The first tests for new GM Doug Melvin are coming up. That's the subject of this little memo.
First, there is the selection of a new manager. While Bob Melvin has been mentioned, and was the only outside candidate mentioned when Davey Lopes was fired in April, there is still a connection with the tenure of Phil Garner, which is not that fondly remembered in Milwaukee. Never mind the fact that Garner appears to have been a good manager who was handicapped by bad decisions by then-GM Sal Bando, the fact remains that Brewers were not that good. The organization was gutted by the time Dean Taylor took the reins as GM, and had to build with virtually nothing in the cupboard besides Ben Sheets and Nick Neugebauer.
Bill Castro has done well as bullpen and pitching coach, and deserves to remain. The rest of the staff - well, it was nice knowing them.
The question about who manages is crucial. Proven success with a questionable talent base would be a plus in this environment. My personal preference, expressed multiple times before, would be Tom Trebelhorn, who averaged 83 wins a season from 1987-1991 despite a rash of injuries and a fair amount of young players. Another two worthy candidates would be High Desert manager Mike Caldwell and Indianapolis manager Ed Romero. While it might be a good PR move to offer the job to Paul Molitor, I'd rather that the Brewers have Molitor spend a year or two managing in Beloit before moving him to the major league job. Not only will it allow the Brewers to find out if he can handle the job, but it will allow Molitor to gain experience managing. He spent time as bench coach to Tom Kelly, but all the experience as a bench coach cannot beat actually managing a club in real game situations. Another option would be to have Molitor become a roving instructor, with particular emphasis on helping Corey Hart transition to third base, and helping Bill Hall, J.J. Hardy, and Dave Krynzel improve their approach at the plate and as base runners. The same assistance should also be provided to Alex Sanchez, who has the potential to be a very good leadoff hitter in his own right.
The second test will involve how the new GM handles the people who have done well. Greg Riddoch and Jack Zduriencik have built up a big talent base that is just reaching AA - and four players from Class A+ High Desert (Ben Hendrickson, Hardy, Krynzel, and Hart) are listed among that league's top 20 prospects. All were drafted in the Dean Taylor era.
Say what you will about Dean Taylor's results in the majors, the farm system has made major strides in the three years of Taylor's tenure. Taylor also made some good moves, including the waiver-wire acquisition of Sanchez. More moves like this will be needed to re-stock the team until the draft classes are ready for the majors.
Doug Melvin needs to keep the people who have done well, even if they are not part of his "in" crowd, and he needs to replace those that have done well.
The third test is whether he will keep players who have done well, even if it means spending money. All-Star shortstop Jose Hernandez and outfielder/first baseman Matt Stairs are two players who have turned out to be excellent signings as free agents, and both deserve to be re-upped. Hardy, Krynzel, Hart, and Hall are not ready to play full-time in Milwaukee yet. Hernandez and Stairs will be good enough until the young talent comes up and is ready to contribute, and they will provide some continuity. With the loss of compensation for the draft, it's better to re-sign them so we can trade them for prospects in late July.
On a side note, it is my sincere hope that Doug Melvin would be willing to discuss some of his plans for the future of the Brewers with the fans over the off-season, particularly with those here at brewerfan.net. I wish him the best of luck. To an extent, I think he will need it.