I self-identify as a glass half-full type of person. I like to think I’m an optimist in any given scenario. To me, a bad season of baseball is better than no baseball at all. Or watching mixed martial arts. And, despite what other people may tell you, two bad baseball teams playing against each other can make for exciting sports spectacle (such as the Brewers/Phillies series).
A lot of our writers at BP Milwaukee have taken to writing articles about possible trade deadline outlook — the one light in the middle of the pitch-black tunnel that is a dreadful season. Even I dabbled in prophesying the likelihood of Adam Lind getting traded. Technically the Brewers best player this season, many reasons make him a very suitable trade chip in Melvin’s pocket.
I’m here to tell you now, dear reader, that the likelihood of things going your preferred way on the non-waiver trade deadline are next-to-null.
I’m sorry to set expectations in this way, but, sadly, it’s true. While the team currently owns many pieces that would be appealing assets to contending teams, I can’t see Melvin making some of the deals many want him to make. That doesn’t even mention owner and businessman Mark Attanasio, who desperately wants to avoid a firesale and sell tickets next season.
Let’s start with Carlos Gomez. A semi-popular topic of trade discussion, his WARP over his 242 plate appearances this season is an uncharacteristic 1.0. Posting two-consecutive 5-win seasons prior to 2015, Gomez is on-pace (using Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections) for a 2.5-WARP season. This would be his lowest since 2012 when he only managed 452 plate appearances and wasn’t yet the Carlos Gomez we’ve come to know. Selling low is never a smart business decision and having a centerfielder of Gomez’s skill set is never a problem.
Jean Segura has also been a topic of discussion for many pundits and fans. Noah Jarosh broke this down over at Brew Crew Ball naming six potential landing places for the shortstop: the Twins, Reds, Orioles, Yankees, Mets and Padres. I would rule out all but the Mets and the Padres, for various reasons. But wait! Even the Mets’ Wilmer Flores has been relatively similar in value to Segura. In 291 PA, Flores has won his team 1.3 games with a .253 TAv. Segura on the other hand owns a 1.4 WARP with a .233 TAv. Well, at least he would be an improvement over the Padres’ Clint Barmes, right? In 130 PA (fewer than half of Segura), Barmes has posted a very serviceable 0.9 WARP with a .281 TAv. While I don’t think Barmes is necessarily the answer in San Diego and shouldn’t be expected to perform at this clip going forward, he certainly hasn’t hurt the team. Nor is he forcing Padres’ GM A.J. Preller to scramble for other options. Honestly, I’m a huge fan of retaining players through their arbitration-eligible years; thus, the Segura trade speculation make little sense to me from a buyer-and-seller point of view.
Bullpen arms are prototypical non-waiver trade deadline fare, and the Brewers have a few options there. Boasting the twelfth-best bullpen in the majors this season, Will Smith, Michael Blazek and Francisco Rodriguez have been bright spots on a troubled team. Sometimes I wonder if bad teams have better bullpens because there are fewer high-leverage opportunities, but that’s for another time. Regardless, Smith and Blazek have generated 1.1 WARP each for the Brewers while K-Rod has 0.7 WARP in 31 innings of work. Those are foundations for very good seasons.
However, Will Smith isn’t free agent-eligible until 2020. For me, that makes him a keeper going into 2016. Furthermore, relievers (of the non-closer variety) don’t break the bank when it comes to arbitration-eligibility. That leaves Blazek and Rodriguez as suitable trade pieces. Last season, the Baltimore Orioles made a push for the post-season by trading for Andrew Miller. In doing so, they gave their division rival Boston Red Sox their eleventh-best prospect in 2012, Eduardo Rodriguez. A couple things to learn from this, though. First, Andrew Miller was otherworldy good last season and pitched in high-leverage situations — of course Blazek has an 0.86 DRA this season, but isn’t called upon in the late-innings. Second, although Blazek could be worth a major-league-ready prospect, to expect any such prospect to perform at 2015-Eduardo-level the following season would be unfair. Third, and most importantly, the 29 other general managers also know that Dan Duquette kind of blew that one and front offices learn quickly.
Just like contending teams’ fans should temper their expectation of World Series guarantees, so too should bottom-feeding teams temper their corresponding expectations at the trade deadline. It’s a shame that this is part of the business, and I don’t think any unmade moves by the non-waiver trade deadline will be for lack of effort on Melvin’s behalf. It’s just necessary as fans to look at the business side with which Melvin is faced on a daily basis. What if Gomez, Braun and Segura play to their ability in 2016? It certainly hasn’t cost you much, other than perhaps a harsh lesson in the Law of Diminishing Returns.