It’s hard to believe how quickly things have gone awry for the Milwaukee Brewers. Though expectation were tempered by most around the state before the season, most people thought this team would win somewhere in the vicinity of 80 ballgames. What no one could have expected was a league worst run differential, two superstars on the disabled list, and a franchise worst 4-17 start.
I certainly didn’t think I would be a proponent of the narrative of the Brewers going through a complete rebuild process (#BrewersRebuild on twitter) when the season started. To me, who lives in Wisconsin, it reminds of the 2013-14 Milwaukee Bucks’ season. Prior to the year, the Bucks were again expected to compete for the eighth seed, as they did just about every year under former owner, Herb Kohl. When the Bucks got off to an unexpectedly awful start, the team changed their tune and began the process of rebuilding their roster. #OwnTheFuture was born, and has caught on across the state as the Bucks have found themselves achieving unexpected success.
While there is no reason we should expect the Brewers’ rebuild to move as quickly as the Bucks’ has, there seems to be little doubt that it’s time for the Brewers to “own the future,” as well. In an interview on “Brewers 360” last week, General Manager Doug Melvin almost made it seem like a rebuild was inevitable at this point. Earlier today, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweeted:
While there is still time for the Brewers to turn things around, I just have little faith that they actually will. I’d almost prefer that they didn’t at this point. They aren’t legitimate World Series contenders in any realm; they aren’t “this year’s Royals.” They were predicated on too many if’s before the season (though I admit I was fooled into believing they’d be competitive in the division), and they lack the quality depth that a team needs to compete over the course of a 162 game season. So, without further ado, please let the greatest fire sale in Milwaukee Brewers’ history begin.
The Brewers’ have several players that they could use as trade bait, and as Heyman indicated, many of their players are respected around the league. Some players are obviously going to bring a larger return than others, but the only players I would consider “off-limits” at this point are Wily Peralta and Jimmy Nelson. Here is how I rank the top five potential trade pieces for a Brewers’ rebuild:
1. C Jonathan Lucroy
I went more in-depth on the importance of a Lucroy trade over the weekend, and I don’t believe it would be a true rebuild unless the All-Star catcher is moved. You’d be hard pressed to find a more valuable player in baseball than Lucroy, who plays Gold-Glove caliber defense (ranked 2nd by Fangraphs in 2014) behind the plate while delivering terrific offensive upside (133 OPS+ last year). Lucroy, fourth in NL MVP voting last year, can be controlled through 2017 for roughly $12 mil, thanks to the team friendly extension he signed in 2012.
The Braves received two top 10 prospects and a third upside arm from Houston in exchange for catcher/outfielder Evan Gattis and a minor leaguer this past offseason, and though he comes with a year less of control than Gattis, Lucroy should easily eclipse that return for the Brewers, if they were to move him this year.
2. CF Carlos Gomez
Like Lucroy, Gomez is a superstar signed to a very team friendly deal. Owed just $8 mil this year and $9 mil next season, Carlos’ ranks fourth in baseball with 13.4 fWAR since 2013. A true five-tool talent, Gomez finally harnessed this potential over few seasons. Since 2013, Gomez has posted a .364 wOBA, hit 48 home runs, stolen 74 bases, and has put up a wRC+ of 130.
The Braves got a top 100 overall prospect, another top 10 prospect, and and a third “upside” prospect for Justin Upton and a minor leaguer over the winter. Though Gomez is a couple years older than Upton, he plays a more premium position in center field and comes with an extra year of control. I would think the Brewers could get a deal similar to, if not a litte better, than the one the Braves got for the younger Upton brother.
3. SS Jean Segura
After a tough season last year, the Brewers’ young shortstop made some adjustments at the plate over the winter that are paying off in spades. Segura is slashing .304/.329/.392 in 81 plate apperances thus far for Milwaukee, increasing his line drive rate by roughly three percent this year over his career total. He has had some early defensive struggles, but was credited with four defensive runs saved over 2013-14 and is generally considered a solid defender. Segura is still only 25 and controlled through 2018, though he has already declined one extension offer from the Brewers.
While I’d prefer to keep Segura and possibly move him to second base, I’m not taking him off the table in a trade scenario. San Diego has been vocal about wanting to upgrade at shortstop, and the folks over at Fangraphs discussed what a possible Segura deal would look like earlier this year.
4. 1B Adam Lind
Lind was the Brewers’ biggest acquisition of the winter, and so far he has been their best hitter this season. His three home runs, nine walks, 39 total bases, and his .333/.405/.565 slash all rank best among Brewers’ hitters. Lind’s .970 OPS is 67% better than league average, and he has already been credited with 0.8 WAR in the season’s early going, with defense better than advertised.
Lind can be controlled for the next two years at pretty reasonable rates, making $7.5 mil this season and with an $8 mil team option for 2016. He does have an injury history, but has been among the league’s best hitters against right handed pitching since 2013. He should be able to bring back some pretty good value in a trade if he can continue his hitting ways (and to think, he only cost Marco Estrada).
5. RHP Mike Fiers
Like many Brewers’ starters, Fiers has stuggled out of the gates to begin the year. So far, he has given up 12 earned runs in 18.2 innings, and with an ugly WHIP of 1.929. He has, however, been the victim of a .431 BABIP, and he is still striking out more than a batter per inning with a 3.14 strikeout to walk ratio. Fiers’ SIERA, an ERA estimator considered the best indicator of future performance, pegs Mike with a much more palatable mark of 3.51.
Fiers has only a little more than one year of service under his belt, and can be controlled through the 2020 season. He was among the most dominant pitchers in the majors after his call-up last season, posting a 2.13 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 71.2 innings pitched. Fiers will be 30 this season, and while he likely has some pretty productive seasons left, he probably won’t be a part of the long-term plan in Milwaukee.
More from Reviewing the Brew
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- Brewers: Where Does Devin Williams Stand In NL Reliever Of The Year Race?
After those five, the Brewers have several, still moveable pieces. Kyle Lohse, Jonathan Broxton, and Gerardo Parra, and Aramis Ramirez are all veterans on expiring deals, and should be able to bring in some decent talent. Matt Garza is still owed $12.5 mil a season through 2017 with a vesting option for 2018, and he’s had a history of health issues as well. He’s been mostly effective when on the field, at least, but the Brewers’ might have to eat some contract to move him. Francisco Rodriguez could find himself on the move, as well, as he’s proven he can still be effective without the velocity he once had and is signed to a reasonable two year, $13 mil deal. I’m no longer particularly attached to Khris Davis or Scooter Gennett, and though they might be solid and inexpensive stop-gap options during a rebuild, I wouldn’t consider them untouchable players if a team were to inquire.
The biggest coup of all would be if the Brewers’ could find a buyer for Ryan Braun. Braun is still owed over $100 mil through at least 2020 and has been nowhere near his former MVP form for the better part of the last three seasons, dating back to 2013. However, if he can at least be the player that put up a 114 OPS+ last season in 135 games last year, the Brewers should still be able to find a taker for him, depending on how much of his contract they are willing to pick up.
In my mind, there is no doubt that the time has come for a complete Brewers rebuild. My only two “untouchables” are the young flame throwers Wily Peralta and Jimmy Nelson, but other than them, every one should be on the block. The Brewers have plenty of movable pieces to get a rebuild jump started, and if the Brewers’ lower level prospects like Clint Coulter and Orlando Arcia progress as hoped, this team could be ready for serious contention again come by the 2017 or 2018 season.
Start the fire sale. Tear it down. Own the future. The time has come for a #BrewersRebuild.