Deep breaths, Brewers fans…. deep breaths.
In what will likely go down as the most action packed 48 hours of the Milwaukee Brewer’s 2016 Season, “Dealin’ David Stearns” managed to broker a number of deals that sent veteran Brewers packing in exchange for some serious minor league talent. Perhaps no team in the Major Leagues garnered more attention over the past two and a half days; fans around the 414 area code waited to see just how many of their favorite players would be traded for players they didn’t even know existed. Now that the dust has settled, let’s try to touch on everything that went down, starting with Saturday evening.
Brewers negotiate trade of Jonathan Lucroy to the Cleveland Indians for four prospects, but Lucroy invokes his no-trade clause, and the deal falls apart. The whole thing plays out in the public eye.
Because Lucroy was inevitably dealt for what I believe is a better group of prospects, this event is nothing more than an afterthought at this point in time. That being said, I do want to at least touch on Lucroy’s highly controversial decision to turn down a trade to the team with the best record in the American League.
Was it selfish? Absolutely. Can I blame the guy? Absolutely not. Whether we as fans like it or not, baseball players are human beings. They owe it to themselves and their families to look out for their best interests before looking out for all of us. Heading into a contract year prior to Lucroy’s first (and realistically, last) chance at a mega money contract, Cleveland wasn’t willing to guarantee Lucroy the majority of the playing time in 2017. They were also unwilling to waive his club option in 2017, so Lucroy walked. It was a decision that made the most business sense for him and his family, and he had every right to make it.
Don’t get me wrong, I do think mistakes were made along the way. It’s hard for me to comprehend how a trade becomes public on a national level before Lucroy makes his decision. While I have zero knowledge of how these things work on a practical level, one would think that Lucroy would have been pulled in to the discussions as soon as both teams settled on a deal. This was a huge PR mistake on behalf of the Brewers. You have to believe that this could’ve been handled behind closed doors.
While Lucroy was (and for the time being, still is) my favorite Brewer of all-time, he opened himself up to this criticism by so publicly and adamantly stating that he wanted to play for a competitor before the season even began; fast forward four months and he turns down the offer from a team that is almost mathematically guaranteed to make the playoffs in August- Lucroy made everyone look bad.
At the end of the day, both the Brewers and Lucroy are fortunate that they were able to make something happen before this afternoon’s 3PM deadline. We’ll cover that in a bit.
Brewers trade LHP Will Smith to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for RHP Phil Bickford and Catcher Andrew Susac
LOVE this move. Will Smith, while a clubhouse and fan favorite, was a left handed specialist on a team that’s not competing this year. The Brewers simply didn’t need him, and with three years left on a club friendly contract, they were able to secure the number one prospect from the San Francisco Giants: Bickford. A couple of random thoughts on this deal.
- The Giants are a world class organization with multiple World Series Championships under their belt. Ever heard of Matt Cain, Buster Posey, and Madison Bumgarner? All three were first-round draft picks by the Giants, and all three have won a World Series. Safe to say that the Giants’ scouting department must have seen something special in Bickford, as they took him in the first round of the 2015 draft. He can touch 98 MPH with his fastball, and has held opponents to a .208 batting average in Class-A ball this year. He entered the day as the number 65 ranked prospect in all of baseball.
- Will Smith has been touted as one of the most dominant left handed relievers in all of baseball for the last two seasons, but he hasn’t performed at that level this year. I wonder if it has something to do with the freak knee injury that kept him on the DL to start this season. Smith has been solid, but he hasn’t been “one of the best in baseball” this year. The Giants must think otherwise, as he sure garnered a “best in baseball” return.
- Along the same lines, relief pitching is the most unpredictable and difficult part of a baseball team to assemble. Similar to bench players who only get at bats once or twice a week, middle relievers can often go entire series without getting into a game. Slumps take longer to play out, and consistency is incredibly difficult to lock down. Smith’s value was apparently at an all-time high, and given what the Brewers got in return for him, I’d call this one of the better deals the Brewers have made in the last two years.
- Fear not, fans of the “LUUUUUUUC” chant, the Brewers have you covered. Welcome to Milwaukee, Andrew “SUUUUUS”-ac; whether or not you like it, you’ve already got a calling card. He will start his Brewers career in Colorado Springs, but I’d be shocked if we didn’t see him on the 25-man roster before the end of the month.
Brewers trade All-Star catcher Jonthan Lucroy and closer Jeremy Jeffress to Texas for OF Lewis Brinson, RHP Luis Ortiz, and a player to be named later
A lot of mixed reactions on this one from Brewers fans. Here’s why I’m a fan of this deal:
- First, and foremost, I was of the opinion that the Brewers HAD to trade Lucroy; there was perhaps no player whose value was higher. While many have expressed disappointment that the Brewers ONLY got the number 2 and 3 prospects from the Texas system, they are both considered top 75 prospects in all of baseball. I promise you, if you and I knew Lucroy’s value was high, so did David Stearns. I expect both of these players to have key roles in the Brewer’s future success.
- From what I’ve read, Brinson is the definition of a high ceiling prospect. Every report seems to agree that he has all of the tools necessary to become a star in the major leagues, he’s just still a little raw. His current numbers in class A ball aren’t great, but at 22, he will get a couple years in the Brewer’s development program to try to harness some of that raw ability and become a household name. As the number 21 ranked prospect in all of baseball, the Brewers may have a future star on their hands.
- At 6’3” and 250 lbs, Luis Ortiz is a big guy that has struggled to make the transition from Class A to AA ball this year. That doesn’t concern me, because he’s only 20 years old. He was the top ranked pitching prospect in the Rangers organization and was ranked 63rd in all of baseball. Notable highlight from every article I read today: he throws strikes. That’s about as good of an endorsement as a young pitcher can get at this point in his career. As with any prospect, it’s a roll of the dice, but hopefully we watch him progress through the minors over the next couple of years.
- One final point- don’t lose sleep on the “player to be named”. From my understanding, the Brewers and Rangers come to an agreement on a pool of players and the Brewers will be able to make their selection after the season ends. Just because he hasn’t been named yet, doesn’t mean he isn’t a top 100 prospect.
Since I’m already well past my recommended word count, and I haven’t eaten since 1PM, I’m going to call it a week instead of diving into the emotional aspect of watching your favorite player in Brewers history get traded not once, but twice in 24 hours. We’ve got plenty more weeks of baseball for that. Until then, I would love to hear some opinions from readers. What do you think? Did the Brewers get enough for their All Star catcher? Did they need to trade Jeffress? What grade would you give David Stearns nearly a year into his tenure as Brewers GM? Let’s hear it!
Oh, and PS… the Brewers won 6 of the 7 games they played last week, playing half of them without Lucroy and Braun. Maybe the last two months won’t be so painful after all!