The most enjoyable wins come when you least expect them. That’s a result of the function that happiness is one’s reality divided by their expectations. There’s plenty of surprising teams in Major League Baseball thus far, and the Milwaukee Brewers among them. Yet, sometimes, winning can cut both ways. If win-now moves don’t get a team to the promised land, not only is it disappointing in the now, it takes years off the back-end of a team’s championship window. That’s especially true for teams that can’t buy their way out of the basement like some big-market teams can, and have. With that in mind, the Milwaukee Brewers trade deadline approach should be cautious and carefully calculated.
Milwaukee Brewers Trade Deadline Approach should be Cautious
The last time the Brewers were in win-now mode, they made several trades (for, specifically, C.C. Sabathia and Zack Greinke) that were absolutely necessary at the time. While that era did not bring a World Series championship to Milwaukee, it certainly gave them a chance to compete for one. The consequence, though, was that those deal-with-the-devil moves left the Brewers farm system as depleted as any in baseball. Despite a first place standing, it’s too early for Milwaukee to be making those types of moves.
A Clear Plan
The Brewers shouldn’t necessarily abstain from buying at the trade deadline. Already, they’ve made a couple moves – in the form of Jeanmar Gomez and Tyler Webb – to shore up their pitching. Rather, their targets should meet a couple stipulations:
1. No Rentals
Any trade should result in a player coming to the Milwaukee Brewers who is still under team control for more than this current year. Over the past couple seasons, the Brewers have purged the roster of expensive veteran players, or players who were soon to be. That blueprint should continue. From a roster construction standpoint, Milwaukee is ahead of schedule. But it’s also important to put that into context.
There’s a sizable gap between the cream of the crop in the National League and any team in the NL Central. If the Chicago Cubs were anywhere near what they were last year, and the St. Louis Cardinals anywhere near the team they’ve been at any point in the last decade, the Brewers could have the exact same season and stand in third in the division. It has to factor in that some of the Brewers success lies in the lack of current success experienced by in-division rivals.
2. Trade Strength for Need
Sometimes, a team can get so obsessed with filling a hole on the roster that depth becomes its biggest strength. This is true of the Brewers. Any time a player has missed time, that player’s replacement has produced. Most first-place teams are willing to trade quantity for quality.
The Tyler Webb trade is a perfect example of this. Milwaukee traded first baseman Garrett Cooper for the lefty reliever. First base is a position of strength. Eric Thames has been a revelation this season. Jesus Aguilar has also proved capable. There’s also a couple first base prospects in the pipeline. Flipping a player who’s blocked from meaningful playing time for a pitcher who may prove useful is exactly the type of low-risk, under-the-radar moves the Brewers should continue to make.
Outfield is obviously the Brewers position of greatest strength. And no team should ever feel like it has enough quality pitchers. So, it seems like there’s a deal involving those two elements waiting to happen (maybe in the way of Milwaukee acquiring a starter like Sonny Gray?). But the Brewers should stay away from trading high-level minor leaguers and instead opt to offload high-upside prospects from their lower-level minor league clubs.
The Triple-A and major league clubs are full of players who are years away from hitting their primes. The risk of trading away a potential superstar should be enough to keep Milwaukee’s trade offers in check.
Building on Foundation
General manager David Stearns has done a fantastic job since taking over. Manager Craig Counsell deserves a ton of credit as well. But their focus should remain on building on this season’s success, rather than maximizing the success now. The Brewers could wind up in the playoffs and surprise some teams while they’re there. If that happens, great! But that shouldn’t artificially turn into the expectation.
Fans should enjoy the winning, but also realize this isn’t supposed to be the Milwaukee’s time. They’re not there yet. The team is better as a whole right now than the sum of its parts. It could be dangerous to mess with that. To paraphrase hip-hop group TLC, if the Milwaukee Brewers go chasin’ waterfalls, the rivers and the lakes that they’re used to could go dry. That would leave them in no-man’s land with not much to show for it. And David Stearns don’t want no scrubs.