The Milwaukee Brewers made a pleasant deviation from hopeless ineptitude between 2007 and 2012.
During this span they made two playoff appearances and had four winning seasons – an impressive turnaround for a franchise that did not have a winning season between 1993 and 2006. This renaissance was courtesy of a top-notch farm system that produced Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, JJ Hardy, Corey Hart, and the young talent used to acquire CC Sabathia and Zack Greinke. After yesterday’s trade deadline it’s easy to picture a similar revival on the horizon.
The big news of the day – both for the Brewers and the rest of baseball – was the trade involving Jonathan Lucroy. After surprisingly (but understandably) vetoing a trade to the Cleveland Indians, Brewers General Manager David Stearns made a deal with the Texas Rangers. The Brewers swapped Lucroy and closer Jeremy Jeffress* for outfield prospect Lewis Brinson, pitching prospect Luis Ortiz, and a player to be named later. According to MLB.com, Brinson is the #21 prospect in all of baseball and Ortiz is ranked #63. Lest you be underwhelmed by the PTBNL, remember that Michael Brantley was the PTBNL in the 2008 CC Sabathia trade and developed into an All-Star talent.
*Note to all fantasy baseball players looking for a closer: now is the time to pick up Tyler Thornburg.
In addition trading Lucroy and Jeffress, Stearns shipped lefty reliever Will Smith to the San Francisco Giants for an impressive package. The Giants parted with their #1 prospect, pitcher Phil Bickford (#65 overall in the MLB.com rankings), and catcher Andrew Susac. This trade demonstrates the insane market that currently exists for relief pitchers. Though it makes sense for the first place Giants to trade for Smith, parting with their #1 prospect is a bit surprising. Not that Brewers fans should care.
The moves that did not happen are also notable. Specifically, the Brewers did not find a suitor for Ryan Braun. Braun is an especially difficult player to move because he’s owed $21 million per season through 2020 and has a no-trade clause that includes all but six teams. There’s also the Biogenesis fallout, which does not help. Regardless, the Crew is in a somewhat advantageous position with Braun. He’s still an excellent hitter that and a veteran presence that could help a rebuilding team. Despite Braun’s extension kicking in this season, the Brewers still had the lowest opening day payroll ($62.4 million) in the majors. The Brewers can take their time finding good offer for Braun. Even if they can’t there are worse outcomes than being stuck with a great hitter.
The Brewers now have 8 of baseball’s top 100 prospects in their farm system. While this does not guarantee future success, their increasingly robust talent pipeline makes success much more likely. If nothing else the trade deadline is further proof of Stearns’ ability to stockpile prospects. The future is beginning to look bright for the Brewers.