Monday, August 3, 2015
Brewers Officially in Rebuild Mode
(photo courtesy of CBSsports.com)
You have to give credit to the Milwaukee Brewers front office - they rode the wave as long as they could. After sucking for most of the 90s and into the and early 2000s, the Crew put together a pretty impressive stretch of 10 years or so when they ranged from competitive to downright fantastic. They went "all-in" and mortgaged their entire farm system - not once, but twice - leading to their first postseason appearance in 26 years in 2008, and coming within 2 wins of the World Series in 2011. All of the team's on-field terribleness and off-field advanced scouting for many years allowed the front office to have to tools to go out and get star-caliber players, and have a legitimate pre-season chance at the playoffs nearly every year since 2005. We're talking about impact players that would otherwise have no interest in coming to Milwaukee, players that before Attanasio we could not even sniff an attempt at affording, and throwing boatloads of money into not only large contracts, but millions in stadium upgrades. The Brewers went from just something to watch in the summer to pass the time between Packers seasons, to drawing 3,000,000 fans a year in the smallest market in baseball, and in general creating a buzz and pride around town that had not been seen since the year I was born. The Brewers literally did everything they could to squeeze every last drop out of every dollar they spent, but sooner or later, the bough had to break. This occurred this past week, when the team traded 20% of their active roster, and pretty much waved the white flag that they were entering what would likely be a multi-year rebuilding period.
The first domino to fall was Aramis Ramirez, who was traded to the Pirates for pitcher Yhonathan (yes that is the correct spelling) Barrios. This trade was about dumping salary and clearing a roster spot more than anything; the player we got in return was secondary. I see that Ramirez has already been benched after 7 games with his new team, and he is 37 years old and retiring at the end of the season, so the trade was a no-brainer. I hope he can make one last playoff run with the team he started with so long ago, and I will always remember him not only for all the years he killed us with the Cubs, but as the best player I've ever seen at charging the slow roller on the infield. The next trade was the big one - Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers to Houston for 4 of the Astros' top 20 prospects. We got a 5-tool stud outfield stud in Brett Phillips, who was hitting .320 with 16 homers between A/AA at the time of the deal. He already slots in as our #2 prospect in the system behind the rapidly rising Orlando Arcia, and will almost certainly be the biggest impact player of the deal. Every single Astros blog you read about the trade says something to the affect of "I like this trade, but losing Phillips is going to hurt." The Brewers haven't acquired or drafted a prospect that impactful probably since Ryan Braun, so fans have every reason to be excited. Rounding out the pack are Domingo Santana, Josh Hader, and Adrian Houser, all with skill sets above many of those in our system, but with a ways to go in their development. Santana is an outfielder described as a "Nelson Cruz type" to quote Doug Melvin. Cruz was a guy who developed late in his career with a lot of raw power, and Santana looks to be following that same trajectory. Both Hader and Houser have some plus pitches, but project to solid back-of-rotation starters or setup guys moreso than an "ace." However, as uneasy as it makes me feel to write this, the Brewers now seem to have a surplus of young arms coming up and might not need an ace yet if Nelson and Peralta continue to develop, and we can hit on at least one of our first-round pitchers of the last 3 years in Devin Williams, Kodi Medeiros, and Nate Kirby, all of whom are in the top 10 of the system.
It was hard to believe following the Gomez deal and all the drama that went along with it, that the Brewers were going to do any more, but they did. Hours before the deadline on Friday, our best hitter in Gerardo Parra was unloaded to the Orioles for pitcher Zach Davies, and bullpen goat Jonathan Broxton was traded to the Cardinals for a bag of balls. Ok, so we actually got an A-level prospect for Broxton, but I am willing to bet somebody in the scouting department just was throwing at a dartboard for that one. Like the Aramis trade, this deal was about dumping salary and clearing a roster spot, although at least for Aramis we got somebody with potential, unlike Malik Collymore from the Cards who I doubt will even be playing in a couple years (the nice thing about recording my thoughts on a blog is I can go back and look at this if he becomes a star and see what an idiot I was). Parra, on the other hand, was somebody we actually turned a profit on. We traded a AA-bat for him in Mitch Haniger last year, a promising player but probably still blocked at the major league level for several years (incidentally he was demoted to A-ball this year in the D-backs organization), and we then flipped him a year later during the best season of his career for the O's #3 prospect and a guy who is near major league ready. The organization feels he is probably going to slide right in and compete for Mike Fiers' spot next spring, and still has his full 6 years of control, both of which are what was attractive about him.
Overall I am very excited for the deals the team made and very excited for the future of this team, something I didn't think I would be saying at all this year. I really didn't believe that the ownership had the stomach for a rebuild, especially considering the uncertainty of the GM position moving forward, but I am glad they did. Next year is going to be another brutal year most likely, but looking ahead to 2017 the Brewers look like they have a chance to start another window of success like they did 10 years ago.
STANDINGS AND UPCOMING SERIES AS OF 08.03:
Brewers 44-62, -23.5, -14.0 WC (4 v. Padres, 3 v. Cardinals)
Reds 47-56, -19.0, -9.5 WC (3 v. Cardinals, 3 @ Diamondbacks)
Twins 54-50, -8.0, +1.0 WC (4 @ Blue Jays, 3 @ Indians)
2015 GAMES ATTENDED:
Erik - 16 (+15 worked)
Peter - 31