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Once upon a time, Mookie Betts could have been a Brewer

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File this near the top of the “trades that never were” file

Wild Card Round - Milwaukee Brewers v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game One Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

We’ve heard for years about how The Brewers Almost Drafted Mike Trout (he was taken one pick before them! So close!). Now we have a story that might join that one in Brewers what-if lore.

Apparently, the Brewers nearly traded for Mookie Betts, back before he was The Best Non-Trout Player in Baseball.

Admittedly, saying “nearly” might be a stretch, but Doug Melvin apparently did ask for him in a possible deal for Francisco Rodriguez in 2013. Adam McCalvy has the story:

Betts was only 20 years old at the time, a relatively unheralded prospect in the middle of a breakout 2013 season in Class A ball. The Red Sox were on their way to a World Series title, and Melvin was offering bullpen help in the form of Francisco Rodríguez.

“Doug Melvin was the first to ask, so I always give Doug credit,” said Ben Cherington, the Pirates’ general manager who held the same role in Boston from 2011-15. “He was the first one to ask for him.”

But Melvin wanted Betts in return. Cherington declined, and Milwaukee wound up flipping Rodríguez to Baltimore for Nicky Delmonico. By the end of the year, Betts was a bona fide prospect — and rival executives never stopped asking for him.

...

“We knew we weren’t going to get what was considered a top-level prospect, and Mookie sort of went under the radar if you went by the so-called MLB Pipeline or whatever,” Melvin said. “I don’t think at the time he was in their top 10-15 prospects. But I remember between our analytics department and Zack [Minasian’s] scouting department, I said, ‘Just give me some names.’

First, the idea of Doug Melvin saying “the so-called MLB Pipeline or whatever” fills me with joy.

But secondly, even if this is a story of a “near-miss” (although it sounds like Boston was never keen on giving him up, even as a 20-year-old that didn’t outrank the likes of Jackie Bradley, Jr. or Xander Bogaerts), it’s a nice little example of how Melvin built a staff that was always able to find talent that was flying under the radar — part of what helped the Brewers turn things around during the Melvin era and become the relevant franchise they are today.

If it had worked out, K-Rod for Mookie would’ve been one of the all-time heists. Of course, maybe that’s why it never happened.

Still, it’s pretty fun to think about.