What should the Brewers do before the 2013 trade deadline?
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When the clock strikes 3 p.m. CST on July 31 to signal Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline, Brewers fans will likely see a strikingly different roster than the one presently playing below average baseball and dropping games to the Marlins and Astros. With Milwaukee well under .500 almost halfway through the season and jostling for fourth place with the rebuilding Cubs, the impending flurry of Doug Melvin transaction paperwork will likely begin much sooner.
Similar to last season—in which the Angels so graciously gave the Brewers Jean Segura (and two other players) to borrow Zack Greinke for two months—Milwaukee is tabbed to be a seller at the deadline, tasked with shedding expiring contracts and expensive parts to contenders for salary relief and an opportunity to replenish the organization’s laughably depleted minor league system. The names of more than a third of the team’s current 25-man roster are already being mentioned with regularity in trade rumors and speculations. And while it’s unlikely all the candidates will find new homes, some players are as good as gone. Since there’s nothing better to do at this point than wait for the dismantling, The A.V. Club will play armchair General Manager and examine the Brewers’ trade chips.
The charismatic Canadian closer quickly surrendered a shitload of earned runs and, subsequently, his ninth-inning role with an array of poor April outings. While stumbling out the gate soured hordes of uninformed fans, the Ax-Man has actually been incredible of late. He hasn’t surrendered an earned run since May 14 (18 scoreless appearances). Though comfortable in his seventh inning spot, Axford is making closer money ($5M this season) and will be eligible for salary arbitration from 2014 through 2016—which is sure to bring an annual pay raise. If a return to closing isn’t in the cards for Axford, maybe he could bring a minor leaguer of value and salary relief to Milwaukee and bolster a contender’s bullpen in the process.
From one embattled, unjustifiably hated Brewer to another, Rickie Weeks’ name is being hitched to many unrealistic trade suggestions made by talk radio callers and message board commenters throughout the state. Those who already hate Weeks for various reasons are likely to be miffed come August 1, when Weeks remains with the team. What remains of his $10M salary this season and his $11M price tag in 2014 is too difficult to move, especially for a platoon player who’s slowly climbing out of an early season hole. Plus, the organization may not be ready to anoint Scooter Gennett the heir apparent at second base just yet.
Fans who are upset with Weeks’ skewed performance-to-payment ratio must be livid with that of Corey Hart. After a great 2012 campaign that found Hart clubbing 30 homers and making a successful transition to first base, Hart—who’s owed $10M this season—has yet to play an inning. With no clear timetable for his return and considerable rust to knock off, Hart’s last year before free agency is likely to yield no return for Milwaukee. Hopefully he recognizes as much and re-signs for a hometown discount this offseason.
The front office ruffled a lot of feathers during spring training by signing 34-year-old hurler Kyle Lohse to a three-year deal and, in doing so, coughing up a first round draft pick. Lohse has lived up to his end of the deal to this point, but that hasn’t kept people from voicing a desire to send him and his $29M remaining salary to drain another team’s coffers over the next two seasons. However, the veteran projects to be a number three or four in the rotation of most playoff-caliber teams, proving for an expensive long-term gamble. Plus, dealing the stopgap starter would signal that Milwaukee is planning a significant rebuilding project for the next few seasons. Lohse likely stays put.
Like Lohse, Aramis Ramirez presents an expensive, elderly trade chip. Unlike Lohse, A-Ram has struggled for much of the season and missed significant time to injury. If Milwaukee eats the majority of the still-hobbled slugger’s exorbitant salary this season, he could serve a need for a team like the Red Sox, Yankees, Atlanta, or Colorado, and save Milwaukee a Scrooge McDuck-sized pile of money next year.
Francisco Rodriguez and Jim Henderson
At least half of Milwaukee’s closing tandem is almost sure to be dealt to a contender. K-Rod offers the opportunity to rent a proven veteran reliever with playoff experience. Henderson could net a larger return with his cheap price tag and team control through 2018. Barring an especially enticing offer, the Brewers would be foolish to trade Henderson at this point. But K-Rod will probably be joining a new bullpen soon.
Despite being in the last season of his two-year, $2.4M contract, the Japanese import remains under Brewers control through the 2017 season, and isn’t even arbitration eligible until 2015 ($1.5M team option in 2014). Unless bowled over by an offer, there’s really no urgency to deal the first legitimate leadoff hitter Milwaukee has had this century. Aoki’s return is worthwhile based on kanji Aoki shirt-jersey sales alone.