Despite taking the first two games of a three game set from the Angels, the Brewers remain eight games back of the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals. Given that they would need to make up that deficit on not one but two teams, the Brewers playoff odds are probably less than 1 in 40. The question, then, is how to go about preparing for 2011. The Brewers have some interesting pieces who could be on the block come July.
Buy Or Sell
The obvious question is what the Brewers will do with Prince Fielder. Fielder is in a bit of a down season, as shown by a .186 ISO against a career mark of .259. Still, Prince has a .397 OBP and a 134 wRC+. Despite a +1.7 UZR in 2009 it’s hard to imagine Fielder as that good on first base. He has a career -6.4 UZR/150, placing him squarely in the DH zone. General Manager Doug Melvin will probably have to be blown away by an offer to trade his slugger. Fielder is under control for one more season, so if the price isn’t right, Melvin will hold onto the chip and wait until either the winter or next summer. On the other hand, if Melvin is offered a package centered around an elite pitcher, be it a prospect or a young major leaguer, he would almost have to pull the trigger, given the organizational weakness on the mound.
The other piece that teams will likely give a look is Corey Hart. Somehow Hart,who hit merely 12 home runs all of last season, is the NL leader in that category with 17, despite receiving limited at-bats through most of April. Hart has had some poor BABIP luck, but ZiPS really doesn’t like Hart’s chances of maintaining the .392 146 wRC+ or, in particular, the .325 ISO. ZiPS projects hart as a .265/.330/.480 type hitter, which is unremarkable for a plodding corner outfielder like Hart. As with Fielder, the Brewers have Hart under control for one last arbitration season, meaning that the Brewers will be able to hold on until winter if they don’t get a package that appeals to them. Again, the Brewers would be seeking high level pitching at any point in their development.
Dave Bush and Craig Counsell are veterans that could potentially draw interest in a trade, but neither would be more than spare parts. Jim Edmonds has had an interesting rebirth, but, at 39, his trade value is likely low. Hart and Fielder are the major chips, as the rest of the team is either young and under team control or is suffering from poor performance, like Trevor Hoffman and Randy Wolf. Still, with the fates of Fielder and Hart up in the air, it could be an interesting summer in Milwaukee. If not, it will surely be an exciting winter.
On The Farm
Any upgrades to the Brewers farm would be welcome. First round pick Eric Arnett was recently demoted to short season ball and supplemental pick Kentrail Davis was demoted to A from A+. Max Walla, another pick from 2009, had one of the worst debuts to a professional career that I’ve seen, striking out 80 times in just over 200 short season at bats. Angel Salome and Jeremy Jeffress have each dealt with their own brands of personal problems. Needless to say, it hasn’t been a good year for Brewers farmhands.
This is where it gets interesting. With the contracts of Jeff Suppan, Trevor Hoffman, Bill Hall, David Weathers, Jody Gerut, Craig Counsell, Claudio Vargas, Jim Edmonds, Dave Bush, David Riske, and Gregg Zaun coming off the books, the Brewers will clear around $45 million in salary for next season. If Fielder and Hart are traded, that would be another $15 million cleared. The Brewers will see some raises for arbitration eligible players, but they should have a lot of money to play with in 2011.