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Brewers' Trading Chips

by Tim Muma                                                                   7/29/2013

Melvin has never shied away from a trade, he
simply wants other teams to make the 1st offer
With the trade deadline quickly approaching, all things appear very quiet in Brewers' camp.

As per usual, general manager Doug Melvin said he's listening on guys, but not necessarily shopping anyone - except lefty reliever Michael Gonzalez.

In the past, Melvin looks like he's going to hold tight, then something quickly comes together and a deal is made.

In 2013, however, there are a number of reasons Doug Melvin isn't selling off pieces in a flurry...

1) A majority of the players that teams would value are under team control for one or two more seasons. While that could make them more intriguing to potential trade partners,  it also means there's no urgency for Milwaukee to deal them away.
  • Under control through 2015
    • Kyle Lohse - Under contract
    • John Axford - Arbitration eligible
    • Jim Henderson - Arbitration eligible
    • Yovani Gallardo - Club option
  • Under control through 2014
    • Norichika Aoki - Club option ($1.5 million)
    • Tom Gorzelanny - Under contract ($2.8 million)

2) The hope to be competitive next season continues to be alluring for Mark Attanasio as he's seen strong production from Lohse, Wily Peralta, Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura. Injuries (and a high-profile suspension) have also given the club the idea that the biggest reason for their struggles come from the lack of big guns on the field.
  • Corey Hart - Missing entire season
  • Aramis Ramirez - Will have missed at least 2 months
  • Ryan Braun - Missed 4 weeks due to injury; will miss final 65 games due to, you know

Despite the thinking of a fielding a competitive squad next year, there are still potential trades that could go down. Realistically, the Brewers will probably keep most of their guys.

Rickie Weeks:  Perhaps this is more hope than substance, but a handful of teams could convince themselves that he would be a valuable power bat at second base. Baltimore has had little production out of their second-sackers this season. Kansas City has said they are still interested in adding talent if they'd control the player in 2014 - Weeks fits that bill.

Weeks always has the potential to bust out and
carry a team - will anyone take that chance?
Los Angeles and Detroit are two intriguing possibilities in my book. Money is no object in LA and 36-year-old Mark Ellis is nothing special. He's already missed time with an injury this year and Weeks has more upside offensively.

The Tigers' 2nd baseman, Omar Infante, has been out a while with a leg injury and recently had a setback. Miguel Cabrera and Torii Hunter are both banged up a bit, each having missed some games.

Weeks would serve the Tigers in multiple ways. With Weeks starting at 2nd, Infante (when he returns) would go to a utility role, filling in for Cabrera at 3B and in the outfield to give Hunter a rest and help with their production in LF.

Maybe as a bonus, since Prince Fielder and Weeks are best friends, Prince could help push a deal into place. The Tigers are in "all in" mode, and while the Brewers may have to pay some of the contract to get back a worthwhile piece, Detroit has always been willing to make a deal they felt it helped them win a title right now.

Kyle Lohse:  Lohse has been great in his last 10 starts, going 6-1 with a 2.30 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 5.25 K/BB rate - outstanding numbers that are consistent with his past two seasons.

Pitching like an ace in recent weeks, Lohse is
proving 2011-12 weren't flukes
Still, I continue to hear that while teams are inquiring about the right-hander's availability, the interested parties aren't willing to offer much in the way of top prospects in a swap, in part because of the third year on Lohse's contract with the Brewers,

Boston may kick the tires on Lohse as Clay Buchholz may miss another month with an injury and Jon Lester is sitting with a 4.50 ERA. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay slid past them into first in the AL East. Boston has some big talent in their farm system, particularly on the pitching side

The Braves could show some interest as well, having lost Tim Hudson for the season, but apparently they aren't keen on offering much of a package. Baltimore is keeping tabs on Jake Peavy, so they could also check in on Lohse.

Michael Gonzalez: The veteran left-handed reliever is a free agent at season's end. The Red Sox, Indians, Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Tigers all would have interest in a cheap rental with solid stuff. The Brewers are probably best served holding off until the final day of July, hoping the clubs bid against each other to get a solid return - which is what happened with Francisco Rodriguez.

Yovani Gallardo:  His value has plummeted in the eyes of most other teams, with some scouts saying he's nothing more than a 4 or 5 pitcher at this point. Again, considering Melvin wants top value for Gallardo, there is very little chance the Brewers would get enough back to elicit a trade.

I don't see any teams desperate enough to give up a top prospect for a 4.88 ERA pitcher with declining numbers in a majority of categories.

Jim Henderson and John Axford:  The Tigers and Red Sox should definitely be interested in these arms. The Dodgers and Diamondbacks are also seeking legitimate relief help. As the two AL and two NL clubs may be competing down the stretch or in the postseason, the ante might be raised a bit.

Each guy is under team control for multiple years which should automatically up the price, but chances are it will still be too rich for any team's blood. Melvin will hold out for a top deal - and if he doesn't get it - they remain a part of the Brewers' future plans.

Aoki would be a solid, reliable piece for a team
contending for a playoff spot - Texas seems ideal
Norichika Aoki:  The original belief was that Aoki was under team control for another 3 years, but it was recently announced he can become a free agent after the 2014 season, meaning the Brewers could be more willing to move the right fielder.

His value rests in his ability to get on base, put together good at-bats and play all three outfield positions well. Both Detroit and Texas are seeking outfield help, though there are other players they've shown interest in.

Aramis Ramirez:  Unfortunately for the Brewers, Ramirez hasn't been able to get back in the lineup to drum up interest and prove his knee is healthy(ish). The Yankees would certainly have been calling with the Alex Rodriguez suspension looming and Boston could have been a player as well. The Dodgers apparently had interest at one point, but without the DH spot available, he'd be a bigger gamble there than in New York.

Perhaps Ramirez clears waivers and could be dealt after July 31 after he gets some playing time, but chances are he will remain with the club and the Brewers will hope he's healthy in 2014 when he's making $16 million.

As mentioned above, the most likely scenario is that all the players (except Gonzalez) will be with the Brewers past the trade deadline. The Brewers front office still thinks they can compete for a playoff spot next year and won't deal without getting a top tier return.

It's possible a couple of players could be packaged together to get back the talent Melvin and Co. are seeking - such as Aoki and Weeks to Detroit or Lohse and Gonzalez to Boston - but I'm not holding my breath on that.

We should know more about the club's plans for 2014 when August rolls around - and then it's time to figure out what they can do to avoid another season like this one.

Ryan Braun: Cheater Suspended for 65 Games

by Tim Muma                                                        7/23/2013

My belief that professional athletes were superhuman or heroic vanished a long time ago, but that doesn't mean they all have to be villains like Ryan Braun.

This wasn't a "mistake," this was a concentrated effort to cheat, followed by a calculated gamble to lie to everyone, including his teammates, the fans and Major League Baseball.

Up until recently, I would have considered him my favorite player. The incredible ability to hit a baseball with ease and power. The passion and emotion he showed on the field. The smooth and classy way he handled himself with the media and the community.

It was quite the acting performance by
Braun during Spring Training in 2012
All he ended up being was another corrupt athlete, artificially enhanced with drugs and driven by greed, pride and an arrogance to believe - not only that he would get away with cheating - but that he could sell everyone on his innocence.

Now watching his press conference from spring of 2012, he appears to be nothing more than a smarmy, PR-coached, sleazy salesman, pleading with anyone who would listen that he did nothing wrong. His actions on Monday, however, continued to fuel the cowardly reputation he's now earned as he left Miller Park hours before anyone could speak with him.

He sure was chomping at the bit to proclaim himself clean in 2012, but now, when he could have addressed the media to admit his guilt, he instead ran off to let his teammates and manager answer for him. Yes, he has every right to remain quiet as no one is entitled to get an answer from him, but that definitely hasn't been his style when he had a tale to tell.

Of course, some will still say, "He still hasn't admitted to using PEDs," but why would he simply allow a suspension without a fight if he was truly innocent? This tarnishes his name, ruins his legacy and severely damages his chances at a Hall of Fame induction should he continue to put up these types of numbers.

Don't tell me he "accepted the suspension" for the betterment of the Brewers, either.

He stood to lose more money if he was suspended next season. He's currently dealing with a nagging injury that's sapped his power (or is that something else?). He figured this was the only way to keep the details of his transgressions out of the media and get it behind him.

At this point, I'd be thoroughly embarrassed to
wear a Brewers' #8 jersey on my back
Before you believe he cares about the rest of the team, remember these are some of the same teammates he lied to and asked for their support through the whole PED ordeal. In reality, it was all part of his ruse in an effort to beat the system. Sadly, like most pro athletes, it was all about him.

The fact is, Braun tried to gain an illegal edge and was caught. If you're alright with that or you're fine with players using illegal substances to improve synthetically, then so be it.

However, under the current rules, he was fortunate to escape suspension after his failed test in 2011, dismissed only because of a faulty process.

Unless Braun comes clean with the entire truth - from start to finish - he should not be "commended" for this "act of acceptance." Only by facing the music and being 100% forthright can he fully earn back the respect of those that stood by him. Short of that, he is simply a cheater and a liar.

One thing he wasn't lying about is clear, as Braun kept saying, "The truth hasn't changed." That's correct. The truth was and is, he cheated the game.

I will forever cheer for the Brewers to win, but I refuse to make Braun a part of that. Assuming he's still on the team in 2014, I will not be clapping or yelling for him to get a hit or score a run. I may actually boo him when he walks up and cheer wildly when he K's - and I'll make no apologies for it.

While I wanted to believe his stories, the longer
it went on, the more I figured he was guilty
With two young sons who love baseball and the Brewers, I wouldn't fathom justifying Braun's actions by wearing his jersey or applauding his efforts. I'm not going to send the message that breaking the rules consistently and lying to avoid punishment is fine as long as you're trying to make a lot of money and you eventually "admit wrongdoing" when all the cards are stacked against you and it's your best strategy.

I'm glad they have other players they call their favorites, because I want them to appreciate people who do things the right way to the best of their ability and within the standards set before them.

I am so vehemently against Braun that I truly hope they can find a trading partner to deal with; Toronto had no problem signing Melky Cabrera for $16 million less than a year after his PED suspension. You have to wonder if some of those same guys with the Brewers, that he convinced should stand behind him, now want nothing more to do with him. It may be in the best interest of everyone if they found a way to move Braun elsewhere.

Personally, I don't want to hope for a Brewers victory every day while wishing for number eight to wear a size four collar. The San Francisco Giants' fans got under my skin as they gleefully praised each Barry Bonds swing that resulted in a home run. I have no interest in stooping to their level of jubilant ignorance or strategic excuses.

Sure, the Brewers are better with Braun in the lineup - and they'll never get enough value back in a trade involving the left fielder - but, selfishly, I'm fine with that. I'd much rather watch a team struggle with guys playing "clean" than knowingly cheering for someone like Braun.

For those who know me, I was all about dealing Carlos Gomez in the off-season for pitching, but now, I've never wanted a player off "my team" more than Ryan Braun. Let Gomez, Jean Segura and Jonathan Lucroy be the faces of the franchise and distance itself from all of this.

There's no reason to think he hasn't been
using PEDs since college
Did I ever think Braun was perfect? Of course not - nobody is - but most people aren't "this" either. 

He didn't kill anyone and there are a lot of other things in this world that are far worse than cheating in a professional sport and lying to cover things up; however, I'm allowed to want some form of integrity and honesty in a game I love to watch, coach, play, analyze and immerse myself in.

Starters are THE Issue

by Tim Muma                                          5/24/2013

The Brewers have exactly 1 starting pitcher with an ERA below 4.50 entering play Friday night - that would be Kyle Lohse with a 3.76 mark, but he's skipping a start due to a sore elbow.


It's hard to blame Hiram Burgos - a true rookie - for
his struggles, but he's had his own issues
The large numbers above - ERA for the rest of the starting five - are almost incomprehensible and a guaranteed ticket to the cellar of any division (almost).

Each hurler has had his fair share of issues that has created these inflated stats and the club needs to hope for some sort of turnaround soon before they get buried by the middle of June.

Here's a quick look at what is troubling the four culprits and any glimmer of hope they're showing. The list is in order from "lowest" ERA to highest.

Yovani Gallardo
    • Velocity down leads to strikeouts per 9 innings (K/9) is down to 6.7 (9.0 career)
    • Lack of command creating high pitch counts and just 5.8 IP per start
  • HOPE
    • June is his best month for ERA (2.97) and K/9 rate (9.9); July best for WHIP (1.245)Home run and walk rates are down slightly from career average

Marco Estrada
    • Home runs are an issue at 1.9 HR per 9 IP - higher than his poor career rate (1.4)
    • Strikeouts per walk (K/BB) more than 2 points below last season
  • HOPE
    • Zero HR allowed in last 2 starts (12.2 IP)
    • With runners in scoring position, opponents have a .191 AVG and .555 OPS
    • His fastball isn't really good enough to be a consistent starter, so he must utilize his changeup more frequently and with impeccable command. He remains in the top 20 of NL starters in K/9. Too often leaving pitches up and over plate, leading to 17% of fly balls ending up as home runs - 3rd highest in the NL, 6th in all of baseball.

Wily Peralta
    • With 2 outs and runners in scoring position: Hitters have .434 AVG and 1.101 OPS
    • Big innings early in games:  26 of 37 runs allowed are in first 3 frames (70%)
    • Peralta struggled with command in AAA last year
      and the issue has returned to start 2013
      • 6 runs allowed once
      • 5 runs allowed twice
      • 3 runs allowed twice
  • HOPE
    • Ground ball percentage of 54%, good for 7th among NL starters
    • Batting average of balls in play (BABIP) is 4th highest among NL starters (.337)
      • Suggests some bad luck and poor defense
    • He's been burned by some tough luck bloops and broken bat hits, but that's also indicative of leaving pitches up in the zone - if they're down, they're probably outs. I still believe he can succeed, but needs to find a feel for all his pitches and command them. Traditionally a slow starter, we hope he warms up with the weather.

Hiram Burgos
    • Seen as a control pitcher, 3.4 BB/9 a big number for a normally 2.5 BB/9 guy
    • Strikeouts per walk at 1.64 K/BB - generally over 2.25 K/BB in minors
  • HOPE
    • Allowing just 14.3% line drives (LD%), tied for 6th among NL starters
    • In 477 minor league innings, 3.58 ERA, 3.14 K/BB, 1.247 WHIP
    • His numbers took a major hit with that 3-inning, 10 ER outing against the Reds on May 11. He's only thrown 29.1 frames at this level and probably doesn't have the pure "stuff" to be great. Needs to rely heavily on command and changing speeds as his fastball won't blow anyone away.

Gallardo's consistency is needed, but
he's far from himself thus far
The Brewers don't need everyone to pitch at an All-Star level or even close to it. If each hurler could be average to above-average, the offense and recently effective bullpen can take care of the rest. The problem is that no one is really stepping up to be a "stopper" and the rest of the team can't keep up.

We'll see what happens over the next 26 games, which would get us to June 20th after a 9-game road trip through Miami, Cincinnati and Houston. If the starters don't have a semblance of recovery before then, the season might be on the brink with 3 months to go.

Weeks Has Negative Value...Can He Be Dealt?

by Tim Muma                                                5/24/2013

Closing in on 1,000 strikeouts in his career, it
 only feels like half have come in 2013
Let me start this off by saying that I am not blaming Rickie Weeks for the Brewers' 18-27 start this season (though he has been a big problem), as that distinction goes to the starting staff which owns the NL's worst ERA and WHIP.

However, Weeks has gotten to a point now where the Brewers need to somehow explore any option possible to deal him elsewhere.

Offense in 2013
.169 AVG
.281 OBP
.266 SLG (this is truly astounding)
.547 OPS

It's not just the offensive offensive (see what I did there?) numbers this season...his defense is still awful as well.

Whether it's the "eye test" to see how he actually looks in the field or some advanced defensive metrics, Weeks continues to be, arguably, the worst defensive 2nd baseman in baseball. I have examples of each...

Eye Test
Thursday afternoon at Miller Park, the Dodgers had the bases loaded with 1 out in the 2nd inning. Carl Crawford hit a ground ball which couldn't have been more than 5 feet to Weeks' left, yet the ball went cleanly into right field for 2 runs.

Why?  Weeks' first step was slow (common), he took a poor angle toward the ball (common), tried to play the ball off to the side instead of getting in front of the ball, and then was slow to get his glove on the ground. I'd say 95% of 2nd basemen easily get the out at 2nd, allowing only one run to score and possibly sparing his pitcher from a big inning. A few of them - coupled with a solid shortstop - actually turn two and end the frame.

Instead, Weeks' plays the out into a hit, opening up the flood gates for another Brewers' defeat.

Defensive Stats
A decent "catch all" defensive statistic used to compare players to the average of those at their position is called Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). Basically, this would judge a player's ability to make a successful play based on what the "average" player at his position would make. Thus, if he fails on a play most guys make, he loses points and gains points for making plays most guys don't.

With these stats it's best to take them based on a 3-year sample and average that out to get a per-year number. Keep in mind that a DRS of 0 is average for a season.

Weeks' DRS:
2010:   -16
2011:   -5
2012:   -30

3-year average:  -17...By far the worst over that period (-8 is next closest)

Think about it, in essence it could be seen that Weeks alone cost the Brewers 30 runs in 2012. Looking at this season so far, Weeks is already at -8 in less than 400 innings.

Regardless of his offense, the 'D' has
been a problem...forever
So for those that say his defense is better...maybe a tick since he first came up, but considering his age and injuries, one could argue he is no better at all. And as for his "good" DRS of -5 in 2011, remember that he played far fewer games that season due to injury.

Weeks' saving grace for his poor defense has always been his bat, especially his power as a 2nd sacker. Since he is slugging under .300 with a sub-.300 OBP, he is bringing absolutely zero value to the club.

I realize lots of guys in the clubhouse like Rickie, but I know for a fact there are players who are frustrated with his play (especially the pitchers) in the field and have no confidence in him at the dish - and those are hidden negative effects that some overlook when teams struggle.

Who Would Take Him?

Kansas City Royals
Their manger Ned Yost has always loved Weeks, especially for his hard-nosed play and effort. He was left to let Weeks work through his struggles as a youngster with the Brewers and probably believes Weeks is poised to turn it around.

Second base was a concern for the Royals since the spring and it continues to be a problem for them as Chris Getz has number similar to Weeks, but has never proven himself consistently at the Big League level. At nearly 40 years old, Miguel Tejada has filled in admirably, but they see him as a utility player who, if used too often, will break down and fade.

If Ned starts to freak out about his team or their
chances of making the playoffs, KC may bite
Meanwhile, after the trade to get James Shields from Tampa Bay (dealing one of the game's best prospects) and the signing of Ervin Santana, the Royals are in "win now" mode for this season and next, thus more willing to take a chance on a high-paid veteran.

The Brewers would still eat some of the contract, but could possibly get a decent young arm with upside (e.g. Brooks Pounders) and rid themselves of a chunk of Weeks' contract.

Baltimore Orioles
Another team in position to win this year after their thrilling 2013 season. They've lacked consistency at 2nd due to Brian Roberts' continued injuries. Alexi Casilla is currently playing there with poorer stats than Weeks and not much MLB success overall.

The Orioles have some money to spare and would love to capitalize on a division that is showing a fair amount of parity right now...a definite window for Baltimore. Also, would J.J. Hardy push for bringing in Weeks? I'm not sure what their relationship was like, but that could play a role.


Admittedly, chances are slim they will get any real value or cash relief with Weeks' at his lowest selling point in his career, but desperate teams, especially ones trying to reach the playoffs for the first time in a long time (see: Royals), occasionally reach beyond their usual grasp.

And if Yost has any pull in KC, we know he is quite the panic-driven type of guy that will do anything to avoid yet another failure (see: Milwaukee 2008).

Brewers Mix blog featured writers Tim Muma, John Linn
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