This year's winter meetings starting tomorrow in Nashville should be interesting for us Brewers fans. While Johna Santana and Miguel Cabrera are going to be getting all the headlines, the Brewers figure to make a move or two that could make or break this season. There are numerous areas that the front office must address if the Brew Crew wants an realistic opportunity to win the division.
First off, rumors are swirling that the Brewers will trade for Scott Rolen, supposedly offering Chris Capuano. In my opinion, this rumor is nothing substantial. Rolen is one of the highest paid third basemen in the league, and he's signed for three more years. With Rolen's injury history, I'd be shocked if the Brewers didn't want the Cardinals to eat over half of Rolen's salary. It'd be too risky for the Brewers to demand much less, especially considering that Capuano, though a terrible player, could demand a good amount in a trade because he's a young starting pitcher. Considering, too, how few intra-divisonal trades go through, I'm quite skeptical of there being serious discussions with the Cardinals.
But the fact that the Rolen trade is being discussed pleases me because it shows that the front office is not set on Ryan Braun playing third base next season. It's not just that Ryan Braun is woefully inadequate at third, it's that I think he could be an above average left fielder. And the Brewers do not have another good option in left. While Gabe Gross arguably is good enough to start, him starting means the Brewers don't have an adequate backup outfielder. The Brewers can't settle for Anthony Gwynn getting 200+ ABs in a corner outfield spot. Of course, Joe Wonderboy Dillon has a bat that would play in the corner outfield. But he's more of an infielder, in my opinion. I think even if the Brewers don't sign or acquire a left fielder, Braun moving to the outfield and Dillon playing at third is a better option.
Of course, the Brewers could still move Bill Hall back to third. This isn't the worst option. Hall was the worst center fielder in baseball last year. Getting him out of center would make the Brewers better, even if it meant Anthony Gwynn started in center. But, if the Brewers want to be an 85+ win team, replacing Hall with a better option than Gwynn is necessary. Sitting on Braun and Hall at their respective 2007 positions is too big of a risk. Something needs to be done. The Brewers do not have the strikeout pitchers necessary to mitigate the impact of the league's worst defense. Oh, and offering Kevin Mench arbitration makes this situation incurable.
All this said, the biggest challenge the Brewers face is to find an adequate everyday catcher. The situation is conplicated by the fact that the Brewers signed Jason Ken Doll. Like a Ken doll, he has no penis. He is the second, maybe worst defensive catcher, in baseball now, and his bat is a huge liability. The sooner the Brewers recognize that they just wasted $4.5MM and get a real catcher, the better. One of the biggest strengths of a good GM is recognizing sunk costs.
Speaking of sunk costs, the Brewers have another recent signee, Randy Chode, who is also a sunk cost. Like Jason Ken Doll, the problem is that the Brewers don't have much that would force Doug Melvin's hand to release Chode. The bullpen is as big of a problem as anything with the 2008 Brewers. If the Brew Crew can close a deal with David Riske, regardless of cost, the Brewers will have made a good first step towards securing the bullpen. Riske will be the only player in the pen worthy of coming into close games. The challenge Doug Melvin will face will be to replace Chode, Mota, Turnbow, Wise, Shouse, Aquino, etc. with guys that can maintain an ERA under 4. There's virtually nothing else on the free agent market, so the changes almost certainly have to come from within. Replacing Chode with Mitch Stetter is a start, then Wise with Steve Bray, etc. Another option is to grab an arm, maybe two, in the Rule V draft on Thursday. It makes no sense to me why the Brewers wouldn't grab a live arm or two and hope for the best. If they don't take a pitcher, perhaps someone like Brian Barton of the Indians system could be taken if the Brewers buy up in the draft. Doug Melvin has seldom utilized the Rule V draft. But, with 5 or 6 absolute vacancies on the 25-man roster this season, it seems the perfect time to change that precedent.
Although I doubt we're going to see any blockbuster trades for the Brew Crew, I think they will pull off one or two smaller deals. From what I've read, the players being dangled are Capuano, Bush, Vargas, Gwynn, and Hall. Unfortunately, Capuano, Hall, Bush and Vargas's trading value is about as low as can be. The Brewers' targets are bullpen, third base, and left field. I think the other target should be center field. In my opinion, the Brewers should dangle Jeff Suppan, Derrick Turnbow, Alcides Escobar, and Anthony Gwynn and try to grab one good reliever and a good center fielder, moving Braun to left field, Wonderboy Dillon to third, and leaving Bill Hall as a super-sub, the role he is best suited for. Moving Suppan would allow the Brewers to sign someone like Eric Gagne to a one or two year deal, extend Sheets or another younger player long term, etc. Unfortunately, I'm probably barking up the wrong tree in hoping for Suppan's departure.
What are everyone else's feelings and predictions? Last question...if the Red Sox or Yankees acquire Johan Santana, should the Brewers offer Ben Sheets to the losing team in the Santana sweepstakes? Sheets, like Santana, is only around for one more year for a cost that would make him an asset. And Santana appears to be garnering a huge return for the Twins. Though Sheets would not bring three major league ready top prospects like Santana, even one major league ready top prospect may be worth it. Sheets is too injury prone and expensive, and the time is right to take advantage of the Red Sox/Yankees war.
Labels: Jason Ken Doll, MLB Winter Meetings