The Milwaukee Brewers will not be a good baseball team this season. Or next season. And probably the season after that. But if it all goes according to plan, they will be a playoff contender in 2020. Brewers fans should be excited about this.
The Brewers returned to the playoffs in 2008 because they had a farm system that produced players like Ryan Braun and prospects that allowed them to trade for CC Sabathia. This formula worked again in 2011 when they acquired Zack Greinke and Shawn Marcum, and nearly made the World Series. The problem, of course, is that if you trade all of your prospects then you don’t have any prospects.
To his credit, Doug Melvin was able to cobble some respectable teams together after the farm system dried up. Players acquired through free agency – like Aramis Ramirez and Kyle Lohse – were effective for the bulk of their time in Milwaukee, but they were not long-term solutions. And this brings us to General Manager David Stearns.
Stearns helped build the Houston Astros into a playoff team as their Assistant General Manager. The Astros succeeded thanks to a scorched earth approach that resulted in three consecutive 100-loss seasons. However, this approach also led to #1 draft picks and a stocked farm system. Stearns is taking a similar approach in Milwaukee by trading everyone he can to acquire 18 to 20-year old prospects that will not contribute at the MLB level for a while – if ever. Yet this is the exact approach the Brewers need to take. They need to build through the draft and trade anybody on their roster that can net young, high-upside players in return.
It will be fun to watch players like Domingo Santana and Keon Broxton develop in the big leagues. It will be fun to watch potential superstars progress through the minor league system – like we did with Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. It will not be fun to watch the Brewers lose a ton of games, but at least they will be losing with purpose.
For the first time in five years Brewers fans have a legitimate reason to be excited about the future – even if that future is five years away.