Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin talked to Adam McCalvy recently a little bit about the team's trade deadline activity and whether there might be any significant moves. Here is the final quote included in the story:
"Right now, if we stay healthy, I don't see a major need."
OK, I agree with that. It's a matter of semantics, I guess. I think 'major' would dictate acquiring someone who would immediately enter the rotation or the starting lineup. The Brewers don't really need anyone of that caliber, it's true. Marco Estrada probably should be out of the rotation sooner or later, but the team already has Jimmy Nelson ready and willing to start pitching Major League games on a consistent basis.
There have been rumblings of Brewers' interest in David Price, but that's seemed unlikely since rumors first started. It makes sense that the team might be looking into it a bit, but the cost of acquiring him would likely be too high for the Brewers to pay. In a short playoff series, having Price would be great. It would no doubt help the team. But, again, costs outweigh benefits. Melvin is right that there isn't a major need. That doesn't mean they can't look to upgrade anyway with a Price type player, but it certainly seems unlikely. What would make more sense is if Milwaukee looks to bring in a new bullpen arm or, especially, some bench depth.
Which makes this discouraging:
"I don't know what you would do," Melvin said. "You're not going to change Rickie [Weeks] and Scooter [Gennett at second base]. You're not going to change [Lyle] Overbay [and Mark] Reynolds [at first base]. One piece, maybe, but it's got to be somebody who can play center field. I don't know where [a player like Hairston] would play if we had him now. Where would be play? ... We don't pinch-hit for our outfielders."
One-hundred and thirteen. The Brewers have seen Logan Schafer, Elian Herrera, Irving Falu, Caleb Gindl, and Jeff Bianchi combine to play in 113 games, altogether. Fifty-three of those were starts. In 85 games, the Brewers have had 53 starts from five players who have combined this season for a .180/.234/.230 line over 269 plate appearances.
That's a 464 OPS. Of qualified hitters, the lowest OPS in the majors is Everth Cabrera's 546. Will Venable's 528 OPS is the lowest among any player with 250 plate appearances. John Baker and Jose Molina are the only two players with at least 100 plate appearances this season to hit for worse than a 464 OPS. The best among the five players has been Schafer, whose .190/.281/.291 line earned him a demotion to the minors, leaving a worse hitter and worse defensive player (Herrera) to take his spot.
So there is where your neo-Hairston would play. That utility spot that the Brewers can't seemingly fill with a competent player. He doesn't need a starting spot every day, that's not the point of such an acquisition. He would find playing time when Ryan Braun's finger and oblique start hurting, when the 36-year-old Aramis Ramirez needs a break, when Carlos Gomez sustains a minor injury from playing too hard. When a player needs a day off in the dog days of Summer.
Whether the team can find one for a reasonable price is a good question. And maybe Melvin is just hiding his hand a bit. He's GM of a Major League baseball team, he knows how bad his bench has been. Maybe he puts these quotes out so other teams don't try to lowball him. Then again, I would expect every GM to know these tricks and know the Brewers could really use another bench guy.
Also, with regard to the whole 'it's got to be a guy who plays center field" thing. You can have multiple guys back up multiple positions. Doug understands that, right? If they stick with a traditional five-man bench, they have Martin Maldonado, then the bench portion of the second base platoon, and Lyle Overbay sucking up space. That leaves the team with two bench spots still. One outfielder, one infielder makes sense. A guy who can cover short and a guy who can take center field. It would be great if there were one good player who could take both and be relied on to consistently make starts, but even improving one would be useful.
Right now, Elian Herrera and Jeff Bianchi are the two 'extra' bench spots. Herrera can play center field. So leave him as the 24th/25th man. Or bring up Schafer again.
The bench is a position that should be and probably can be fixed. It's a long season and things happen. If the Brewers want to maintain first place in the NL Central, I hope they won't need to rely on Herrera or Bianchi much.