Nobody expected the Milwaukee Brewers to be in first place this late in the season. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year and the Crew were destined to be sellers by Independence Day. With the trade deadline slowly approaching and the Brewers atop the NL Central, it makes no sense to be sellers on July 31. If anything the Brewers should be buyers, right?
If you are looking for a reason to buy; July 7, 2008 is a good place to start. On this date in history the Brewers sent top prospects Matt LaPorta and future All-Star Michael Brantley to the Cleveland Indians for CC Sabathia. This trade worked out amazingly well as Sabathia carried the Brewers to the playoffs for the first time since 1982. The 2017 Brewers have the prospects to make a similar trade if they are so inclined.
The 2006 St. Louis Cardinals present another argument for buying. They won a feeble NL Central with a mere 83 victories, yet ended up winning the World Series because Jeff Weaver and Jeff Suppan turned into aces for a few weeks. The secret to winning the World Series is making the playoffs and hoping for the best. Considering that 85 wins might be enough to win the NL Central this season, maybe General Manager David Stearns should seize that day. Or maybe not.
Any personnel decision the Brewers make should help them become consistent contenders. For the time being this means stockpiling prospects not trading them away. The last time the Brewers had a large core of young talent they enjoyed a six-year stretch (2007 to 2012) that involved two playoff appearances and generally competitive baseball. This is a strong reason to stand pat, but it only adds to the “buy or sell?” dilemma Stearns is facing.
In a sense the Brewers’ first place status is problematic. This team has several players that could be flipped for prospects that would bolster an already strong farm system. Chase Anderson is a good “sell high candidate” for a team looking for a starting pitcher and Corey Knebel would net a king’s ransom from a contender in need of relief help (We’re looking at you, Washington Nationals). However, it would be crazy for Stearns to trade these players and concede the NL Central to the Chicago Cubs. This is especially true because contending teams draw more fans and small market teams are more reliant on attendance to generate revenue.
So what are the Brewers to do? The best option is to simply let it ride.
The trade chips the Milwaukee Brewers have are under contact well into the future. Eric Thames, Chase Anderson, Corey Knebel, and Ryan Braun are all under team control through at least 2018. If the Milwaukee Brewers come apart at the seams after the trade deadline, these players could still be offloaded in the offseason. There is not the same deadline urgency with these players as there was with Jonathan Lucroy at last season’s deadline.
Another reason to stand pat: this team is legitimately decent. While it’s still highly likely the Cubs will win the division by 5 games, they might not. Either way, the Brewers are poised to play meaningful games into September. This will only help the development of the Orlando Arcia’s on the team. It won’t help my heart rate, but that’s my problem.
The Brewers are in a unique position where they can be conservative at the deadline and see how things play out. Maybe Stearns is not facing much of a dilemma after all.