The 2011 Milwaukee Brewers have been on an incredible run this past month, going 24-4 in their last 28 games, and have a 10 game lead in the NL Central coming into the final month of the season. Coming into the season GM Doug Melvin traded away the bulk of the organization's best prospects to shore up his pitching staff by sending SS Alcides Escobar, CF Lorenzo Cain and Pitchers Jake Odirizzi and Jeremy Jeffress to the Kansas City Royals for Zack Greinke, and also sending now 3B prospect Brett Lawrie to the Toronto Blue Jays for Shaun Marcum. But did they really need to make these trades to get where they are right now?
Melvin felt the need to make these moves not knowing that Adam Wainwright would go down for the season in Spring Training, or that the Cardinals would have every key producer on the roster lose time on the DL, or that Edinson Volquez, and the entire Reds pitching staff would implode.
But what if he had followed the smart small market model, and keep the future in focus at all times, and made smart moves to acquire talent to fill gaps, and traded away FA approaching players for prospects, instead of depleting his farm system down to a 30th ranked system in the league in moves intended to go "all in" for a 2011 playoff push?
Two assumptions are being made here, which arent too far from actuality, given that talks were ongoing to acquire the players mentioned, or were reported targets, of the organization, in order for this scenario to work. The first involves the Brewers having traded Prince Fielder prior to the deadline in 2010 to the Chicago White Sox for Daniel Hudson (this deal was reportedly in the works until Melvin demanded that Gordon Beckham also be included in the deal) and 1B/3B prospect Davan Viciedo (who was a more realistic expectation in a return for Fielder if you are the White Sox with Hudson as the main piece). And the second assumption is that if no Greinke or Marcum trade had occured, they most likely would have gone out and acquired Carl Pavano as a free agent. (This was also a reported acquisition target for the Brewers during last year's off season).
Those who have read previous fan posts of mine will know how much I love to use WAR. I am aware the in a vacuum, WAR can be a great tool for player evaluation, but that the games arent played in a vacuum or on paper, and that the games actually have to be played. So here is a comparison of what the Brewers roster (starters only) have curently produced vs. "what may have been":
- Catcher, Jonathan Lucroy, 2.0 WAR
- First Base, Prince Fielder, 4.2 WAR vs Corey Hart 2.7 WAR
- Second Base, Rickie Weeks, 3.8 WAR
- Shortstop, Yuniesky Betancourt, 0.1 WAR vs Alcides Escobar 1.5 WAR
- Third Base, Casey McGehee, 0.6 WAR
- Left Field, Ryan Braun, 6.0 WAR
- Center/Right Field, Nyjer Morgan, 2.9 WAR vs (MiEquivalency projected) Lorenzo Cain, 1.5 WAR
- Starting Pitcher, Zack Greinke, 2.9 WAR vs Daniel Hudson, 4.0 WAR
- Starting Pitcher, Yovanni Gallardo, 2.7 WAR
- Starting Pitcher, Shaun Marcum, 2.4 WAR vs Carl Pavano, 2 WAR
- Starting Pitcher, Randy Wolf, 1.4 WAR
- Starting Pitcher, Chris Narveson, 1.9 WAR
The current roster (starters only) boasts a 33.3 WAR production this season. The "what if" scenario would have produced 33 WAR. On top of this, the team would have approximately $25 million extra in payroll dollars saved, and instead of having the worst farm system in baseball, would still have Jake Odirizzi, Brett Lawrie and perhaps Davan Viciedo as well. Add to it that Escobar, Cain and Hudson all would have 5 years of cheap, team control available to them.
You could say hindsight is 20/20, and this is true, especially if you had the 20/20 vision in July of last year as I did. Doug Melvin will most likely be lauded for the moves he made last offseason and for the short term gain that will most likely be awarded in October of this year, but shouldnt there be something to be said about the fact that the deal he didnt pull off last July, could have made the team more profitable and equally successful?