It all comes down to this. The greatest countdown this side of sliced bread. We have parts one, two and three and are finally bringing you, dear readers, Rubie, Kyle and my top five Milwaukee Brewers players in terms of trade value. Let's find out who they are.
5. Casey McGehee. One of us ranked him seventh, one eighth, and the other ranked him third, enabling him to overtake Prince Fielder. McGehee probably surprised a lot of people as he didn't regress nearly as much as most thought he would following his breakthrough .301/360/.499 campaign. He did drop nearly fifty OPS points, hitting .285/.337/.464 in 2010. That's still a very good line for a third baseman. Even better for a third baseman with four years of team control left. Those four years are the reason he is ranked ahead of Prince Fielder, despite being clearly inferior offensively.
Doug Melvin picked up McGehee off waivers from the Cubs, so it's even more impressive that he has reached the number five spot in our rankings. It will be interesting if McGehee has another good year in 2011. His trade value would probably be even higher than it is now, despite one less year under team control. I think teams thinking about trading for McGehee will still have qualms about it considering he is still a good candidate to (continue?) regressing. Another strong year will help alleviate many of those concerns. Right now, though, Casey McGehee might be a very good second piece in a larger deal, or he might net a fairly solid pitcher by himself.
4. Rickie Weeks. Like Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks is going into his final year of his contract. Weeks actually led the team in fWAR in 2010 as his 6.1 fWAR was nearly 2 full wins more than Ryan Braun. He was actually thirteenth in the major leagues in that stat, second among second basemen and first among NL second basemen. He's come a long way since being picked second overall in the 2003 draft. After being named the collegiate player of the year his senior year at Southern, he came into the MLB with unlimited potential and many pundits and teams thinking he would become a superstar in no time.
As it turns out, it's taken Rickie a while to reach that level. Injuries have played a part as it seemed like he would never play a whole season. In particular, his wrist was a major concern after he was forced to have surgery on it several times in addition to a surgery on his knee in 2008. His whole career, he has shown that he can get on base (hasn't been below a .340 OBP since his rookie season) but the power that was supposed to come didn't. The injuries played a role in that as his weakened wrist didn't allow him to use his incredible bat speed as effectively. He looked like he was in for a breakout in 2009, hitting .272/.340/.517 in 37 games before being lost for the season to a torn muscle in his left hand.
He finally had his breakout season in 2010, hitting .269/.366/.464 with 29 HR, 83 RBI (usually hitting in the leadoff spot!) and 112 runs scored while playing in 160 games. The defensive concerns that have dogged him throughout his career are no longer such an issue. Early in 2009 Bill James wrote in "The Fielding Bible II" that Weeks would have to be moved off second base. Thanks to a lot of hard work, Weeks has become at least an average second baseman and, in fact, has put up a positive UZR between 2010 and the injury shortened 2009. Now Doug Melvin is looking to lock up the star player for the next few years but make no bones about it, a lot of teams would love to have Weeks in their lineup next year.
3. Brett Lawrie. The star of the minor leagues, Lawrie--like Weeks was--has been viewed as a major defensive liability at second base, with many people thinking that he would need to be moved to a different position, probably a corner outfield spot. While Lawrie is more valuable as a second baseman, his bat is so good that his trade value wouldn't exactly be too damaged if he needed a move to a different defensive position. Lawrie played in AA all of last year in the minors and will likely play much of the 2011 season in Nashville. He, of course, still has all six of his team controlled years left and, as a top prospect, would be an enormous piece in any deal, were Doug Melvin inclined to trade him.
On his bat: Lawrie hit for a line of .285/.346/.449 last year--good for a wOBA of .361--with eight homeruns and 63 RBI, scoring 90 runs. He had a nearly identical OPS in A ball in 2009 before struggling in a brief tryout in AA. He also showed last year that he wasn't afraid to try to steal bases, nabbing 30 in 46 tries. As he matures, his power is going to skyrocket--I've heard that he has definite 40 home run potential--and he could become one of the premier hitting second basemen in the league. He probably has the highest ceiling of any position player in the Brewers system.
Which brings you to our final two, Yovani Gallardo and Ryan Braun. But who's number one? Have no fear, you can find out by following the jump.
2. Ryan Braun. We all know Ryan Brauns offensive talents: .307/.364/.554 career line, 128 HR, 397 R, 420 RBI in just four seasons, with at least a 4.2 WAR in each of his three full years. The former Rookie of the Year is one of the best offensive players in the MLB and is neck and neck with Prince Fielder for best hitter on the Brewers.
The funny thing about counting down is that there's so much less to say about the top two guys to justify their spots because it's so obvious that these guys are the two biggest trade chips for Milwaukee and, in fact, are worth so much that any team would have their minor league system crippled if they attempted to trade for Braun or our number one. I can keep listing Braun's incredible offensive statistics, but there isn't really any point. By now, even casual baseball fans know how good he is.
The one thing I should point out, and the reason he is such a valuable chip, is his contract. He signed an incredibly team friendly 8 year/$45MM deal in May of 2008. He still has five years and about $40.5MM remaining. Of course, following the completion of this contract, barring a complete collapse he is probably going to sign for one of the biggest contracts in MLB history, but five years of an amazing and almost guaranteed sure thing such as Ryan Braun will require eight kings ransoms to pry him from the Brewers hands.
1. Yovani Gallardo. Unanimously selected by Rubie, Kyle, and I as the Brewer with the highest trade value is Milwaukees ace (Braun was unanimously #2). Again, it's the same thing as with Ryan Braun. I could cite his fantastic pitching statistics (3.02 FIP, 3.84 ERA last year, strikes out quite a large amount of hitters) but you already know all that. He's still just 24 years old and is getting better and better every season. He's going to be one of the best pitchers in the major leagues very soon.
And the reason why he is ranked so high is because, like Braun, Gallardo signed a wonderfully team friendly contract--five years, $30.1MM. He still has four years left, with about $28MM remaining in addition to a $13MM team option for 2015. Ryan Braun and Yovani Gallardo are close in terms of trade value, but pitchers are generally much more valuable than hitters in trades. Really, Gallardo and Braun could and maybe should be 1 and 1a, but we have to make our decision and Yovani being a pitcher allows him to be the Brewers most valuable trade piece.