The Milwaukee Brewers are currently seven games under .500 with a 34-41 record after thwarting off a sweep at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds with a 8-4 win on Wednesday afternoon.
Safe to say that even the most optimistic Brewers fans could see this year’s team has some problems.
Spotty at best hitting, a struggling bullpen and just a lack of execution compared to last year’s team are a few of the many problems plaguing the currently fourth place Brew Crew.
The Brewers are in a spot where they need to decide whether they should become buyers or sellers at the approaching trade deadline. Should they purge an already meager farm system to grab in impact bat or bullpen arm? Or should they accept that 2012 will not be a repeat of last year and sell of some of the moveable assets they have in an attempt to help the future.
I believe the later is the direction to go.
Milwaukee sits 7.5 games out of first place and the horizon isn’t looking any better.
A stretch starting on June 5 with a three-game series with the Chicago Cubs and ending June 17 with the Minnesota Twins gave the Brewers four series’ with less than elite competition in the Cubs, San Diego Padres, Kansas City Royals and Twins. Milwaukee responded by going 6-6. Since then the team has posted a 4-5 record and isn’t showing the signs of a team that can rattle off a seven-game winning streak to gain ground and get back to .500.
Ryan Braun and Norichika Aoki are the only two Brewers regulars who have a batting average above .267 as of now. With Rickie Weeks and either Cody Ransom and Cesar Izturis, the team has 1/4 of its starting lineup with averages under the Mendoza Line (.200).
The starting pitching staff has been the highlight of the team. To date, they have a 25-22 record with a 4.00 earned run average. That rotation also represents many of the most attractive trade pieces the team has to offer.
The crown jewel of a December 2010 landed Milwaukee a former Cy Young winner in Greinke.
This year Greinke has more than held his own this year. He’s 9-2 with a 2.82 earned run average. Some of his advanced sabremetric stats suggest he’s even better than that.
Greinke is a free agent after this year and could be the premier starter in the trade market and the Brewers should market him as such. He has the tools to dominate, but his past personal issues have shied many teams away. Teams may also wonder about how signable Greinke will be. Matt Cain signed a $100+ million dollar deal earlier in the year and many feel that represents a benchmark for what Greinke will command this offseason.
Still, Greinke could impact a team’s rotation as well as anyone and give the Brewers a few good pieces for their farm system.
Marcum is currently on the disabled list, but should be off well before the trade deadline. Not the high-profile name that Greinke is, Marcum is still an effective pitcher that could step in to a No. 3 spot in a rotation and thrive.
He has posted an earned run average under four in each of his last four seasons with the Brewers and Blue Jays. Marcum has also fared well for the Brewers this year with a 5-3 record and a 3.39 earned run average.
Like Greinke, Marcum is a free agent at years end and while he could represent a more cost-effective extension candidate than Greinke. If general manager Doug Melvin decides an extension for Marcum is not going to happen, moving him for some prospects could be option.
Wolf has a $10 million dollar 2013 team option in his contract, meaning if a team wanted to hold on to Wolf after this year, they could.
He has struggled this year (2-5 record, 5.32 ERA) but also is durable (at least 212 innings in each of his last three seasons) and could represent a more under-the-radar veteran option for a team looking to shore up the back-half of their rotation.
After searching for a closer job this past offseason, K-Rod bit the bullet and came back to set up for closer John Axford for Milwaukee in 2012 for “only” eight million dollars.
A pricey setup man is not a luxury the Brewers can afford and may deal with that accordingly.
When Jonathan Lucroy returns from his hand injury in July, Milwaukee will be in the position of having three major league-caliber catchers with Lucroy, Kottaras and Martin Maldonado. Kottaras, who earns $700,000 this year and could garner a raise next year through arbitration, appears to be the odd man out.
An American League team with a need for a backup catcher and spot designated hitter could take a run at Kottaras, who has a modest .236 batting average but a .439 on-base percentage thanks to a high 26.3% walk rate.
A fan favorite among many Brewers fans, Morgan could be in his last year with the team one way or the other.
If he is not traded before the deadline, he’s a candidate to be non-tendered after the year. Morgan, a platoonmate of Carlos Gomez in center field, is making $2.35 million dollars this year and could get a similar return if he ended up going to arbitration.
Morgan’s numbers are down compared to last year (.238 average and .303 on-base percentage in 2012 compared to a .304 average and .357 OBP last year) and the Brewers have a similar type of player in the minors with Logan Schafer. Schafer has a contact bat (currently hitting .301 at AAA Nashville) to go with defensive skills and speed. He represents a player who can do all of what Morgan can do now, if not more. And it comes with a lower price tag.
The Brewers should listen to offers for basically anyone on their team (Except Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy and maybe Yovani Gallardo). It never hurts to listen. But at the end of the day (Or, the end of the day on July 31), the six names I mentioned seemed the most likely to be moved.
Whether it comes now or at the end of the year, the Brewers are about to start another rebuilding process. Why not start it a little earlier, get a few more younger pieces for the future and see what some of your own youngsters can do at the big league level?