by Tim Muma
How quickly things can change in the world of baseball - at least for Corey Hart and the Milwaukee Brewers.
The last month was filled with stories of Hart going to San Francisco or Tampa Bay for the young pitching the Brewers desperately need. Now, just a few days after the passing of the non-waiver trade deadline, Hart is committed to Milwaukee through 2013.
It's a bit of a gamble by GM Doug Melvin as he is banking on Hart continuing to produce somewhere near his current pace. While history and some advanced stats indicate Hart will most likely regress some, there is confidence among the Brewers' brass that he has learned what works best for him at the plate.
The other side of locking up Hart is the reality of free agency and Milwaukee's still unpleasant reputation. Recent information arose showing that many players include the Brewers in their no-trade clauses. Thus, it also indicates that the Brewers often pay a premium to bring free agents to Milwaukee - like a bonus for 'dealing' with the city.
Therefore, getting Hart for an average annual salary under $9 million per season constitutes a steal if he can stay around these numbers. Trying to convince a top-tier right fielder to come to Milwaukee would probably require 4-5 years at over $10 million a year - a $50 million or more commitment as opposed to the Brewers' current $26.5 million stake.
Now all of the attention this off-season will be on Prince Fielder and Melvin's task in dealing him for a hurler - of course, there's a chance he hangs onto Fielder, tries to win with offense and lets him go for potential draft picks.
Realistically, Melvin and company have to see how their plan for 'average' pitching and a top five offense hasn't worked out at all. With Hart now theoretically 'off the block,' the Brewers only true chip for a legitimate starter (or two) comes in the form of the big first baseman. Melvin will need to play the field as best he can, put on a solid poker face and evaluate incoming talent properly. Ideally, Melvin needs to obtain a starter with a high ceiling first and foremost, not just shooting for multiple guys with limited potential.
Not to mention, assuming the Brewers reach an extension with Rickie Weeks before the 2010 season concludes, money could start to become an issue - though Hart will only be making $6.5 million next year. Still, in keeping Weeks and Hart, the Brewers are essentially using Fielder's possible salary on two players instead of one.
The Brewers' lineup can still be a potent group next year without Fielder. Ryan Braun, Hart and Weeks would be a nice trio as a core, figuring they will bat anywhere from 2-5 in the order. Casey McGehee is still solid, worthy of the 5th or 6th hole - that would depend on how guys like Jonathan Lucroy, Alcides Escobar and possible rookie center fielder Lorenzo Cain develop prior to 2011.
Of course, you will also have a replacement for Fielder at first, whether it be Mat Gamel or a stopgap free agent. Should the offense continue to put up big numbers - though hopefully more consistently next season if the youngsters step up - the Brewers could be back in business if Fielder brings back a #1-2 type starter, and they acquire a #3 in that same trade or via free agency.
Barring a miraculous comeback in the standings this year, the off-season drama may be the most exciting part of the Brewers until Opening Day 2011.
|                                      Brewers Mix blog         Write for Brewers blog    ||
|Brewers Mix blog featured writers||Tim Muma, John Linn|
|Write about the Brewers||
We believe that you the avid fan, student journalist, and or freelance writer deserve to be heard. Avid fans have a strong desire to hear from the common (or not so common) "man" as well. You are always free to write about the material of your choice, in your own unique style, and on your own schedule. So vent,enlighten and share with us!
Contact us at: email@example.com
|Enjoy Brewers rumors, news, talk?||
Please help us spread the word on the Sports Mixed Network by letting friends, and family know about it. The more we grow our community of avid fans, the more features we can add. So please send a Tweet, Facebook message or better yet tell them in person.