With almost a year in a half under his belt, Ray King has been a superb pickup.
The All-Star break is here, and for general managers around the majors including Milwaukee's Dean Taylor, that means it's also trade time as the July 31 deadline nears. While office water cooler talk and online message boards are filled with discussion of who may go where, it's all much too speculative to analyze properly. What can be reviewed, however, is the trade history of Taylor since joining the Brewers in the fall of 1999. Perhaps this can teach us a bit about what we might expect to see in the next three weeks.
Ratings: Overall success of trade (1 to 5 scale), Importance to the Brewers' overall plan (1 to 5 scale)
November 1999: Brewers acquire RP Curtis Leskanic from Colorado for RP Mike Myers
Success Rating: 4 Importance Rating: 4
Dean Taylor's first move was a sign of trades to come - acquire power pitching arms whenever possible. Leskanic had some prior closing history and had always posted a respectable ERA as a mainstay of the Rockies bullpen. His solid set-up work for the Crew early in 2000 allowed Bob Wickman to be dealt, and earned Curtis the closer's job and a contract extension (reasonable for both sides). Myers continues to be an effective lefy specialist in Colorado, and while some may lament Leskanic's recent struggles and the lack of a second lefty option behind Ray King in the current Brewer bullpen, this trade has to be considered a good one.
December 1999: Brewers acquire Colorado SP Jamey Wright, Oakland SP Jimmy Haynes and Colorado C Henry Blanco in a 4-team trade (the first in MLB history) for 3B Jeff Cirillo, SP Scott Karl, and $750,000 cash
Success Rating: 4 Importance Rating: 5
Talk about making a statement. Taylor trades fan favorite Cirillo in a deal for three relatively unproven players. From the beginning, Jamey Wright was the key to the deal, and it is evident now that major league scouts were correct in predicting that Wright had "20-win stuff" that would flourish away from Coors Field. Along with Ben Sheets, Wright should be an anchor in the Milwaukee rotation for years to come. While Haynes has had his moments (mostly mediocre) and Blanco's been a defensive stud, don't overanalyze this trade. This trade was all about Jamey Wright, and Taylor hit the bullseye.
December 1999: Brewers acquire RP Juan Acevedo, minor league SP Matt Parker, and minor league C Eliezer Alfonzo from St. Louis for 2B Fernando Vina
Success Rating: 2 Importance Rating: 3
Taylor was in a tough spot here. Vina had been injury-prone, and Ronnie Belliard had proven himself worthy of getting a full-time shot in 2000 as a much-needed injection of youth and potential. So the dismantling of Sal Bando's "core group" from the mid-90's continued. Still, more should have been obtained for the popular Vina. Acevedo never found a groove, and the prospects obtained are still at A-ball and are borderline major league candidates at best.
January 2000: Brewers acquire OF/PH Mark Sweeney and minor league RP Gene Altman from Cincinnati for OF Alex Ochoa
Success Rating: 1 Importance Rating: 4
This is most likely Taylor's one true stinker, unless the 6'7" Altman can prove to be a capable major league reliever, but he's still struggling somewhat in A-ball. This gets a high grade on the importance scale because if Ochoa had been given a better chance to prove himself an everyday player, it's quite likely that the Brewers would have been more inclined to deal Jeromy Burnitz this past offseason, or would have spent $21 million of free agent money on someone other than Jeffrey Hammonds (although Ochoa has never proven himself capable of handling CF). In other words, the landscape of the Brewers' roster would be significantly different in several ways if Ochoa had been given a chance to earn an OF and leadoff spot.
January 2000: Brewers acquire IF Luis Lopez from the New York Mets for P Bill Pulsipher Success Rating: 3 Importance Rating: 2 There probably aren't a lot of Luis Lopez fans out there, and many wish he had signed a one-year and not two-year deal this past spring, but he's a seviceable utility guy. Pulsipher has resurfaced as a reliever in Boston.
February 2000: Brewers acquire SP John Snyder and SP Jaime Navarro from the Chicago White Sox for SP Cal Eldred and IF/OF Jose Valentin Success Rating: 1 Importance Rating: 2
A classic change of scenery deal, and while not a successful one, it doesn't carry the overall importance of the Ochoa transaction. Give kudos to Jose Valentin and the Chisox for making the most of his talents. Not many have faulted Taylor for this deal, and rightfully so.
April 2000: Brewers acquire RP Ray King from the Chicago Cubs for P Doug Johnston Success Rating: 5 Importance Rating: 4 Yes, you have to love it when those trades that barely warrant a blurb in the transactions page work out like this. King has proven to be a resilient, tireless, and effective lefty specialist. Give credit to the scouting staff here. Bonus points are assigned for the fact we stole him from the Cubbies. Doug Johnston is no longer in pro baseball.
July 2000: Brewers acquire 1B Richie Sexson, SP Paul Rigdon, P Kane Davis, and minor league IF Marcos Scutaro from Cleveland for RP Bob Wickman, SP Jason Bere and P Steve Woodard Success Rating: 4 Importance Rating: 5
This deal earns a "5" in importance because of the statement it made to the fans and the team. Heading into Miller Park, Taylor set his sights on Sexson to become the centerpiece of his long-term plan. Whether Sexson further develops into a super-productive player remains to be seen, as he seems destined to become the majors' new single-season strikeout king this season. Don't overlook an extra potential bonus: 2B Scutaro is proving that he's worthy of a major league chance while at AAA Indianapolis.
December 2000: Brewers acquire P Will Cunnane and P Brandon Kolb from San Diego for IF/OF Santiago Perez and OF Chad Green Success Rating: 3 Importance Rating: 2
More power arms for prospects who had run their course in the Milwaukee system. Cunnane is becoming a more intriguing player now that he's pitching well with more regular work.
March 2001: Brewers acquire OF Devon White from Los Angeles for OF Marquis Grissom and minor league RP Ruddy Lugo Success Rating: 4 Importance Rating: 4
High importance rating for what it does for the Crew in 2002, namely chopping $4 million in salary. Unfortunately, Lugo was a 3rd round pick who showed promise at A-ball, but overall, a wise move.
April 2001: Brewers acquire RP Mike DeJean, P Mark Leiter, and minor league SS Elvis Pena from Colorado for RP Juan Acevedo, P Kane Davis, and minor league IF Jose Flores
Success Rating: 3 Importance Rating: 2
Leskanic, King, Cunnane, now DeJean? Taylor sure has an eye for bullpen help, and now the Crew's bullpen leads the NL in ERA. Pena was supposedly the key to the deal, and his season thus far in AAA has been less than scintillating. Flores is only roster filler for Colorado's AAA team.
So where will all this lead in July 2001? Is there another blockbuster Sexson-type deal waiting to happen? Will someone overpay for potential free agent David Weathers? Will Jose Hernandez' and Tyler Houston's career year numbers net us a future pitching stud to eventually join Ben Sheets and Jamey Wright at the top of the rotation? Stay tuned...