending on how he finishes out his last year, but I could see them wanting to retain him for his leadership on top of his pitching ability. Same thing with Y.Gallardo; though, I think they’ll probably let him walk if he’s looking for too much money.

    • Nate says: July 25, 2014

      I tend to agree – I don’t see why this is just a two year window. If we can lock up Lucroy (don’t see why we wouldn’t. He seems very team oriented, and is the face of the franchise right now) and C. Gomez (loves the Brewers, would probably even take a little less just to stay with the team that ifnally let him be himself) – they are set for awhile. I don’t evenm think we need to Move Braun – who is still really good and locked up for what, another 6 years? Right? I thought it was through 2020. Either way, there is no need to move him right now and his contract is already really friendly to the crew. You aren’t going to get his sort of production at that price out of any other player on the market.

      We won’t have Lohses money on the team anymore (unless we resign him, which I can’t see more than being a 1 year deal. At his age you never know when the wheels will fall off) and Weeks and Rameriz will be clear after next season give us 30 mil in spending money to try and plug in a 1st/3rd base option with the rest of the team locked up. Add in one starter (maybe 2 if we don’t bring Yo back after next year) and we’re just as good as we are right now really.

      We’re sitting very pretty to compete for several years, and by the time Garza or others are declining, our minor league players should be close to ready to step up. I can see a way we can easily sustain our sucess. Not sure why we’re even thinking this is a one year run. Even in the past, we went for it and then had 2 so-so years and then were really good again. Why would be done now?

      Also, I can see K-Rod staying with us. Certainly he has outplayed his deal, but if he wants to close – he knows the job is now his in milwaukee. That and he turned down other offers this past offseason to play with us. He clearly likes it here. Not sure why resigning him is “impossible”. Given how long closers can last in the MLB, he could easily have 4 or even 5 pretty solid years left closing if we let him.

    • Jason says: July 25, 2014

      I am not so sure as you are about the difficulty of keeping K-Rod as you. Yes, he is having a fantastic season, but if the Brewers offer arbitration, I think he will accept. He has shown a remarkable comfort level in Milwaukee, and, while he may not give too much of a “home-team discount”, his on the field success is probably worth more to him right now (playing meaningful baseball in October, building Hall of Fame type careers statistics) than getting every dollar he can next year.

    • Ryan Topp says: July 25, 2014

      Lots of stuff here.

      I think they’re actually in pretty perfect position as far as not resigning Lucroy and Gomez after their current contracts are up. They’ve gotten both players prime years, and will only be forced to go in the standard decline years. For Gomez, he’s locked in through age 30 and for Lucroy he’s locked in through age 31. They also have a likely replacement for Gomez in 2 years in high-A ball right now in Tyrone Taylor. Catcher is a bit tougher, because I don’t happen to think Coulter sticks there, but they also have 3 more years to figure out what to do there post-Lucroy, so it’s not such a bad situation.

      The last thing the Brewers need to do is get locked into a bunch of long contracts for players past their 30th birthday, considering they’ve already got Braun, and he’s not going anywhere because he’s about as toxic an asset as there is in MLB these days.

      As for Ramirez, I doubt we’ll see anything more than 1 year deals at this point. He’ll be 37 next year and very few guys that age get multi-year deals.

      I could see Lohse perhaps accepting a series of 1 year offers to stick around for reasonable money…or not, because his agent is Scott Boras after all. Gallardo is more of a mystery for me, because he’s currently trying to adapt his game and I think we might have a very different opinion of him when his contract runs out than we do right now. We’ll see, that’s a tough call.

      Oh, and I’m all for letting K-Rod just walk after this year.

      • L says: July 25, 2014

        You really think R.Braun is that toxic in that he’s untradeable? I don’t buy it. Sure he gets booed everywhere he goes and many of the other team’s fan base will have an initial reaction that probably reflects them despising his acquisition but in all honestly I think any team’s fan base, especially one’s in a serious pennant race, would be quick to change their mind if R.Braun was producing when he was acquired and obviously after. Dude’s a proven producer and I think that attracts the interest of other teams regardless to his PR toxicity. We clearly won’t get the value in return we once would have, but I think R.Braun still has some serious value in a trade; though, he has to continue to produce as he has been.

        • Ryan Topp says: July 25, 2014

          It’s not just about the PED stuff with Braun. He’s now also dealing with this thumb thing, that doesn’t really have a cure and figures to be something he deals with the rest of his career. Between how other players (supposedly) feel about him, the PR angle, the injury stuff and a contract that runs another 6 years after this one, he’s not going anywhere. Oh, and because of all of those factors, no one would give up anything for him.

          Honestly, if the Brewers waived him and let it be known he could be had just for his remaining contract, I seriously doubt anyone would pick him up for nothing. Just not worth it, at least to the other 29 teams. He’s worth significantly more here than anywhere else, because of the whole history of the situation.

          • L says: July 28, 2014

            I still don’t think you’re perspective on this is correct. The thumb injury thing would be the biggest hindrance, but R.Braun’s still producing like a top talent in the league despite his thumb.

            All I’ll say is look at the money being paid to known PED users this season who were signed this off-season given that knowledge ahead of time; they IMO best demonstrate how team’s and their fans truly feel about PED users — nobody cares if they believe the player can help them win. The same thing will exist with R.Braun.

            Jhonny Peralta = $53M for 4 years

            Carlos Ruiz = $26M for 3 years

            Nelson Cruz = $8M for 1 year

  3. Samcam says: July 25, 2014

    What about attempting to get a Morneau or Cuddyer? Both are on the DL right now. Cuddyer is in the last year of a contract, but Morneau has through 2015 on his. Either one could prove to be an upgrade at 1st base. I think the price for Price will be too high. It would be interesting to see some moves that not only improve our team for this year, but next year as well. If it leverages a bit of our future, I think I am fine with that. As a Brewers fan, I am used to rough years. I would welcome a couple if we had 2 stellar years to show before them.

    • Ryan Topp says: July 25, 2014

      I don’t see much of a need for Cuddyer, as they already have RH hitting corner OF with some pop in Davis and Braun.

      As for Morneau, I don’t think the Rockies have any interest in dealing him. They aren’t a team that goes in for rebuilding and he’s locked in for 2015 with a reasonable 2016 option. I think you’re talking about having to massively overpay to even get their attention. For me, it’s a non-starter.

      • D Rock says: July 26, 2014

        Which is really too bad. I got to see Morneau play a few times. He would fit the bill for the Crew’s offensive needs perfectly.

  4. matt says: July 26, 2014

    I agree mr. Miller’s view is a bit narrowly focused, but I also think an article like the one he wrote could literally be written for every small market team in the league. To the “Millers” of the world, its more about perception than reality. The essence of lazy writing. For all the extended information we have on players, contracts, options, and league trends, we see articles with fluff and zero meat to them. All we see are opinions, based on perceptions and biases’ with one selective piece of information to back it up when we can clearly see (by your response, and everyone that comments) that contrasting information is out there , clear as day. To the “professional writers” an apple is not an apple anymore, its a red orange. Its an orange because “i” said so, and it has a darker tint than a normal orange is “my” reason. Never mind that it tastes like an apple, makes great applesauce and the seeds produce a new apple tree, those fact are irrelevant.

    Now here’s the kicker, because we talked about what an inept column he wrote, he think’s its upped his popularity. What a friggin joke.

    • Ryan Topp says: July 26, 2014

      OK, I feel like I need to step in here and defend Miller’s honor.

      First off, this wasn’t something he wrote. If you go back and read the original post, I took these quotes from a podcast he does daily, and I listen to it regularly. It’s good stuff. They just did their 500th episode, and I’ve found him to be interesting and informative. He doesn’t shoot from the hip and say outrageous things to be outrageous. Granted, he doesn’t know the Brewers exact situation as well as you or I, but that isn’t his job. His job is to cover all 30 teams, and so when you get down into more granular stuff like this there are going to be some things missed and that’s why I wrote this.

      But I have nothing but respect for his work. His writing is always well researched and interesting, he’s not afraid to challenge readers to think of things in new ways. I just think he was a little bit wrong here about the Brewers particular situation, which happens.

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