Once upon a time the Brewers off-season was the most boring thing that ever happened (or rather didn't happen) in Milwaukee sports history, besides every Brewers season in the early 2000's. That all changed in mid-January when the Brewers traded Yovani Gallardo. Then things kind of just took off from there.
James Shields and the Brewers began to be mentioned in the same sentence and usually sensible people didn't scoff. The Jonathan Papelbon rumor broke. Then it died. Then it rose from the ashes. Then it didn't do anything for a while. Then people kind of forgot about it. Then it started picking up steam again. Then it didn't do any...you get my point. There was even a tidbit about the Padres maybe being interested in acquiring Brewers new shortstop prospect Luis Sardinas.
Juxtaposed against the early off season calmness, it was so much so fast that it's been kind of hard to keep track of everything. And the problem, as with all rumors, is that very little in the way of facts is actually known. So I thought I'd wrap up all my thoughts on what (we think) we know so far in one place.
Immediately following the Gallardo trade I thought for sure the Brewers would make a play for James Shields. Then Doug Melvin explicitly said they were giving Jimmy Nelson a spot in the rotation. It's one thing for him to say they're not going to make a play for Shields. That's sort of noncommittal. Things can always change with free agents, and even Doug Melvin acknowledges that. It's an entirely different thing to commit to Nelson in the rotation. In my opinion he really does mean the Brewers won't get Shields and instead are comfortable going with Nelson in the rotation instead.
Where Shields signs will still impact the Brewers, though more indirectly. Some of the Brewers draft pick positions will potentially change depending on where Shields signs. The Padres sound like the current favorites, if that's worth anything. They (or Miami) would be the best destination for the Brewers draft. The Padres (and Marlins) have their first round draft pick ahead of the Brewers. If they sign Shields, then the Brewers first round draft pick will move up a spot which is nice.
The Cardinals and Yankees were said to have some interest in Shields too. Their first round picks come after the Brewers'. If one of them signs Shields then the Brewers' picks stay where they currently are. That's because their lost pick negates the Royals' added pick as far as the Brewers draft is concerned.
And wouldn't you know it, those damned Cubs are said to be kicking the tires on the reportedly depressed James Shields market. Their first round pick is protected meaning they'd forfeit second round pick. If that happens, the Brewers first round pick remains where it is, but their Competitive Balance A pick would get pushed back by 1 spot. So if the Cubs sign Shields they'd probably have the most direct (by improving in division competition) and indirect impact (by pushing back draft picks) on the Brewers. Damn Cubs always have to be a pain in the ass.
While James Shields seems unlikely to go to Milwaukee, the smart money seems to be on Jonathan Papelbon ending up there. The latest report suggests the Brewers and Phillies have come to an agreement concerning the monetary compensation the Brewers would get. That seemed to be the biggest obstacle and so if that's been overcome, I expect the two sides will eventually come to an agreement.
The remaining conversations seem to be centered on the players getting sent to Philly in return. I'd hesitant to hazard a guess here. It really probably depends on how much money the Phillies are going to send to Milwaukee. Papelbon is going to be owed $26 million over two years. The more the Phillies pay, the better the prospect or prospects they'll get in return.
Philadelphia is said to want a quality prospect in return so for the sake of argument let's assume they cover enough money to get one back. I have to believe the Brewers won't part with Orlando Arcia, Tyrone Taylor, Devin Williams, Clint Coulter, Miguel Diaz, or any of the 2014 draftees. If even one of those players were to go I'd be irate. But I really don't see it happening. That leaves the next tier of Brewers prospects to choose from.
In that tier you have guys like Taylor Jungmann, Taylor Williams, Ty Wagner, Jorge Lopez, Wei-Chung Wang, and a handful of others. Jungmann has been the popular suggestion around the various blogs that cover these sorts of things, but I haven't heard any names being thrown out there by national reporters or anyone with any kind of source. So at this point we're just making guesses.
I will say two things about a Taylor Jungmann for Jonathan Papelbon + cash trade.
1. In a vacuum I think that's appropriate value in return for the Phillies.
2. It might be too much for the Brewers to part with but ONLY because the rotation depth is pretty light at this point.
Even considering rotation depth I think I'd still make that trade. If you've been reading my articles this winter you'll know I've been a huge proponent of maintaining SP depth. There was a time when I said the Brewers absolutely couldn't afford to give up Jungmann. But things are a bit different now than they were at the time of the Gallardo trade.
Tyler Thornburg is reportedly healthy now so we can add him back to the depth chart. The Brewers also re-signed Hiram Burgos. I'm not saying Burgos is a great option to start games, but if he's something like 8th on a depth chart it's probably fine. Besides, the season hasn't started and the Brewers can still add to the depth chart.
Also, once we get to mid-season some more options might open up too. Ariel Pena and Johnny Hellweg might be healthy enough to pitch at that point. Guys like Ty Wagner, Jorge Lopez, and maybe even Jed Bradley might become options by July as well. And for anyone that wants to throw a fit about considering anyone of these guys as depth, I'd like you to remember with regards to them we're talking 8, 9, or lower on the SP depth chart.
Furthermore, there's a reasonable chance that each one of these guys will be at the same level of development that Taylor Jungmann currently is. Point being that after 2015 Taylor Jungmann likely becomes entirely expendable. That's not because he's necessarily a bad pitcher, but because there will be several more options with comparable talent levels.
Okay, this part is going to be almost entirely speculation on my part so you're welcome to ignore this entirely. That being said, it has been revealed that at some point this winter the Padres new general manager AJ Preller had some level of interest in acquiring Luis Sardinas to fill their relative void at shortstop. It isn't clear how serious that interest was nor if the Padres have even approached the Brewers about this at all. Still, it's very intriguing to consider the Padres might have interest in getting Sardinas.
The Padres have been heavily linked to the Phillies and Cole Hamels. San Diego definitely wants another top of the rotation starter, but it's been suggested they just don't have the talent in their farm system to land Hamels. Enter James Shields. If they get him then they're out on Hamels. Might that push them to improve their club by trading for Luis Sardinas?
If they don't trade for Hamels they'll certainly have more than enough left in their system to get Luis Sardinas. And, by adding a starter they might be willing to trade one of their near MLB ready SP prospects who are currently lower on their depth chart. It would make sense for the Brewers to target a player like that if indeed they are looking at trading Taylor Jungmann for Jonathan Papelbon.
Another interesting trade asset the Padres possess is their pick in the Competitive Balance Round A. They have the 5th pick (out of 6) in that round. Currently that is the 41st overall pick. The Brewers drafted Jacob Gatewood with that very pick in last year's draft. They also drafted Monte Harrison 9 picks later. Clearly a pick that high is rather valuable. But it might have an additional value specific to the Brewers.
Milwaukee has the 4th pick (40th overall) in the CBA round. If they could get the Padres comp pick they'd have an additional pick pretty high in the draft, but perhaps more importantly they'd have 2 back to back picks pretty high in the draft. That's really enticing in and of itself, but the Brewers 2015 draft will be the first oversaw by new scouting director Ray Montgomery. By getting this additional pick they'd be giving Montgomery the best chance to really flex his muscle. It must at least be a consideration.
But again, all of this is just speculation on my part. It's very likely Sardinas sticks around for years. It's also very likely the Padres are no longer interested in acquiring Sardinas or are unwilling to part with any of their SP prospects or their CBA pick. It's just something interesting to consider.