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2013 MLB Trade Deadline: Brewers Shouldn’t Be (But Are) Selling

Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Yovani Gallardo
Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Yovani Gallardo

Jul 20, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Yovani Gallardo walks off the mound after pitching six-plus scoreless innings against the Miami Marlins at Miller Park. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

By all indications, the Milwaukee Brewers are hoping to unload several players at this year’s trade deadline. Recently, we mentioned the club is taking offers for pitcher Yovani Gallardo and also hoping to deal third baseman Aramis Ramirez. In addition, with the recent Biogenesis scandal and ensuing suspension, there are even cries that the team should send Ryan Braun on the first plane out of town.

Here’s the thing – Milwaukee should stand pat.

The Brewers, despite their 41-58 record and current position of 20 games back in the National League Central Division, they may not be that far from contending in the future. Let’s be clear on this: Milwaukee won’t be able to make a run for the playoffs this season. However, a few additions in the offseason could have them ready to compete in 2014.

That’s because Milwaukee has a solid foundation. No seriously, take a closer look. Braun will (and should) be vilified for his previous lies about PEDs, but he’s smart to sit out games now with his team out of the postseason hunt. Braun could have chosen to appeal and continued playing, but that would have been a mistake on a many levels.

The backlash right now would be at an all-time high, for one thing. It will be bad next year … strike that – it will be awful. However, I can’t imagine it being any worse than if Braun had tried to suit up the rest of this season. The other thing at play is Milwaukee’s playoff chances. The Brewers have virtually no shot at climbing into the postseason race in 2013, so Braun has chosen to sit out games which are, in essence, meaningless. Delaying the inevitable 50-game suspension would have meant a considerable blow to the Brewers’ playoff chances next year as well.

Sticking with Braun – while he will be crushed by fans, the fact remains that he’s still a good player. Teams could do worse with another player as the centerpiece of an offense. Sure, Milwaukee could trade him, but what would be the point? His selling point is at an all-time low right now and the return would be fairly minimal. Making him even more untradeable is that he’s currently in the middle of a contract that will pay him approximately $130 million from 2014 to 2021. That’s market value for a superstar, but with the recent scandal surrounding him and a significant decrease in his power numbers for 2013, I’m not sure many teams will be lining up to take on that contract.

The good news is that while his numbers have declined, he’s still been a fairly productive player when in the lineup, batting just under .300. At 29, there’s no reason to think Braun can’t rebound. When it comes to rebuilding, the Brewers have more than Braun, too.

The aforementioned Ramirez is also in decline, but still capable of producing. He has only five home runs this year, but in a full season (if healthy), he would be on pace for 15 home runs, 78 RBI, and 68 walks to go along with a .271 batting average. Plus, similar to Braun, his contract is a hindrance as he’s owed approximately $25 million through the end of next year (assuming a team buys their way out of the $14 million he’s owed in 2015).

The Brewers have several younger pieces, too. There’s second-year player Jean Segura, one of the best young shortstops in the game (2013 stats: 11 home runs, 38 RBI, 30 stolen bases, .321 batting average). Milwaukee also has 27-year-old catcher Jonathan Lucroy (14 home runs, 55 RBI, .282 batting average), who is under a very reasonable contract through 2017. 27-year old outfielder Carlos Gomez leads the team with 15 home runs. This is a team that has a strong young foundation that could be around for years to come.

With that in mind, why have the Brewers been so bad in 2013? Part of it has had to do with Braun, who missed about one third of the team’s games due to a stint on the disabled list with a nerve injury in his hand before his suspension. The team ranks only 24th in runs scored, but would likely have been a little better with a healthy Braun all season. The starting pitching also hasn’t been there for Milwaukee. The Brewers have tried ten different starters, but only three (Kyle Lohse, Wily Peralta, and the aforementioned Gallardo) have started all season – and none have been what could be considered significantly above average.

While the starters have been subpar, though, the bullpen has been very good with guys like Mike Gonzalez, John Axford, Jim Henderson, and Francisco Rodriguez, who was recently traded. They’ve drawn a lot of interest from other teams and for good reason as they’ve been arguably the best unit on the club. The bullpen will likely be dismantled, but if kept mostly intact, would help this team next year.

The counter argument is that the Brewers should get out from under some of their contracts and cut their losses. I can appreciate that, but if the objective is to win, I think the 2014 version of the Brewers could have a shot at doing just that with some additions. With so much talent, are the Brewers really that far away from contending?

The club is far from perfect and could not only use a couple of starters, but another bat as well. Still, if I’m the Brewers’ General Manager Doug Melvin, I’m looking to add to this team for 2014 instead of selling it off in 2013.

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