During Saturday's game the Brewers general manager Doug Melvin spent an inning in the television booth answering some questions. I found the interview to be very interesting. I haven't seen it put up online so I thought I'd transcribe the relevant parts and discuss the message I heard.
I'm going highlight some parts in bold. The emphasis is mine.
Brian Anderson asks how busy Melvin has been.
Doug Melvin: You're trying to figure out the teams that have expressed interest in the past in certain players...Things can change in any given 10 day period. You just have to wait and see. Some times you get a call and a teams interested...basically laying a foundation in case something comes up. My feelings are that usually the last 2 or 3 days teams emotionally get involved now and things will pick up at that point.
Bill Schroeder: It's kind of been a different scenario for you this year because of the bad start I guess you're not so much a buyer but a seller. So it puts you in a completely different situation that you haven't been in in quite some time.
DM: Yeah, that's the disappointing part of it this year. In the last 10 years we have the second most 80 win seasons in the last ten years. Only the Cardinals have more. But that sticks you in the middle a little bit. That's a philosophical decision we have to make. Do we always want to be stuck in that 80 to 83 win range because that doesn't usually get you into the postseason. But if you think you're in that range you can easily get into 86 wins and that's where we've bene in the past. And that's where we've been in the past. So there's a point where we have to decide the direction we want to go. We still like a lot of our players. We have 4 SP that have come out of our farm system. They're all doing very well with Jimmy Nelson and Fiers, Taylor Jungmann, and Wily Peralta. You've still got Khris Davis, Scooter Gennett, Lucroy. We're still a young team. Ryan Braun just 30 years of age. So we're still a young team in that regard. So that's what makes it difficult to go through what we're going through. Being a young team but we also do have some players facing free agency either this year or the next few years.
BA: Is there any thought at all, specifically with the trade pieces, and now the emergence of Taylor Jungmann and you're talking about this home grown staff: Jimmy, Wily Peralta, Jungmann, Mike Fiers. Is there thought at all you're right back in contention next year and that affects who yhou might be willing to trade this year. For example Carlos Gomez under contract next season. Adam Lind could be a Brewer as well. So how much of that goes into your decision making when you're discussing trades and you're thinking about next season perhaps?
DM: Yeah, that's what makes it difficult. Because they are good players. We haven't had success with players and free agency. In the past we traded Carlos Lee in his free agent year, we got Francisco Cordero back. We had him for a couple years and then [we] lost Francisco Cordero. We lost Prince Fielder to free agency. We had to trade Zack Greinke because he was going into free agency. So we haven't had any luck in keeping free agents. And they have that right. I don't ever criticize a player once he becomes a free agent . He's got a right to go out there. And that's what free agency is all about. Not only to get the most money they can get on the market but they can pick and choose the city they want to play in. That's what free agency is all about. That's what they bargained for. We haven't had that kind of success to keep free agents. We've had success signing guys Yovani Gallardo, Jonathan Lucroy, Gomez. To contracts keeping them here at young ages, maybe keeping them a year into free agency or so. Because of the history of not being able to keep free agents that does come into our thinking too. You have to decide do you want to just get player, the qualifying offer now is going to be into the $16-17 M range and that's higher than any one of the salaries on our ball club. That does go into the thinking of what we have to do in the short term and more importantly the long term.
Doug Melvin and the Brewers front office/ownership gets a lot of undue criticism for a seeming unwillingness to sell. People pick up on one thing he says and they think that's his opinion always all the time. That's just ignorance to the way a general manager uses the media.
I think Melvin uses the media to put forth whatever message he feels needs to be put out there. That message can and does change depending on the situation for various reasons. The message Melvin wants to put across now is different from the one he needed to deliver two months ago which was different from the message he wanted to disseminate in the offseason.
Above I highlighted the parts of Melvin's interview that I thought were most interesting. I believe there was a specific message he was trying to put out in the public. Read the highlighted segments put together:
My feelings are that usually the last 2 or 3 days teams emotionally get involved now and things will pick up at that point. [80 wins] sticks you in the middle a little bit. That's a philosophical decision we have to make. Do we always want to be stuck in that 80 to 83 win range? Because that doesn't usually get you into the postseason. So there's a point where we have to decide the direction we want to go. So that's what makes it difficult to go through what we're going through. Being a young team but we also do have some players facing free agency either this year or the next few years. We haven't had success with players and free agency. [We] lost Francisco Cordero. We lost Prince Fielder to free agency. We had to trade Zack Greinke because he was going into free agency. So we haven't had any luck in keeping free agents. Because of the history of not being able to keep free agents that does come into our thinking too. You have to decide do you want to just get players, the qualifying offer now is going to be into the $16-17 M range and that's higher than any one of the salaries on our ball club. That does go into the thinking of what we have to do in the short term and more importantly the long term.
1) Melvin says teams get emotionally involved the closer it gets to the deadline. That suggest that if trades are going to happen, it will likely happen in the last week before the deadline. If I recall correctly they traded Zack Greinke in the last week before the trade deadline so this thinking seems to fit past examples of trades made by Melvin.
2) Melvin acknowledges that while they've had success in recent years, just sticking around the middle isn't going to get them to the postseason often. He does note that he still likes his players and they're still young. That taken by itself it could be easy to interpret as him suggesting they will try to compete next year. But I in my opinion he's commenting on how hard it is to compete when you don't take advantage of trade opportunities when they present themselves. That opinion is related to my next observation.
3) Brian Anderson asked if there was hope to compete next season and therefore reason to keep Carlos Gomez and Adam Lind specifically (both of whom can still be under team control next year). Instead of directly answering the question Melvin spent his whole response talking about how hard it is for a small market team like the Brewers to financially afford to keep those types of players when they hit free agency. He also emphasized the importance of planning for the long term.
This seems to suggest he's interested in getting something for these players before they hit free agency. This was the reasoning they put forth when they traded Yovani Gallardo. In this instance "getting value before they leave" could mean trading them at this year's deadline, in the winter, or at next year's deadline. It could also mean extending the qualifying offer, but more on that later.
Adam Lind's value isn't likely to be higher than right now and he should have a robust market. Taking Melvin's quote into account it seems likely they will try to move him by this year's deadline. They won't trade someone for the sake of making trades, but the Brewers should be able to get full value for Lind right now.
Carlos Gomez is different. Since Lind has moderate value it won't be too hard for a team to come up with an equitable package. But Gomez has very significant value and the market doesn't appear robust for outfielders. It seems unlikely a team would be willing to meet Gomez's extravagant cost. Assuming that's true it makes sense to keep him through the rest of the season and open the bidding in the offseason when more clubs could be interested.
4) Melvin, unprompted, makes note of how high the qualifying offer is going to be at the end of next year. He pegs it around $16-17 M which seems accurate. It's higher than anyone currently on the Brewers and would likely be the second highest salary next to Ryan Braun's once his extension kicks in. It's really hard for a team like the Brewers to take that kind of risk. Carlos Gomez would almost certainly turn it down, but a player like Adam Lind might accept a one year contract at $17 M. By noting how exorbitant the QO is becoming, I think Melvin is suggesting the Brewers would prefer to get something for one of these players via trades as opposed to risking the QO to get a draft pick.
I don't know who the Brewers are going to trade at the deadline. Gerardo Parra and Neal Cotts seem like safe bets. They'll certainly want to move Kyle Lohse and Aramis Ramriez but if they do move them I think it will be in August. The two real questions are Adam Lind and Carlos Gomez. Perhaps K-Rod as well.
After listening to Doug Melvin's interview I'm convinced he's willing to move those players. The question then surrounds the market for those players. And that's the hidden issue that fans tend to either ignore or are completely unaware of.
If the Brewers don't move Gomez/Rodriguez I think it will be due to a weak market. They could still explore trades over the winter and get solid value so let's not overreact if that's the route they take.
If they don't move Adam Lind then I have no idea what they're thinking. Or rather I'd fear they really are going to attempt another run at the Wild Card next year because they should have no trouble finding value for Lind right now.