That was fun, wasn’t it?
3pm Friday afternoon marked the close of the most active trade week the Brewers organization has seen in years. This week had everything: hundreds of trade rumors, media leaks, tears, cold feet, multi-player wheeling and dealing, and a particularly crafty lion that has no intention of being caught.
Because this is a weekly recap-style article, and because true sports fans know better than to get their factual information from me, I’m going offer you something most sports writers are banned from providing: their opinion.
This crazy week featured four separate trades causing five Brewers to leave and seven new players to arrive. To recap, I’ll break down each trade individually and offer my take on how well Doug Melvin has positioned the Brewers for future success. I’ll close out next week’s Sunday Cycle with an update on whether or not I think Doug Melvin deserves his job as GM at the end of the season.
Brewers Trade Aramis Ramirez and $3 million dollars to the Pirates for RHP Yhonathan Barrios
With the Brewers falling out of contention early, there were a couple of players that were obvious trade candidates due to their contract situations. Ramirez publicly stated that 2015 would likely be his last year in baseball before retiring; the fact that the Brewers found a team to take him and split the remainder of his 2015 salary is a big win for Doug Melvin, who essentially pocketed 3 million dollars for the organization – that 3 million would have otherwise been paid to a retiring third baseman on a last place team.
Yhonathan Barrios is a 23-year old that progressed quickly to the AAA level in the Pirates system after being converted from an infielder to a pitcher in 2013. He touches 96-97 MPH with his fastball, but it’s too early to see whether Barrios will pan out as a big league pitcher, as he’s tossed less than 100 innings in the minors. At the beginning of 2015, Barrios did not crack the top 30 list of Pirates prospects, so it will take quite a bit of development before Barrios makes an impact at the big league level.
Given the fact that Ramirez is still batting .236 on the year (and has struggled mightily with the Pirates since the trade), quite frankly I’m thrilled the Brewers were able to get anything for him at all. Barrios’ ceiling is relatively unknown given his recent position change, and even if he doesn’t pan out, the Brewers saved $3 million in the process.
Overall Grade: B+
Brewers Trade Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers to the Astros for OF Brett Phillips, OF Domingo Santana, LHP Josh Hader and RHP Adrian Houser
Given all of the drama that unfolded 24 hours before this deal was made, and the ensuing passive aggressive finger pointing from both the Mets and the Brewers as to who got cold feet, it is honestly a miracle that the Brewers were able to turn around a day later and find a buyer for Carlos Gomez. What’s even more impressive is that the deal with the Astros comes with a much higher potential benefit to the Brewers, without as much risk of long term injury (Zach Wheeler, the key piece in the nixed Mets deal, was recovering from Tommy-John surgery).
There’s a lot to analyze here with so many players involved. But overall, it’s the first sign from the Brewers front office that they are committing to a full rebuild – a strategy I have endorsed and believe is critical if the Brewers want to build a team capable of sustaining long term success. Gomez is an All Star / Gold Glove center fielder and a clear spark plug in the clubhouse. Fiers was a home grown product of the Brewers minor league system who has pitched amicably in the majors for three out of the four years. Both players are in the middle of their respective contracts, so trading them now speaks volumes.
Dealing a player like Gomez, who is a fan favorite and one of the faces of the franchise, signals a start to a rebuild that will last longer than just one season. The Brewers traded away all of the stolen bases, diving grabs, and lead off home runs Gomez would have undoubtedly provided next year in exchange for a chance to develop some younger players into big league contributors in a couple of years.
Brett Phillips was the prized prospect in the group of four players the Brewers received in the trade, all of whom ranked in the top 25 of the Astros system at the start of the season. Phillips, who was previously untouchable in Houston before the Brewers added Fiers to the deal, will likely be the top prospect in the entire Brewers system. He is in his fourth year in the minor leagues, posting a lifetime line of .298 / .371 / .491. This year he has spent time in High A and AA, batting .320 with 16 home runs and 15 stolen bases. There’s a slim chance you may see Phillips up in September in an effort to sell tickets in the last month of the season.
Overall Grade: A
Obviously, only time can tell how these prospects will pan out. All things considered, I’m thrilled that Doug Melvin seems to be committing to the rebuild this organization so desperately needed. While I’m sad to see Gomez go, I think this deal is a huge turning point for the Brewers.
I’d love to get some reader opinions on these trades and the two I will be discussing next week. Did Doug Melvin execute properly? Are Brewers fans prepared for the possibility of a 100-loss team next year? Give me your thoughts, and we’ll close out the trade discussions during next week’s Sunday Cycle!