At least five times a day I hear from someone who really wants the Brewers to make a move and pick up Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee. "This team is one starting pitcher away from contention," they say. "Make the move."
The problem is, this team is also one large, minor-league gutting trade away from spending the 2011-2013 seasons in full-out rebuilding mode. A package to get Roy Halladay would almost certainly include two of the three of Manny Parra, Mat Gamel and J.J. Hardy or Alcides Escobar, and wouldn't leave the Brewers any payroll flexibility for 2010 to fill impending holes at catcher or center field. Cliff Lee is a slightly less valuable pitcher but also has a slightly more affordable contract, meaning the Indians will probably want as much or more for him.
We went over this last year around the time of the CC Sabathia trade, but don't confuse last year's situation with this one. Last year, the Brewers traded Matt LaPorta and (eventually) Michael Brantley, but the organization was deep enough to remain viable after their departures. This year, the cupboard isn't as deep down on the farm. Follow the jump for a look at the 2009 seasons of the Brewers' top 11 prospects, as rated in our Community Prospect Rankings this spring.
1. Alcides Escobar. Almost certainly untouchable. Any move involving him would leave the Brewers desperately low on internal options at shortstop when J.J. Hardy becomes a free agent following 2010.
2. Mat Gamel. The odds-on favorite to start at third base next season. Gamel's bat is big league ready and may be needed to help the team yet this season. Probably untouchable.
3. Jeremy Jeffress. Suspended until early next season. Not a candidate to be traded, and would have pretty low value even if he was.
4. Angel Salome. Probably the highest rated moveable part. After missing most of spring training and getting off to a slow start in Nashville, Salome hit .315/.354/.511 in June and is hitting .278/.325/.404 overall. He could feasibly be seen as a trading chip, but he also could be needed to replace Jason Kendall, who will be a free agent at season's end.
5. Brett Lawrie. The 2008 1st round pick is the fastest rising prospect in the Brewer system. After moving to second base this spring, he's hitting .362/.348/.456 for Wisconsin, and a promotion to Brevard County is probably coming soon. He probably has the highest upside in the current farm system, won't turn 20 until January and could feasibly start 2010 in AA. If I ran the front office, he'd be untouchable.
6. Jonathan Lucroy. Probably a better defensive catcher than Salome, but not as close to being big league ready. Lucroy is hitting .244/.366/.376 in AA, with encouraging plate discipline (57/44 BB:K in 351 PAs). If the Brewers are confident Salome can stick at catcher, then Lucroy could feasibly be moved. With that said, having depth at catcher is a nice luxury.
7. Lorenzo Cain. Seen before the season as the possible heir apparent in center field, Cain is having a difficult and unlucky 2009. He's missed significant time with a torn knee ligament and has hit just .202/.320/.298 between Arizona, Wisconsin and Huntsville. He could bounce back strong and make us all forget about his struggles, but his value probably isn't exceptionally high right now.
8. Taylor Green. Green improved his value as much as any Brewer farmhand in 2008, having a nice season with Brevard County and a good showing in the Arizona Fall League before leaving early. Then he got a late start in 2009 due to a wrist issue, and was DL'ed again with a rib cage injury after returning. Green is still hitting when he plays (.305/.377/.439), but has appeared in just 52 games this season. If Gamel sticks at third base he could be expendable, but he'd also be a nice bat to keep around.
9. Jake Odorizzi. Odorizzi is 19 years old and pitching for the second season in Helena, where he's posted a 3.71 ERA in 26.2 innings and struck out 17 while walking just five. He's a nice young pitching prospect, but we may have overrated him at #9, and he's still a very long way from big league ready.
11. Cutter Dykstra. After a brief stint in Wisconsin this spring, Dykstra was sent back to Helena to transition to second base, and hasn't hit well there either. He's hitting just .202/.323/.292 between the two levels this season, and his value has dropped considerably.
So, as you can see, if Escobar and Gamel are untouchable (and Lawrie also should be), and you factor in the present value decreases of Lorenzo Cain, Taylor Green, Jake Odorizzi and Cutter Dykstra, plus the fact that Cole Gillespie is already gone, you're left with a Brewer farm system that doesn't have a whole lot left to give away, and not much behind them to replace what may leave.
So what do you think? Are you prepared to give up what it would take to land Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee? If so, what would you offer?