David Schoenfield of ESPN recently listed the Brewers as one of his six top hypothetical landing spots for Orioles’ superstar shortstop Manny Machado at this year’s trade deadline. In his write-up, Schoenfield points out the Brewers’ lack of offensive production in the infield, especially from the shortstop position, as his primary reason for the speculation. However, in his snippet of analysis, Schoenfield misses the mark for one huge, glaring reason: a move for Machado would be completely against everything we’ve come to know about David Stearns’ philosophy.
Nearly every move Stearns has made uses controllability and price efficiency as their focal points. The Brewers’ 2017-18 offseason is a prime example of this. The acquisition of Christian Yelich brought a premier player to the Crew who is controllable through 2022 on a remarkably team friendly contract, as he will average $11.65 million annually during his time in Milwaukee. For a player of Yelich’s caliber, this is an absolute steal. While the Brewers sacrificed a bevy of top-30 organizational prospects in the trade, including their top prospect in Lewis Brinson and the quickly rising Monte Harrison, the move still proved to be an enough of an overall improvement in the eyes of Stearns and Co. given Yelich’s combination of elite performance, contract controllability, and financial feasibility.
In dissecting and rejecting Schoenfield’s speculation, we can also look to last year’s trade deadline as further evidence. In the weeks leading up to July 31st, the Brewers were connected to available aces Sonny Gray and Jose Quintana on the trade market, but ultimately could not get a deal done. One name that was absent from Brewers’ rumors? Yu Darvish. Darvish, like Machado, had only half a season of controllability remaining, while Gray and Quintana both had multiple seasons to boot. The Brewers were willing to consider “selling the farm” for one of the controllable aces on the market, yet would not approach a deal for Darvish. Why? Because trading for expensive short term pieces is against their philosophy as a small-market team seeking to find consistent success.
If in a hypothetical sense the Brewers were to approach a deal for Machado, the Dodgers’ trade for Darvish last summer could provide the starting framework for what pieces may be involved. The Dodgers needed to give up an MLB top-100 prospect (who is now top-50) in outfielder Willie Calhoun, along with two other prospects considered to be in the second half of their organization’s top-30. I would expect Machado to command slightly more, so the Brewers likely would need to give up top prospect Keston Hiura in addition to two mid-tier prospects. Given that the Crew would be giving up a combined 12-18 years of controllability for 2-3 months of Machado, I do not see the math making any semblance of sense to Stearns unless the Brewers turn into a clear front-runner for a World Series title between now and the start of July.
To further my point, just this past offseason Stearns said the following: “[We] understand we want to win for multiple years. This is a longer-term strategy. Our core focus is to create a team and organization that can compete consistently in this division, a very well-run division, and in certain cases, a very well-financed division. We want to be competitive in this division, year in and year out. So, in some respect, discipline and maybe restraint does come into play there. Making sure we are setting the foundation for long-term success is a priority of mine.”
I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds like a smart GM that is unwilling to go all-in on a developing team, and therefore unwilling to give up pieces of significant value for 2-3 months of a superstar in Machado.
If the Brewers find themselves in contention this summer, trade rumors will be flying. However, it will be important to remember that 2018 is not yet an “all-in” year for the Crew. This is still a developing ballclub with many players yet to reach their respective primes, and with the farm thinned out from the Yelich deal, Stearns does not have the same depth from which to deal from as in the past. While anything is possible, consider it doubtful that the Brewers make a short-term splash for an expensive piece. Sorry Manny, I guess Milwaukee is just not for you.