Brewers mailbag: Trading for arms?
Beat reporter Adam McCalvy answers fans' questions
Before I dive into the mailbag, I have to say thanks for the fans who e-mailed in response to a fan's suggestion that the Brewers bat Yovani Gallardo ninth in road games, even when he isn't the scheduled starter, just in case that spot gets to hit in the first inning.Someone apparently tried it before, because it's against the rules. Thanks to all of the fans, including Al B., Brian K., Ken B., Kyle M., Scott M. and all the others who I am leaving out. Thanks for the education. Is Doug Melvin going to make a deal for some pitching soon? It's frustrating enough to see the Brewers offense struggling as it is, but when they do score runs the game is seemingly handed right back by the bullpen. Maybe it's just my frustration, but I still think something must be done.
-- Jim K., West Milwaukee The folks in the front office are not immune to the same frustration. Carlos Villanueva was moved to the bullpen, Dave Bush and Eric Gagne can't get on a roll, Gallardo is out for the year and the Brewers badly need some pitching. Just like teams looked at Derrick Turnbow when the Brewers designated him for assignment, the Brewers have been looking at all players DFA'd by other clubs, including, recently, Boston's Julian Tavarez and Texas' Franklyn German, a 28-year-old who had a 2.08 ERA in 21 2/3 innings but struggled to throw strikes (sound familiar, Brewers fans?). But judging by your e-mails, a lot of fans believe the Brewers need to make a much flashier move to shore up the pitching staff. Again, I think Melvin is looking at his options, but the problem is that they are very few right now. Teams are unwilling in the fourth week of May to unload the core of their pitching staff. Maybe San Diego GM Kevin Towers, whose own level of frustration makes Melvin look happy and content, is the exception, and the Padres have a few veteran arms who could be of interest to the Brewers. We will have more to talk about on the trade front as May turns to June, and June to July, and teams start seriously evaluating what's best for this year and for 2009. With all of the problems that this current team is having, what would be the possibility that a coach gets fired? Hitting coach Jim Skaalen or manager Ned Yost? And who would be their replacements?
-- Craig V., West Allis, Wis.
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I am not sure what kind of answer Craig is looking for here, but dozens of others e-mailed variations of the same question, so I feel obliged to at least address it. Am I supposed to assign a percentage to the likelihood someone gets fired, and then guess when it's going to happen and guess who will be brought in? What is the point of that? Didn't we learn any lessons last week about making bad guesses?Believe me, I understand everybody's anger, frustration and general "miserableness" (sometimes you have to make up words to find the right one). This is not shaping up to be the summer most fans believed they were in for. If that continues, if the Brewers are four games under .500 in September and sitting at 11th in the National League in runs scored and 14th in staff ERA (as they are as I write this), the team will not look the same as it does right now, whether that means on- or off-the-field changes. It doesn't take a fortune teller to know that. With young stars coming up at third in Mat Gamel and right fielder Matt LaPorta, are the Brewers thinking about trading away some of their once termed "bonafide stars" who are not going to pan out to be that good after all (i.e. Bill Hall, Rickie Weeks, J.J. Hardy) for help in other areas (i.e. middle relief and starting pitching)?
-- Chris B., Appleton, Wis. Those are the precisely the types of players other teams will target, because they are under contractual control for several more years, and teams would hope that a change of scenery would spark a player to his former level of production. But if the Brewers had their way, Gamel and/or LaPorta would not be in the Majors until this September at the extreme earliest, and then only to get a taste of the big leagues. I'm a faithful listener and watcher of Brewers' baseball. It makes me very uncomfortable when our pitchers get to two strikes on a batter and/or two outs in an inning. How many walks and/or hits have they given up in those situations? It sure seems that it happens an awful lot, and the other team then goes on a tear scoring runs.
-- Sharon M., Appleton, Wis. As I write this on Saturday morning, Brewers opponents are hitting .186 with a .556 OPS with two strikes, and .255 with a .759 OPS with two outs. I did a quick survey of other National League teams and the Brewers are on the higher end in both categories but not outrageously so. I do agree with your perception, though, partly after hearing pitchers like Villanueva and Bush and even reliever David Riske lament two-strike or two-out mistakes. Looking at the two starters, opponents are hitting .278 against Villanueva with two outs, including seven of the 12 home runs he has allowed. And opponents are hitting a whopping .328 with a 1.004 OPS against Bush with two outs. It goes without saying that both guys need to do a better job of putting hitters, in Villanueva's case, and innings, in Bush's, away. I like Prince Fielder as much as the next Brewers fan, but I think that the reality of Scott Boras being his agent means that he will never sign a long-term contract with the Brewers. No matter how much they offer, it will be invariably below what Boras sets as his value. I think it's time for Melvin to explore the possibilities of trading Fielder for a big-time young pitcher. They can fill the first base position with the talent they already have in the Minors.
-- Ben L., Muscoda I have rarely been less comfortable in the Brewers' clubhouse than the day I waited around to ask Fielder for his reaction to Ryan Braun's long-term deal and whether he was interested in something similar. If Fielder and the Brewers were really close to their own multi-year extension, Prince gets an Academy Award for his performance that day. The thing people need to understand is that comparing Braun and Fielder is like comparing apples and oranges. Braun was in all likelihood two more seasons away from salary arbitration, while Fielder enters that phase of his career after this season. That's a huge difference, and a big reason why a player like Braun would be much more open to locking-in long-term. Fielder and every player like him has earned the right to go year-to-year in arbitration, and if that is the counsel he gets, so be it. Either way, he's going to get paid. To finally answer Ben's suggestion, this is more of an issue for next season, and certainly for the one after that. If the Brewers start approaching Fielder's free agency and decide they cannot get a deal done, they will have to at least explore their options. For now, Fielder is a huge part of the Brewers' goal to make the playoffs. I was just wondering why the Brewers give Derrick Turnbow two years to prove he doesn't belong in the Majors -- but only gave Mitch Stetter one week.
-- Jeff, Fredonia, Wis. Thanks for the laugh, Jeff. I am going to send you the bill for the T-shirt I just spit my coffee all over. Stetter will be back.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.