I'm titling this post in honor of TSSC, who made a similar fanpost in early May of 2008.
After what can only be described as a disastrous road trip for the Brewers (the injuries more than the 2-4 record), are we getting to the point where we need to take a sober look as to whether the window of opportunity for 2012 has slammed shut on us? And if it has, what should the Brewers do to build towards the future?
While I know that there's almost 5 months to go, and I'm not in full-blown panic mode, I do think we need to be realistic about what the loss of Gamel and Gonzales have cost us. While Green may be able to produce Gamel-like numbers, I don't think any of us harbor the thought that Izturis or Maysonet can replace Gonzales. Narveson is out. Gomez on the DL. Braun isn't 100%. Given the relative weakness of the division and the potential of our front 4 starters, I hate to wave the white flag, but at what point do we turn our focus to positioning the team for 2013 and beyond? Despite MLB.com articles about Mark A. stating that the team will still compete this season, I think he and Melvin are too smart to not ask themselves "What's best for the club in the long term?"
My opinion, which you are in no way obligated to share, is that barring some miraculous run in May and early June the team will be looking to sell in late June up until the trade deadline. While I hope that we're NOT in that situation, I've accepted that we probably will be. Here's what I think the Brewers should be looking to do:
The core of our lineup is still intact for 2013 (assuming Gamel makes a "normal" ACL recovery). Going forward I don't see any team in the NL Central that's poised to dominate for the next few years. So I don't think blowing up everything and starting from scratch is the way to go. What we don't have for 2013 and beyond is good starting pitching outside of YoGa. We need to build our rotation for the future.
While it's been quiet on the Greinke news lately, I hope that the team has continued extension talks with his agent (and Marcum's too). I don't think we can afford to extend both Greinke and Marcum, and of the two I'd prefer Greinke. But if we don't make any progress in extension talks, we have to be ready to trade him in early July. This would be a CC-like trade, where the Brewers are looking to get back a top prospect (and hope he turns out better than LaPorta). Holding on to Zack until the end of the season and watching him walk just seems silly if we're out of contention. Draft picks are great, but I'd much rather have another team's former #1 or #2 pick that has had a couple years of vetting in the minors. Especially if he's a good shortstop or front-line starting pitcher. (Granted, as soon as he puts on a Brewers uniform, he'd top out as a #3 starter....)
If Greinke signs an extension by late June, then we need to be ready to move Marcum instead. I don't think we'd get as much for Marcum, though he's had the better season so far. Regardless, starting pitching is usually in high demand at the trade deadline. (For the record, I think the team should be willing to sign Greinke for more $ and more years than Marcum. I'd be hesitant to extend Marcum more than 3 years, but I think Zack could/should get 5. The years and injury risk bother me more than the $$, though it's obviously not my money....) The team should be willing to listen to offers for Wolf, too, though I'm not sure what kind of a return we'd get for him, other than salary relief.
If/when any of Greinke/Marcum/Wolf get traded, Peralta needs to get his shot. Bring him up to get some experience at the MLB level. And if possible, bring up one of the other (Thornburg/Bradley/Jungmann) top prospects for the same purpose (especially since Estrada could use some occasional spelling at #5, and multiple starters help us limit the innings of any individual guy).
In the bullpen, the obvious play is to move K-Rod. I know we like to play the counterfactual game here, but just because it's obvious doesn't mean it's wrong. The question is what we'd get back. Unless Mark A. is willing to eat some salary, I don't think K-Rod will return much. Which is too bad, because I like most former Angels, but I think he's a salary dump waiting to happen. Just like last year. I think Mark A. went overbudget this year because he knew we could contend, but if the injuries have knocked us out of contention, he'll be looking to shave some $$ off the payroll. Regardless, RRR needs to make sure K-Rod gets his opportunities to pitch and show off his stuff, and we have to hope he starts getting a lot more clean innings to interest potential trade partners. (I know the Halos need bullpen help, and most Angel fans would welcome Frankie back with open arms. If so, I just want him to pitch well.)
The reliever that everyone will ask about, of course, is Axford. Do. Not. Trade. Him. I'd be willing to move Veras, Loe, Parra, heck, pretty much anyone else in the bullpen. But not Ax. Three years of team control left. Lights-out closer. And I have an Axford Shir-zee. Untouchable.
As I said previously, the lineup is pretty much intact for 2013. I don't think we should be looking to make any major trades with the position players, though if we had an interesting offer for Hart or Morgan, I think the team should listen to it. Nyjer has had a slow start this season, and we'd be selling low, but I'm not sure how well he fits in long-term. Hart is pricey, and while I (usually) love his bat, I don't think the Brewers will keep him beyond his current contract, so if we can get something good for 1.5 years of Hart, we can give some playing time to one of the Shafer/Gindl combo.
Again, I don't want to give up on 2012. And I hate feeling so pessimistic, but after the injuries this past week I think the team needs to be realistic about their chances. The Brewers have some valuable pieces (primarily pitching) that could fetch decent returns before the trade deadline, and the sooner they make a move, the more they're likely to get in return.