Break Up the Brewers

Before the season began, some people (such as myself) expected the Milwaukee Brewers to at least give the St. Louis Cardinals a fight for the National League Central title. It wasn’t hard to look at an offense that featured Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, and Rickie Weeks as one that could put runs on the board, and there were enough arms on the pitching staff that I liked to think that they could outscore the opponents on most nights.

It hasn’t happened. After losing last night, their seventh consecutive defeat, the Brewers stand at 15-23, seven games behind the first place Reds and six and a half games behind the Cardinals. They are one of only five teams in baseball with a winning percentage below .400. They are certainly better than they’ve played, but, at this point, the hole may be too large for them to climb out of.

With 124 games to play, assuming that they’ll need to win 92 games to give themselves a good chance of winning the NL Central or the Wild Card, they would have to play .621 baseball the rest of the way to make that happen. As much as I like some of the players on this roster, I don’t think anyone can realistically expect the Brewers to win 62 percent of their remaining games.

There’s also the problem of the Reds. It’s one thing to be trying to run down just the Cardinals, but when you add a second team to the mix, you limit the chance that you’ll win by default, as your competitors fall by the wayside. With just one team to overcome, there’s a chance that they could face serious injury issues or have a prolonged slump of their own, but that is far less likely to occur to both St. Louis and Cincinnati simultaneously.

Realistically, the playoff chances for the Brewers appear slim for 2010, and with that reality staring them in the face, it’s probably time for them to put Prince Fielder on the trading block. Ryan Howard‘s crazy extension only served to make it even less appealing for the Brewers to attempt to re-sign their slugging first baseman, and with his 2010 value being diluted by his teammates’ poor play, it makes the most sense to deal him this summer.

It’s not the outcome that Milwaukee had in mind when they put this roster together, and they do have enough talent to right the ship and get back to a winning record, but they are far enough back in the NL Central where its getting to be time to change directions. Six weeks of bad baseball can sink a season, and in the case of the Brewers, it probably has.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Dan
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Dan

Time to say the same thing about the M’s and Cliff Lee?

joser
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joser

Maybe, though given the relative strengths of the farm system I think it might make more sense for the M’s to just ride it out and take the draft picks. All depends on what other teams are willing to offer for Lee.

But while the talent might not be comparable, you could make a better case for some other teams, such as Cleveland with Westbrook. Not everything Mr. Cameron writes has to relate back to the Mariners.

Kenny
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Kenny

The Mariners farm system is not that strong. It’s deep but has few potential stars. Trading Cliff Lee could give them the future star hitter they need, gambling on two draft picks is not as good of an idea. Though I don’t think the M’s are quite ready to give up on the season.

joser
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joser

Actually, it was precisely because of the weakness of the M’s system that I was suggesting they gamble on the draft picks. You look at what the M’s traded away in return for a full year of Lee and I’m not convinced they will get a “future star” in return for half a season, even from a team making a desperate push in a tight race. And yeah, I don’t think they’re willing to concede the division yet (they’re not looking up at a St Louis and Cincinnati, more like a Cincinnati and two Milwaukees, not that that matters when they are playing like a Houston). It would probably work in reverse, actually: if they got a great offer for Lee they might use it as cover for throwing in the towel, rather than the other way around.

Nax
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Nax

I hope the M’s keep Lee so that he can leave after the season. That way he won’t bolster the SP of some team actually contending for the playoffs. The M’s are a complete mess, bad bad roster construction, counting on a head case like Bradley, wasting another great year from Ichiro, Kotchman has finished regressing after one good season and is likely going to be out of baseball in a year…

And if their farm system is so deap where are all the players helping out the M’s team right now? Other than Saunders there isn’t any material help that I can see.

The M’s are toast, any draft picks they get for Lee would be better just do to spite as opposed to seeing him pitching for some other team.

Kenny
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Kenny

I think you’ll find that teams generally have gotten a lot better value out of trading players than out of banking on compensation. They won’t necessarily end up with two great picks. If a team signs him that doesn’t have a first round pick for instance. Or they could end up with roughly the equivilent of Steve Baron and Nick Franklin which is nice but not the guarantee you can get out of.. well.. knowing what you’re getting when you trade a player rather than wait til next years draft. Plenty of midseason trades have gone down for pitching in which the pitcher was a free agent after the year and the returning team got some pretty good players. Right now the M’s could really use a Matt LaPorta in the farm system.

Kenny
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Kenny

Yes, lets cost the M’s a great prospect out of spite for not doing well this year. Excellent idea.

Kenny
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Kenny

And I said the system was deep, but not especially talented like other teams. They have a lot of good players, but few great ones that could help the team this year or next.

joser
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joser

The best of the M’s farm system is in AA, but none of the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx are going to be able to help them this year. And the roster construction of the big league team (asinine marketing-oriented DH decisions aside) can’t be as bad as the results indicate — or at least can’t be the entirety of the problem — unless you think that simply being in the same clubhouse together has somehow caused so many players to simultaneously bat at career lows. (And there’s no evidence that has anything to do with Bradley, btw.)

The Mariners are tied with the Blue Jays for the 3rd worst team BABIP in all baseball, so some of it is simple bad luck. But the Jays have been overcoming that in part thanks to several players (Bautista, Buck, Wells) who are overachieving at the moment, something almost any team has at any given time… any team except the Mariners, apparently. Other than Ichiro being Ichiro and Gutierrez showing last year wasn’t a fluke, the Mariners somehow don’t have any regular players hitting at or above their career norms. Unless you can somehow predict that, I don’t know how to construct a roster to avoid it. Add a bullpen melting down in close games at about the same unlikely rate they were shutting down close ones last year, and you have a recipe for an ugly string of losses… which somehow still leaves the Mariners closer to the lead of their mediocre division than the Red Sox, Indians, White Sox, Orioles, or Royals are to theirs. (Not to mention closer than the Diamonbacks, Astros, or — getting back to the supposed topic here — the Brewers.)

Kenny
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Kenny

Joser are you writing that to me? I’m not sure what that’s in response to.

joser
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joser

No, I’m mostly agreeing with you. I was responding to “Nax” but the comment system flattens replies after a couple of levels. I probably should’ve used blockquotes, but I didn’t realize you were going to post so many other responses while mine sat half-written.

Fred
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BX
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BX

I don’t think so.

Unlike the Brewers, the M’s are close enough in the division, and the AL West is close enough. No team in the West is going to pull away unless someone makes a major trade.

The Rangers look the best, but I doubt Lewis and Wilson keep up their stellar performance.

Actually, the Mariners would be one of the teams who should try to trade FOR Fielder.

They have a positional need at 1B, AND a need at DH. Yes, Kotchman’s struggles are SSS, but his upside isn’t high, and the upgrade from Kotch to Fielder, coupled with a cheap DH upgrade, would really help them.

However, what pieces do you give up?

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