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July Trade Rumors (of course)

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Is Bill Hall on the block? It's too early to know for sure, but it looks like the Padres want him to be. They need a third baseman like the Brewers needed a new backup catcher (worse, maybe!) and they have a few decent prospects to use as bait.

The first question is: can we do with Billy? That depends, of course, on JJ Hardy's status, and just how we feel about his offensive skills even if he's healthy. Jeff Cirillo has been bashing lefties enough that we don't really need Hall to be Corey Koskie's platoon partner. It's tough to imagine this team without Billy, but it can be done.

Further, if JJ Hardy is the shortstop of the future, Billy isn't really a cog in the next great Brewers team: Ryan Braun is on course to take over for Koskie in 2008, and we have more potential Major League centerfielders in Triple-A than most clubs have in their entire system. If Hardy is healthy--perhaps going on a rehab starting this weekend--Bill Hall is expendable.

I wonder, though, if trading partners view him as the valuable commodity he is. He's a power-hitting infielder with (at least some) defensive skills--guys like that who can play shortstop are rare. Given that the Padres (or whomever) would be trading for more than just a couple months of him, I would expect a quality prospect in return. In fact, if I were running a team, I'd probably view multiple years of Billy as worth more than a Carlos Lee rental.

The obvious, obvious, obvious deal is Billy for George Kottaras. He's 23 years old, hitting decently with some pop in Double-A, and...he's a catcher. If you haven't noticed, I'm a little preoccupied with getting this club a backstop. Kottaras is the player many of us hoped Lou Palmisano would turn out to be. What's more, the Padres have a couple of young catchers in Rob Bowen and Josh Bard: they don't need Kottaras like we do.

I would imagine that Doug Melvin will barely start discussions like this one until the Brewers slide a little bit further out of the race. But, as with my proposed deals to pry Jeff Mathis away from the Angels, we can't wait too long. If the Brewers aren't going to seriously compete this year, it's a prime opportunity to shore up the one area of need for the next year that they will.