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Grading the Brewers Front Office

Marshall
on 10/29/2002

 

Now that the World Series is over, we can finally put the 2002 season to close. Before Doug Melvin begins making moves for next year, I will look back on the front office moves from the last year of the Dean Taylor era and provide my take on the impact that each transaction made on the Brewers. The grades that I've given these took several factors into consideration: performance of the players involved, the involvement of the player in the team's success, financial implications, and the always important impact on the Brewers' future.

Signed Mike DeJean to a Two-Year Contract Extension

The Brewers started off by signing reliever Mike DeJean to a two-year contract worth a combined $3.1 million, with an option year at $2.5 million or a $200,000 buyout. DeJean performed extremely well as the closer in 2002, and should be a cornerstone of the bullpen for the next two years. This deal was rather below market value for a reliever of his caliber, so he will be a highly sought after trade commodity around the deadline next year. Grade: A

Signed Eric Young to a Two-Year Contract

The Brewers confused a lot of people when they signed the 34 year-old Eric Young to a two-year deal. The deal was for a guaranteed $5 million, including with a team option for $3 million or a buyout for $1million. The problem wasn't the money that the Brewers had given him, but the fact that the Brewers already had quite a few players that could man second base. EY started the season off in a horrible slump, but rebounded to put up reasonable numbers overall. Nonetheless, this signing really seems like throwing money down the drain, as Mark Loretta or Ronnie Belliard probably could have put up similar numbers and were already under contract. Grade: F

Traded Jeromy Burnitz, Jeff D'Amico, Mark Sweeney, and Lou Collier for Glendon Rusch, Alex Ochoa and Lenny Harris

In a three-team deal, the Brewers traded power-hitting outfielder Jeromy Burnitz, Collier, D'Amico, and Sweeney for Rusch, Ochoa, Harris, and salary relief. This deal appeared to be quite bad to the fans at the time it was made. The Brewers didn't seem to be getting enough talent back to make up for what they were giving up. During the season, however, all three teams involved were disappointed with the results. None of the players involved performed up to expectations, especially so for Burnitz, who struggled mightily in New York. In retrospect, the only winner in this trade might have been the Brewers, because they saved about $10-12 million for 2002 and 2003. Grade: C

Signed Matt Stairs to a One-Year Contract

In order to make up some of the outfield production caused by trading Burnitz, the Brewers signed Matt Stairs to a one-year, $500,000 deal. Stairs didn't initially get as much playing time as anticipated due to the emergence of Alex Sanchez, but had a solid season overall, hitting .244/.349/.478 with 16 HR in only 270 AB's. Considering that Matt put up much better numbers than Burnitz at about 1/10 of the cost, it's hard not to like this move. Grade: B+

Signed Takaki Nomura to a One-Year Contract

The Brewers might have been caught up in the mania surrounding Japanese players like Ichiro and Ishii when they decided to sign Nomura to a one-year, $600,000 contract. Unfortunately, Nomura proved to be a complete and total flop. In 13 2/3 innings pitched, he walked 18 batters, gave up 11 hits, and had an ERA of 8.56. Shortly into the season, he was demoted to AAA, where he also put up poor numbers. Grade: F

Signed Ray King to a Two-Year Contract Extension

Locking up their solid lefty reliever, the Brewers signed Ray King to a two-year deal worth $680,000, with a team option for $1 million, and a $100,000 buyout. If King proves to be arbitration eligible for 2003, then his base salary increases to $620,000, and there were $150,000 in possible incentives for 2002. Considering the high value that lefty relievers have, let alone a rock solid reliever like King, this deal was a complete and total steal. Grade: A

Traded Henry Blanco for Jose Cabrera and Paul Bako

Shortly before the season started, the Brewers became short of right-handed relievers, so they traded catcher Blanco to the Braves for reliever Cabrera and catcher Bako. Due to injuries, Cabrera was forced into the starting rotation for much of the season, where he struggled. Bako proved to be solid behind the plate, and a better hitter than Blanco, who hit .207/.267/.335 with the Braves. I think Cabrera would have had much better success if he had been able to only pitch out of the bullpen all year. Regardless, this trade was still a minor victory for the Brewers. Grade: C+

Traded Jesus Pena for Luis Vizcaino

In what could probably be called Dean Taylor's best deal of his tenure, he managed to get right-handed setup man Vizcaino from the pitching-starved Texas Rangers for Jesus Pena. Pena, a left-handed reliever, was having a decent spring training at the time of the trade, while Vizcaino had just been traded to the Rangers from Oakland and was probably not going to make the Rangers' roster. Pena disappeared back into relative obscurity during the season, while Vizcaino was absolutely dominant for the Brewers, putting up a 2.99 ERA with 19 holds and 5 saves in 81 1/3 innings pitched. Considering that Vizcaino is still young, this trade was simply amazing. Grade: A+

Traded Jackson Melian for Robert Machado

In the Brewers' first in-season deal of the year, they traded minor-league outfielder Melian for catcher Machado. The deal was based in large part on the Brewers' need for a catcher at the Major-League level. Raul Casanova was already sidelined, and Paul Bako was headed to the DL, leaving a huge problem behind the plate. Melian, who had been claimed off waivers from the Reds during spring training, had started off the season on a tear. However, at the time of the trade, the 22 year old was only hitting .223. It's always difficult for a team like the Brewers to give up a young player with some upside, but Machado proved to be solid defensively and reasonable at the plate. Grade: C+

Traded Tyler Houston and Brian Mallette for Ben Diggins and Shane Nance

The main goal for a team that is out of the playoff picture around the trade deadline is to try and trade your impending free agents for prospects. The Brewers pulled this off in a big way, trading the free agent-to-be Houston and right-handed pitcher Mallette to Los Angeles for former first-rounder Ben Diggins and left-hander Shane Nance. Diggins went on to pitch extremely well in AA Huntsville, while Shane Nance was outstanding at AAA. Both performed well enough to get September call-ups, but Nance had his season end early due to injury. Diggins struggled in the majors, but probably shouldn't have been called up in the first place. The Brewers got two solid prospects and saved salary by giving up a free agent-to-be and a marginal prospect, which is the best-case scenario at the deadline. Grade: A+

Traded Alex Ochoa for Jorge Fabregas, Johnny Raburn, and Pedro Liriano

Just before the trade deadline, the Brewers managed to trade another potential free agent. Outfielder Alex Ochoa was traded to the Angels for catcher Fabregas and two players to be named that turned out to be second baseman Raburn and pitcher Liriano. Ochoa's playing time was suffering in Milwaukee because of the emergence of Alex Sanchez, so trading a part time player like him for anything would have been a good deal. The Brewers, however managed to get two solid prospects and save about $750,000 in this deal. Raburn hit .282/.384/.356 with 40 SB's in A+ ball, and the 22 year-old Liriano had a 3.60 ERA and 176 K's in 167 1/3 IP in A+ball. The only thing not to like about this trade was having to take on Fabregas' salary in return. Grade: A

Traded Jamey Wright and cash for Chris Morris and Mike Matthews

The Brewers managed to make a couple good deals before the waiver-trade deadline this year. They traded right-hander Wright for minor-leaguer outfielder Morris and left-hander Matthews. Wright had never reached any of the expectations placed on him as a former first rounder, and was an overall disappointment this year. Matthews could be given a shot to make the rotation next year, or will be a solid lefty out of the pen. The Brewers managed to get a marginal prospect in Morris and a solid pitcher in Matthews in this deal, but getting anything for Wright would have made a great deal. Grade: A

Traded Mark Loretta for Keith Ginter and Wayne Franklin

In the Brewers' last move of the year, they traded longtime Brewer Mark Loretta for left-hander Franklin and infielder Ginter. Loretta was basically serving in a utility role for the Brewers, while making a whopping $5 million. Franklin could also be given a shot to make the rotation in 2003, and gives the Brewers a stockpile of left-handers to work with. Ginter will likely compete for the job at third base next year, unless the Brewers find a way to trade Eric Young, allowing Ginter to play second. This was another great deal because they got something in return for a potential free agent. Grade: A

Summary and Overall Grade for 2002

This year's moves weren't as bad as the final record suggests. Solid trades and terrible free agent signings characterized the transactions, which is pretty much a mirror of the entire Taylor era. Taylor seems to have had another solid draft, and the farm system continued to strengthen over the past year. Unfortunately, the bottom line is the performance on the field, which was the worst in team history. Overall Grade: D+

Overall Grade for the Dean Taylor Era

Dean Taylor proved to excel at finding cheap talent. He was seemingly able to find bullpen arms at will, and made a few great finds on the waiver wire. His in-season trades brought the likes of Sexson, Diggins, Ginter, Zoccolillo and DeJean. Unfortunately, his free agent signings brought the likes of Jeffrey Hammonds, Takaki Nomura, and Eric Young. Taylor's crown jewel has to be the farm system, though. He inherited a system that was basically barren, and has improved it greatly. This improvement will be the base for the new regime, as any future success will be the direct result of the talent that Taylor brought to the minors. The main problem with the Taylor era was the continuous decline in the product on the field, which is why he was let go. Overall Grade: C-

 




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