Regular readers of this site know that I'm a little trigger-happy when it comes to planning for the future. I'm a big Carlos Lee fan, but after losing three of four the Cubs, it's tough for me to get excited about passing up midseason swag when this team looks destined for 81 wins.
However, I'm going to put that half of me on hold this morning and focus on the flip side. If the Brewers come out of the second-half gates charging the NL Central lead and positioning themselves for, at least, a wildcard run, what pieces are missing?
You gotta start with pitching. Dana Eveland, Zach Jackson, and Carlos Villanueva may be important cogs in a Brewers pennant-winning team, but not this year. We probably won't have to make a deal to get a least one pitcher added to the rotation: Tomo Ohka could be back after one more rehab start this weekend. If all goes well with Ben Sheets's recovery, we could have our ace back on the mound in a couple of weeks, as well.
Figuring for a second that Sheets and Ohka both return and pitch something like how we'd expect them to, what then? A bullpen arm would be mighty handy. There aren't many teams who are already out of their divisional race, but I'd be thinking someone along the lines of Salomon Torres--that is, last year's edition of Torres. I didn't realize that he's reverted to the mean in a major way (4.63 ERA, 1.47 WHIP this year), but somebody like 2005 Torres would be great: a solid 7th/8th inning guy who can occasionally give you more than three outs.
Unfortunately, there aren't very many good middle relievers in baseball. Most of them are on contenders, too. One alternative for the Brewers would be to swing a deal for another starter and move somebody--Dave Bush?--to the pen. I've always thought of Bush as a starter--in the long term, he's certainly more valuable that way--but maybe for the last two months of the season, a rotation of Sheets-Davis-Cappy-Ohka-Greg Maddux with a core bullpen of Turnbow-Wise-Capellan-Bush is the best way to go.
Any other ideas for solid bullpen additions?
On the offensive side, there's no serious gap on the Brewers unless you're ready to stick a fork in Geoff Jenkins. Even so, it would take a pretty hefty acquisition to seriously outperform what Corey Hart (or even Nelson Cruz) would do, given a starting role for the rest of the season. Aubrey Huff may end up helping the Astros, but he wouldn't be an upgrade in Milwaukee.
This is the problem with having a bunch of good-solid-average players on your team. A winning team needs a lot of average guys (as opposed to, say, Neifi Perez), but of course you need a handful of impact players, as well. For the Brewers this year, of course, it's been Carlos Lee and Chris Capuano. To win, this team either needs a couple of people to really step it up, or we need to shore up every single weakness. A two- or three-man fix to the pitching staff might be enough to do just that.