In the midst of their final homestand of 2013 this weekend against St. Louis, the Brewers will bid farewell to their fans on ESPN's nationally broadcasted Sunday Night Baseball this Sunday in Milwaukee. We had the opportunity to speak with ESPN senior reporter Buster Olney prior to the final home game of the season, asking him a handful of questions -- most of which focused on what to expect in the coming months with respect to roster moves and potential trade deals and free-agent signings.
Below is the full transcript of our phone conversation. A big thanks to ESPN for reaching out to us so this all could be made possible.
AD: The (Ryan) Braun situation has obviously drawn a lot of attention lately. He visited Miller Park on Wednesday for the first time since his suspension, but didn't make himself available to the media. I believe you published an article saying how he should apologize publicly. Is that correct?
Olney: I initially wrote -- when he put out his first apology, which was very vague and didn't have a lot of specifics in it -- that he was very presumptuous when he said hey, I'm glad to put this behind me. And at that time, I wrote that he needs to apologize to the collectors, and the players. My whole feeling is that if he wants to save his money and not put himself in any legal risk, then he shouldn't say anything. If he were a friend, I would ask him: What do you want to get out of it? Do you really want to try and make good with people and get real redemption? If you want to come out and really want a chance to be liked and accepted, then be as open and honest as you can possibly be. And if that's not as important to you as the other, then don't worry about it. Just go about your day.
AD: Have you recently spoken to he or any of his representatives?
Olney: I haven't spoken with him, but I've spoken with people who know him. And those are conversations that have been going on since the story first broke two years ago. Some of the people that I've spoken to with the Brewers and others are basically saying, "if we said anything inappropriate defending him, we apologize." I terms of what ESPN reported, the reaction to ESPN or the reaction to any columns, I totally get it from the fans' perspective because you were going off what you were told from him. He's someone you know and he's someone you trust. But now that we sort of have everything out on the table, I think it's different. I don't really blame them -- this is someone who they were a colleague of who was not honest with them.
AD: Transitioning to more roster type stuff, what have you heard from scouts about the potential of Scooter Gennett?
Olney: There's hope that he can be a guy who's going to contribute moving forward. Based (strictly) off what I've heard from scouts is that he can be a piece on a team. They don't necessarily think of him being a star prospect, but I think that as we sit here today, in the vaccum of what their season has been, he seems to be one of those guys who's taken advantage of it. We were on a conference call yesterday and Dan Shulman mentioned he said he's probably going to be saying the name 'Scooter Gennett' about 50,000 times on the broadcast Sunday night because, beyond (Jean) Segura, (Carlos) Gomez and (Jonathan) Lucroy, he's one of the guys who if you're a Brewer fan you're going to be focusing on going forward.
AD: With that said, have you heard anything regarding the trade potential for Rickie Weeks?
Olney: I've talked to people on other teams who've said he's out there -- that the Brewers are very willing to talk about a trade with him. But, I mean, let's face it: His injury history is so daunting and with their level of investment, in terms of relative to their payroll, he's a tough guy for them. On one hand, you don't want to give him away, and on the other hand, they certainly haven't gotten the production they'd hoped for. What I'm hearing from other teams is that unless the Brewers are willing to take almost nothing (in return), that there probably isn't going to be a big market for him. And so I think the question for the Brewers is going to be if it's time to turn the page. I know whenever I talk with Doug Melvin, he always talks about how tough he thinks Weeks is. So if they're not sick of having him around, then it makes sense to keep him because right now, if you dump him, you're selling low.
AD: Transitioning to another veteran who's suffered injury this season, what have you heard from front-office executives regarding the value of free-agent-to-be Corey Hart?
Olney: I haven't dug in specifically on him in terms of what he's going to do, but you have to believe the big thing for him is that he's healthy. For most of the free agents, like Robinson Cano, he's not going to have to do anything in the winter to have to prove himself. But if you're Corey Hart, past your 30th birthday, you're going to have to go through some stuff. I have to believe that from his perspective, and I haven't talked to his agent about this, but he's the perfect candidate for a one-year deal...with a team like Baltimore who needs right-handed power, J.J. Hardy will speak on his behalf, they've got some flexibility at first base and in the outfield. With that said, I have to think that most of the interest for Corey will come from American League teams, because they do have that option to give him some days as a designated hitter. It's like last year where a bunch of teams called Shane Victorino -- a lot of teams were interested in him on a one-year deal, and I wonder if that's what offseason workouts might do for Corey. I don't think the Brewers will give him a qualifying offer, given their payroll.
AD: With that said, what's the scoop on Juan Francisco?
Olney: The reason why he went into spring training with the Braves being very open to him beating out Chris Johnson at third base was an open competition, and he lost it on the first day because he showed up out of shape; they thought he was fat. They felt he needed to put himself in position to win, and I'm guessing that's what's being said to him is you have to dedicate yourself better.
AD: Aramis Ramirez was rumored to be part of at least a few deals leading up to the trade deadline. Any word on his potential trade value?
Olney: I think a lot of that was overstated, and that's just my opinion. But when I talk to executives of other teams, they were saying, look -- given his age, given his injury dealing with knee issues, that's not a minor deal. It's kind of like the Weeks situation where you probably could have found a team to take him, but they probably would have had to eat a lot of money. On top of that, they wouldn't have gotten much in return. If they feel like he just can't play in the field because of his physical problems, they I have to think they'll go in to next year looking for him to reestablish himself, at least early in the season and then market him once he is better.
AD: So you think it's kind of going to be a "read and react" type of situation for Ramirez and Weeks where they'll steadily gauge the trade value of each as the season progresses?
Olney: Unless they have reason to want to do it beforehand. IT's kind of like the Yankees with A.J. Burnett where they just say look -- we know we're going to take a bath in this trade but we just don't think he can be effective for us. I haven't spoken to Doug yet, but I have to believe the big question about Ramirez physically is how well will he play the position.
AD: Now that the season is essentially done, what have you heard in regards to how the organization feels about the (Kyle) Lohse signing? Is it viewed in a positive or negative light?
Olney: You know, I don't think we have enough information yet to cast a judgment on. Yesterday I was talking to Scott Boras and he talked about how he felt the Brewers made a really adept move. At the time, there were teams who considered the forfeiting of the draft pick as too much of a risk, and I'd be willing to bet the family farm back in Vermont that there were people in the organization who weren't real thrilled about it, either. But they may have an opportunity to get younger through a deal, especially if they're not contending in the first half next year.
AD: So you think there's definitely some (trade) interest involving Lohse at this point?
Olney: The question is going to be what the Brewers think. Mark Attanasio is known among the owners as being one of the more competitive guys, and I think Mark has a higher threshold for deciding whether or not they can contend more than other owners.
AD: Injury has taken a brutal toll on the Brewers' rotation this season, and one big question moving forward is what will become of the No. 5 spot. The team has seen a number of farmhands perform well, but is there a chance Milwaukee could go out and acquire a pitcher to fill that void?
Olney: I mean, let's face it -- the Brewers are probably down the list of a lot of guys. You know that they aren't going to pay a whole lot of money and you're looking at a one-year deal. Then you look at how close the Brewers are to contending. But I definitely think they can go get somebody like Scott Baker, for example. I could see them easily getting into that type of situation where they bring in a veteran guy who hasn't had things work out for him. The only other way, then, to get somebody on their team for next year would be to overpay, and I don't think they're close enough to winning where you'd necessarily want to do that yet.
AD: Anything else you'd like to add, Buster? I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us.
Olney: Nope, that's good. You covered it. Thanks, man.