With the trade deadline just a week away, David Stearns is not in a position to clearly commit to either buying or selling.
At 11-14, the Brewers are an interesting team to monitor with the trade deadline nine days. Teams that have spoken to Milwaukee say they’re stuck in the middle and that if they do buy, they’re prioritizing players with multiple years of control.— Robert Murray (@ByRobertMurray) August 22, 2020
With a record of 12-15, the Milwaukee Brewers have failed to perform to hopes and expectation to this point in 2020. With that in mind, I present to you a case for selling prior to the deadline.
Can this team really make a deep run?
The 2020 Milwaukee Brewers have underperformed. The Chicago Cubs have not. The St. Louis Cardinals are going to be a good team. Cincinnati is better than its record. Milwaukee cannot play at its current performance level and hope to achieve anything better than a third place finish in the NL Central and compete for the 7th or 8th seed in the playoffs. Right now they sit as the 10th best team of 15 in terms of winning percentage in the National League.
There are 33 games remaining, and the next three games against the Reds and maybe first two against the Pirates in their next series will determine a lot. Even so, does this team have the offensive fire power to win playoff series?
Christian Yelich is going to hit. Will Keston Hiura? He is currently striking out at almost a 34% clip. He struck out 31% of the time last season. Is this who he is? Justin Smoak and Jedd Gyorko are a season or more removed from their last quality campaign. Omar Narvaez and Avisail Garcia have been below league average to this point. Ryan Braun as an elite hitter is a long-gone memory, but is he approaching the real end of it? Those are a lot of question marks without a lot of solid answers.
What might be most concerning is a seeming lack of energetic leadership. Most of this team seems oriented, at least on the positional player side, to be the quiet leader or “just come to work and do my job” types (Manny Pina might be an exception). Lorenzo Cain, Yasmani Grandal, Mike Moustakas, Eric Thames, and Jesus Aguilar all brought an energy that is lacking when looking from the outside. Cain, Grandal, and Moustakas added a winning, gritty aura that permeated the team. That is not seemingly part of this team’s DNA right now. Are this qualities necessary ingredients to have a good stretch run and make a deep run into the playoffs, especially if the Brewers are to come out of a lower seeded position?
Milwaukee needs an influx of young talent
The experts that rank the best and worst minor league systems across baseball have the Milwaukee Brewers at or near the bottom. There is not a lot a young positional player depth knocking at the door of the Brewers.
The three top farm systems in baseball:— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) July 29, 2019
And the three lowest:
In a shortened season that sees no fans at the ballparks, no Lorenzo Cain patrolling center field, no serious protection for Christian Yelich in the lineup, and a young pitching staff that needs the opportunity to take the reigns, it sort of makes sense to commit to getting a bit younger, trade veteran assets, acquire young, controllable talent, and see what you have going into 2021.
The core of the Milwaukee Brewers position player group is still good. Christian Yelich is the best player on the planet not named Mike Trout. Keston Hiura is at the very least a very dangerous bat with the potential to be an elite hitter if he can strikeout less. Luis Urias has the makings of being a solid to exceptional offensive threat. Lorenzo Cain looked like classic LoCain prior to opting out of the season. Omar Narvaez does not become a free agent until 2023 and has a track record of offensive performance on par with the best catchers in baseball. Avisail Garcia has a contract that sees him possibly in a Brewers’ uniform until after 2022. Could there be a season where he replicates his 2017 offensive output or even 2019 output?
There is a talented core here, but there does not seem to be anything coming in the not-so-distant future that can supplement and/or be the next good to great position player. 2021 could offer the Brewers and their fans another exciting season with a legitimate shot at a deep playoff run if the front office plays 2020’s deadline right.
There are teams playing extremely well with exceptional talent that is major league ready or close to it. The New York Yankees, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers, Tampa Bay Rays, Oakland Athletics, Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, and virtually the entire NL East have talented young players they would be tempted to give up to make a run in 2020. Why not see what you can get in a season such as this one?
Young pitchers need an opportunity
Brandon Woodruff and Adrian Houser are the only young, established starting pitchers for the Milwaukee Brewers. Devin Williams and Josh Hader are the only young, established bullpen arms. There is exceptional pitching talent that Milwaukee could give a chance to blossom if they sell at the deadline.
It is time for Corbin Burnes to take one of the starting rotation spots and roll with it come Hades or high water. Milwaukee may or may not be there already, but it is time to see what this young man can do.
Is Freddy Peralta a starter or reliever? It kind of looks like a reliever at this point. Define his role and let him flourish or flounder in 2020.
Eric Lauer has not performed well in 2020, but his track record suggests he will be pretty good. When he is mentally and physically right, give him a rotation spot with the hopes that he solidifies the back-of-the-rotation with another young arm.
In a short sample, Drew Rasmussen looks like the real deal. His fastball/slider combination is electrifying. He is a potential elite reliever that could get a more significant role later in 2020.
These are just a few examples. Are others ready? We know that Angel Perdomo isn’t quite ready, but he shows a lot of promise. Could Ethan Small be on the fast track? Might Trey Supak get a go? Is Antoine Kelly ready for some major league reps? Could Phil Bickford finally be on the cusp of realizing his potential?
While not as exciting a group, certain position players could get a chance too if the Brewers chose to sell. Does Corey Ray need a shot? Do we need to see what Jacob Nottingham can do?
The potential of a solid to really good starting rotation in 2021 is possible. The potential for an elite bullpen in 2021 is even more real. The development at the major league level of a few of these arms might be what is best for the future of the Brewers’ organization long-term.
This could be a seller’s market
With so many teams in contention, there are only a few teams in a position to sell. In the National League, only the Pirates find themselves in that position. The Red Sox, Tigers, Royals, Rangers, Mariners, and Angels all sit with a .407 winning percentage of lower. If Milwaukee were to say it is a good time to see what we can get back in what could be a seller’s market, they just might get a good return.