I'm sure many of you read my comments earlier in the week (in the brewerfan.net fan forum) concerning my desire to trade Nick Neugebauer. For those who didn't allow me to summarize my reasoning: Young pitching prospects fail at a high rate. Assembling a playoff worthy rotation, completely from the farm, is very difficult. Nick has had nagging injuries for two years, which in my mind increases his failure risk. Perception of Nick is still very high, such that I believe his value in trade exceeds his value to the organization as a prospect. So following the basic economic rule we buy low and sell high.
Now this is still Nick, the highly touted fire-balling pitching prospect, here. So this isn't going to be some lame dump trade. No, the object is nothing less then a blockbuster trade. I have previously avoided this type of trade speculation column, because for the most part it's just a bunch of hot air, but I hope to seed this column with more than just idle daydreaming, and make a few points along the way leading up to the year end. How do I fix this mess of a team column?
In the spirit of the column I offer the following wisdom: if you do not try, you have already failed. With that in mind, I'm going to "try" and find some trade partners. First off, some ground rules about what I'm looking for. The goal of this deal is to help this team get to the playoffs. That doesn't seem realistic for next year, but with some burgeoning AA talent, 2004 is a good year to target for being in contention. So clearly I'm looking for a relatively young player in return, but I don't really want a prospect. I want an established player who can be a cornerstone of the franchise (along with Richie) when we start winning meaningful games. I don't view bullpen players as cornerstones, so relief pitchers are out. There simply are no shortstops that fit the profile I'm looking for, and first base is already filled with one cornerstone. Still, that leaves a lot of positions to look at. I'll go through each team in alphabetical order skipping those without anyone of interest.
White Sox - Two players make the list here Magglio Ordonez and Mark Buerhle. Buerhle is probably a long shot, but there's been a little bit of contract noise coming out, so he just might be available. Both players bring top notch performance to the table, and would make excellent additions. Mags is going to be fairly expensive soon, which is primarily why he'd be available. I'm not real sure what a fair market value for Buerhle might be, so I'll simply throw this package out there: Nick, Jenkins, and Dejean or King. That might be a bit much for Mags alone, so maybe another low level player. It's also probably too much salary for Buerhle. A three team deal with the Sox, dumping Carlos Lee somewhere, and us taking back Royce Clayton as part of the equation might work.
Florida - I was initially thinking Lowell, Preston Wilson, and maybe try and pick up one of their spare catchers. Lowell, however, has fallen back to earth and is much less impressive. Wilson has had injury issues for his career and has hit the skids this year posting a .776 OPS with nothing exciting in the SB category either. So I'll pass on Florida for a Blockbuster.
Kansas City - One name here, folks: Carlos Beltran. He hits enough with even more upside to justify shifting Sanchez to LF for now providing a nice defensive boost as well. He also has nice speed with 28 SB already and only 4 CS. Now, KC has had a tough time getting players signed long term, lately. Baird has also been pining away about the need for a second baseman. Well how about Nick and EY or Belliard for Beltran? Even more intriguingly, throw Jenkins and maybe some cash in and see if we can't resurrect Dee Brown, who had an OK year in AAA, but could seriously benefit from a change of scenery. Obviously, locking up Beltran long term would be an immediate priority.
Minnesota - really a token mention here. I can't see the Twins dealing anybody. I'd really want like Radke or Milton, but perhaps in a fit of stupidity they'd move Torii Hunter as a cost cutting move? It seems very remote move on, though I'd still love to free Matt LeCroy.
Montreal - Simply a bundle of desirable players. My list: Vlad, Vidro, Vasquez, and Colon. I like Vidro, but he's a bit weak on the defensive side so I'll narrow my focus to the other three. For Vlad I'd go with the standard OF package Jenkins and Nick plus I'll put Cristian Guerrero into the mix just to make things interesting. For Colon or Vasquez I'd try to meet some of their needs and go with Nick and Brad Nelson plus Guererro as sweetener if required. It's hard to say what Montreal will be doing in the off-season, but despite cutting some dead weight, they still have a number of guys whose salaries are going up quite a bit next year, so cost cutting isn't entirely out of the question.
Philadelphia - This one was fun, and difficult too. Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu both fit the mold of players I'd want to acquire. Pat is going into arbitration for the first time I believe and Abreu is in the midst of a contract that pays him well. The only chance to pry one of these two players away is to play up management's desire for a new direction one focused more on pitching and defense. Because of that, I'll focus on Pat instead of Abreu who will provide the veteran leadership and anchor the other OF corner. Here's the deal: Nick, Ray King, and Jenkins for Burrell and Rheal Cormier. Swapping of King and Rheal is done mostly to even up salaries but also sweetens things for Philly. Nick and Jenkins for Abreu straight-up might be worth trying as well.
Pittsburgh - Well, I was going to throw out the standard package for Giles, but then I looked and realized he's 31 already. He's still probably going to be dominant for a couple of years and slowly decline, but that's not what I want at this stage. Aramis's bad year pushes him out of contention, as well though he might be worth trying to pick up and see if he can bounce back, or if he just fluked into a good season.
Toronto - Dealing with JP is frightening, but he maybe interested in dealing Halladay for Nick and Ray King to help the pitching staff. I could offer a more prospect laden package with Brad Nelson, Nick, and Dejean too. I'm not real sure that would be interesting enough to get anything done though.
The overall theme seemed to focus more on Outfielders then I intended, but they seem to be the most franchise worthy players who might be available. I did have 4 different aces that might be acquirable. One of the things high on the priority list for a franchise player, is durability. I firmly believe that injuries hurt a club more then just the pain of losing X amount of run production/prevention and replacing it with replacement level talent. Any of the OF deals would accomplish a more healthy team by subtracting Jenkins and Nick while adding a durable player.
Side Note: Contract the Expos!
While preparing this column I was simply overwhelmed at how awesome the Expos truly are. I'd rather have the Brewers contracted and keep a few players while moving the Expos here than doing the same with the Twins. Montreal has more absolute stud marquee players. Though, obviously, the Twins have the better farm team and maybe better equipped to contend for awhile.
Realistically though whoever buys the Expos should be able to get this team to the playoffs next year without problem. They have 4 starting pitchers with ERA's under 4, and their 5th starter has an ERA of 4.38. Two of their starters can legitimately be called aces. Not aces like the Twins, where they are merely good pitchers, but dominating duos like Arizona and Atlanta have. Their weaknesses happen to be in exactly the easiest places to fix holes with acceptable solutions. Their bullpen is below average and lacking in a stopper of any sort. Their bench, left field, and 1st base are fairly weak with 3rd possibly needing some help. Shortstop is good defensively with Cabrera, but they need more offense. They should be able to look around and find a left fielder and a 1st basemen that can deliver at least a .800 OPS (Imagine what they might have done if they had taken on Jeremy Giambi in the dump). Finding some better bullpen arms shouldn't be hard even if they have a number of guys to sort through in Spring training. Overall, the bullpen has been below average, but they rank dead last in support given to starting pitchers, which means that all of those impressive ERA's should be even better for their starters.
So next year, they can try and trade Orlando Cabrera for a bullpen guy or stop gap player (Hello Dean, this is Omar in Montreal I hear you need a SS, well I could use a bat and a pen arm. Hope about that Izzy fellow, thanks). All told, that would take 9 million off of this year's already low payroll. All of which, I'm sure, is due to be chewed up by built-in salary increases to Vlad et al. Still, they are under 40 million with a big wad of the new owners money to spend and more shared revenue. Adding Jose Hernandez as the new shortstop gives a big boost to the offense, and they can still shop in the bargain isle for a LF plus some bullpen help while staying near 50 million.
Player of the Week
Despite the woeful record this past week, the race for player of the week honors went down to the wire. Eric Young started the week red hot going only 1-5 in the first game against Montreal, but following with 3 consecutive multi-hit games. He finished the week with 11 hits and a walk with a CS. Our other candidate has been much more consistent. Richie failed to get on base in only 1 game this week smashing 8 base hits, 2 of which were home runs, and walking 3 times. Based on the large power differential, Richie Sexson is able to hold off EY from becoming our first repeat winner of the player of the week award.