Creeping Up On a Deadline

Anyone who’s talking Brewers right now is talking about who, when, and if to make a trade to bolster the team’s starting rotation for the stretch run of this season.  The non-waiver trade deadline is July 31, so that’s what all the hub-bub is about.

The Brewers have been mentioned pretty prominently in the rumors surrounding Toronto’s Roy Halladay, far and away the best pitcher that is ‘available’ at this time.  The Brewers (a) have the excellent minor league prospects that Toronto would like in exchange, (b) they’re less than a handful of games behind St. Louis in the division, and most importantly, (c) they showed last season that they were willing to deal when they worked out a trade for CC Sabathia.

I was talking with a friend about situation yesterday, and wanted to share some of my thoughts.

Honestly, I really hope that the Crew just stands pat with what they’ve got and hope for the best.  The division is too close, and (until just yesterday afternoon) no one else is making moves to suggest they’re going to pull ahead, either.  I LOVED the Lopez deal to solidify the top of the order.  Manny Parra has looked a lot better, and if we get Dave Bush backin the rotation, that could be enough to pull ahead (provided guys get back to the form they showed earlier in the season).

In my mind, it’s not worth it to trade either of their blue-chip prospects (Mat Gamel, Alcides Escobar) for a guy that will be here for a year-and-a-half at most, when his acquisition would in no way guarantee a trip to the Series.  Better chance of making the playoffs this year?  Sure.  At this point, though, it’s hard to look across the Brewers pitching staff and say, “well, we’re just one premium pitcher away from taking this division.”  They’re really not.  And considering the strength St. Louis just added to the middle of their lineup, the Crew should be LESS inclined to make a move, not more.  Halladay might’ve helped us over the hump in a weak division, but if the Cards can more consistently score runs, they become a legit contender.

I feel like the Brewers are better served to ride this out, stay patient, and continue to build for the coming seasons.  The front office needs to do a REALLY good job scouting and developing pitching.  They used 4 of their top 6 picks in the 2008 draft on pitchers, and another 2 of the top 3 (including #1) in 2009.  This has been our achilles heel stretching as far back in recent memory as J.M. Gold, then on to Ben Hendrickson, Mike Jones, Mark Rogers, and most recently Jeremy Jeffress (and there were plenty of other less prominent flame-outs along the way). They need to sign the rock-solid players (Braun = done, Prince, Gallardo) to long-term deals and do a good job of separating the proverbial wheat from the chaff (Escobar will probably supplant Hardy at shortstop next year, might be a good idea to get Gamel some time in right because Hart hasn’t shown the consistency at the plate, etc.).

It’s tough to continue to have a patient attitude, because for so long, the organization built up to this time– when the everyday guys we have now would be in the prime of their careers, and we’d be making strong runs in the post-season.  Well, we didn’t end up with enough young pitching to do that.  The thing to do now is NOT to sell off the farm and grasp at straws to get there.  Stay the course.  We’re now at least a perennially competitive team, and we just have to keep doing a good job with player development; eventually we’ll get lucky enough that the pieces come together.

I would rather have a team that wins 80-90 games every year and always has at least a so-so shot at making a post-season push than one that goes for broke, misses the mark, and ends up back in the cellar in three years.  Now’s the time for Milwaukee’s front office to be really smart, sign your best players for the long haul, and keep those farm hands coming.

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