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A Brief History Of The Brewers And Undervalued Assets

Last week we talked about the current Brewer front office's ability to uncover valuable players on the scrap heap and turn them into key contributors on the field. Finding undervalued talent isn't a new phenomenon, though: In fact, some of the best players in Brewer history have come to Milwaukee in what turned out to be lopsided trades.

Take Don Money, for example. He was a 25 year old, light-hitting five year major league veteran with the Phillies when the Brewers acquired him in a seven player deal following the 1972 season. Money spent eleven seasons with the Brewers and was worth 24.7 rWAR, the fourth most for a position player in franchise history. The four players the Brewers sent away in the deal were worth a combined 7.4 wins in Philadelphia.

Jim Colborn came to the Brewers in December 1971 in a trade that sent outfielder Jose Cardenal to the Cubs. Cardenal had only been a Brewer for a few months but Colborn would spend the next five years in Milwaukee, posting a 3.65 ERA and averaging 223.2 innings per season. He's still the only Brewer ever to throw over 300 innings in a season (314.1 in 1973). He was worth 12.3 rWAR as a Brewer, eighth most for a pitcher in franchise history.

Mike Caldwell might be one of the greatest steals in Brewer history. The Brewers acquired him from the Reds halfway through the 1977 season in exchange for two players who never appeared in a major league game. Caldwell pitched over 1600 innings in seven and a half seasons as a Brewer, posting a 3.74 ERA and coming in second place in the 1978 Cy Young voting. He was worth 15.9 rWAR as a Brewer, fifth all time among pitchers.

Cecil Cooper was just entering his prime when he was shipped to Milwaukee in a deal that sent two former Red Sox back to Boston: Bernie Carbo and George Scott. Cooper played eleven seasons in Milwaukee and made five All Star appearances, winning three Silver Slugger Awards and two Gold Gloves. He's the third most valuable Brewer by rWAR in franchise history (29.3). Carbo and Scott, meanwhile, had both left Boston for good by 1980 and had combined to produce just 3.8 rWAR in their second tours of duty there.

I mentioned this in the last post and I'll mention it again here: The real success of the Moneyball era A's (and most winning teams today) was producing homegrown talent. The 2002 A's got a boatload of wins from Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada, all players they developed internally. But, if you do a good job on the market you can occasionally find a good deal on a player that turns a good team into a great team.