This piece was written by Allen Primack, a new addition to our sports writing team. In this piece he discusses pieces the Brewers could trade as they further their rebuild.
MILWAUKEE – The 2015-2016 MLB offseason has been very eventful thus far, from marque pitchers such as David Price and Zack Greinke moving on to new teams (the Boston Red Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks respectively), to talented position players such as Jason Heyward, a former St. Louis Cardinal who recently signed with the rival Cubs, changing scenery. However, the reality is that the offseason is far from over, with many elite players still on the free agent market being readily available for contending teams, while non-contending, tactically rebuilding teams such as our Milwaukee Brewers are seeking to look towards the future amongst an inevitably tough season ahead in a very strong NL Central. The Brewers have already taken some important steps towards a successful rebuilding project under their new general manager, David Stearns, in trading away veteran reliever Fernando Rodriguez to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for a young solid second base prospect in Javier Betancourt, parting ways with Adam Lind, the Brewers’ RBI leader from a season ago, to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for prospects Carlos Herrera, Daniel Missaki, and Freddy Peralta, as well as adding some much needed power in the signing of hard-hitting first baseman Chris Carter. These moves are clearly a step in the right direction, as the Brewers are gaining much needed youth and talent, particularly in the infield, an area of focus in which second-year manager Craig Counsell has emphasized as a key to success in the MLB. With that being said, I have put together some potential trades which will only help the Brewers get closer to “Owning the Future” while achieving greater financial stability and acquiring more young talent.
The stock of Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, perhaps the best and most valuable player on the Brewers’ roster despite an injury-ridden season a season ago, has never been higher, as many MLB teams are seeking an experienced, all-star level catcher and game caller like himself to efficiently manage their pitching staff. No matter how tough it may be to part ways with a player and person of his caliber, it is currently in the best interest of the Brewers to trade Lucroy while his stock is still high. Lucroy has voiced his dissatisfaction with the Brewers and his desire to win, telling the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Tuesday that he would like to be traded. Many rumors have linked Lucroy to playoff contenders such as the Texas Rangers, Washington Nationals, and Los Angeles Rangers. However, in terms of the best fit and trade partner for Lucroy, the Tampa Bay Rays are the team for him. Having grown up in Eustis, Florida, which is less than two hours away from St. Petersburg, Lucroy is not only a perfect fit and trade chip for the Rays on the field, but off the field as well, as he would be more satisfied on a contending team. To put together the perfect deal that would result in the best possible return for Lucroy, the Brewers would need to get some high-upside pitching in return, as that area is still a major question mark for the current season as well as for the future. I have the Brewers trading Lucroy to his hometown Rays, in exchange for their projected 4th starter, Matt Moore, and the team’s 8th ranked prospect, catcher Justin O’Conner . The Rays would acquire an all-star caliber catcher that will only spark their offense in a tough AL East, where they could emerge as a darkhorse contender under second-year manager Kevin Cash. Having finished in the bottom 5 in catcher production according to fangraphs, this would definitely be a great move for the Rays. The Brewers would acquire a deserving, promising pitcher and a new catcher for a bright future. Matt Moore, a former top prospect for the Rays, has been returning to form since a 2014 Tommy John Surgery which kept him out throughout half of the 2015 season before returning in July to finish with a line of a 5.43 ERA and a 6.57 K/9 in 63 innings. Despite the lackluster numbers, Moore would be a risk worth taking for a rebuilding Brewers team, as he is still only 26 years old. Moore’s fastball tops out at 96 miles per hour, which is very impressive for any MLB pitcher, and he has proven to be a durable major league starter who just needs some more experience, which he could potentially achieve by pitching with the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League. Justin O’Conner, on the other hand, was a 2010 1st round draft pick by the Rays who has been a consistent producer in the minor leagues, most notably with his defense, having been sought after with a cannon for an arm that have allowed him to throw out a remarkable 48% of all base stealers. O’Conner’s bat has suffered due to an over-emphasis on bat speed, but his raw power is a great risk worth taking while only striking out 30% of the time, which is not too bad for a young catcher. On a future contending Brewer’s team O’Connor’s defense, arm strength, and 15-20 home run potential make him a solid part of a young nucleus. With the acquisition of a potential front-line starter and high-upside catcher for a future Brewers club, along Lucroy being replaced with the well-qualified and hard-hitting Martin Maldonado for the time being, this move would bring excitement and talent to a much-loved but disappointing Brewers team, who will try to give their young players the necessary opportunities in the right situations for a future of great Brewers Baseball.
When any MLB fan thinks of the Milwaukee Brewers, 2011 NL MVP Ryan Braun always comes to mind immediately. While many news sources have speculated the Brewers trading Braun ever since last season, I believe that the best move for the Crew would be to hang on to Braun for the time being, and later deal him at the trade deadline. This would allow his value to likely increase, as the 32 year old’s play has not significantly declined over the past few years. Therefore, Braun could be dealt to a contending playoff team at the trade deadline, while the Brewers would get the best possible return for him, as many playoff hopefuls become desperate buyers around that time. Braun, who was signed to a five-year, $105 million contract extension after his MVP season in 2011, will likely only attract the most desperate of playoff teams, as the team that acquires him would likely have to cover the remainder of his contract along with his unforgotten baggage (PED usage, lying).
Speaking of contract extensions, last Friday the Brewers handed out one-year contract extensions to avoid arbitration to ace reliever Will Smith, talented shortstop Jean Segura, and the Brewers’ likely ace of the pitching staff, the hard-throwing Wily Peralta. That makes the Brewers highly unlikely to trade hot targets such as Smith and Segura, so one final possible deal could include a veteran player like Matt Garza being dealt to a team seeking pitcher depth. Garza is now 32 years old, and there is really no need for the Brewers to keep him this season, as he could find himself in a better situation. The fiery Garza has a career record of 81-89 with a 3.99 ERA, which makes for a solid fourth starter on a buying team. I have Garza going to a team that has a great desire for veteran pitching, such as the Detroit Tigers. With already trading K-Rod to the Tigers, I believe that they would go for another experienced and tested arm like Garza before the conclusion of the offseason. The trade would look something like this: The Tigers acquiring Garza in exchange for veteran utility man Austin Romine and right handed pitcher Austin Kubitza (Tigers’ 7th ranked prospect). Romine has been a solid utility player and well-known clubhouse presence throughout his major league career. Kubitza is a long, lengthy, promising pitcher who projects to be a poor man’s Taylor Jungmann. This trade will give the Brewers a stop-gap utility man in Romine in the circumstance of an injury to one of their infielders, along with a promising, innings-eating pitcher who could project out as being a solid back-end of the rotation starter for an above-average team. With this move, the Brewers make Garza, who isn’t really happy with his situation in Milwaukee, happier as well as adding more depth and a promising pitcher to a quickly improving farm system.
All in all, I believe that with an already active offseason with the Lind and K-Rod trades, trading Lucroy and Garza for a solid return is a great idea for the rebuilding Brewers. In keeping Braun until the trade deadline, the Brewers already talented farm system could get even better with a solid first-half from Braun. The Brewers found success in 2008, with home-grown players who had undergone a long rebuilding process such as Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, JJ Hardy, and Corey Hart all emerging as catalysts for a wild-card berth. In 2011, the Brewers won the NL Central after missing the playoffs for three consecutive seasons, with the more polished players like Braun and Fielder having great seasons to go along with the young and highly productive players Carlos Gomez and John Axford. History is teaching the young Brewers a helpful lesson, that rebuilding could be a positive good in the long-run despite having the risk of a stringing together some disastrous seasons along the way. Also, there is no rush for this team, as division rivals such as the Cardinals, Cubs, and Pirates clearly have the talent to win a World Series and are not planning to go away any time soon. However, in a couple of years under our new general manager, David Stearns, and tactical manager, Craig Counsell, the Brewers have the potential to once again rise to the top of the National League.