When should the Brewers be Competitive?

We often think of rebuilds in simplistic terms. A team gets rid of its notable assets. Loses many games, gets quality draft picks, rebuilds farm system and then once prospects come up, the team in question competes once again. Rebuilds obviously are more complicated than this.

The Brewers themselves are undergoing a rebuild and are in a tricky situation. Mainly, they’re soon going to have to make a number of hard decisions as to when they should look to be competitive.

Some, however, don’t buy that this is a real possibility. In their eyes, there’s no way the Brewers could be competitive anytime soon. On the outskirts, this might seem true. The Brewers are currently one of the worst teams in the league. They literally have the worst pitching staff, their playoff odds are at 1.2 percent, and they’ve been trying to trade their remaining productive assets.

So why are some people suggesting that the Brewers could be competitive? Why do some believe the Brewers should retain players such as Chris Carter, Jonathan Lucroy, Ryan Braun and so on?

The reason for this logic is the Brewers have a number of highly profiled prospects in the high minors who should be making their debut sometime this year or next. Orlando Arcia, Brett Phillips, Jorge Lopez, Devin Williams, Tyrone Taylor, Jacob Nottingham are all players who have ETA’s for 2017, or earlier. Michael Reed is another prospect a number of scouts are high on who is in Triple-A, and Josh Hader has been killing it in Double-A.

Basically, there’s a lot of prospects coming to the majors and coming quickly (I haven’t even mentioned the young players who are already in the majors such as Jimmy Nelson and Domingo Santana). The next frame of logic is that since some of these prospects will be up in the coming years the Brewers should now aim to be competitive sooner rather than later. If they do not plan on being competitive then they should trade…

…moving the timetable back for when Trent Clark, Gilbert Lara and so on will hit the big leagues. But, this doesn’t have to be this way. The Brewers can still make a few trades and aim to be competitive next year, and for the years to come.

Simply put, trading Carter, Lucroy, and Braun makes a lot of sense, but as always is dependent on the market. If there truly is no market for those players then, of course, you can always hold onto them. The idea that these players must be traded at this trade deadline is a fallacy. That said, the Brewers should do everything they can to trade these players, because as J.P. Breen mentioned on Twitter, you don’t rebuild around a thirty-year-old first basemen and catcher (I added the catcher part).

The timetable as to when the Brewers should strike, or go for it, isn’t clearly next season. The Brewers will have a lot of first-year and second-year players. The pitching staff will probably still be a big question mark and prospects take some time to develop. If you keep Lucroy and Carter then you’re risking a good opportunity to add further talent to your system, one that will help you when it’s time to truly compete. Most importantly, though, if the Brewers are to compete next season, it should be on the backs of their young studs, not on the backs of two aging veterans.

The notion of competing though can be complex. We often associate competing with making the playoffs or having a chance to win the world series. If you don’t have any of those chances, then most people don’t consider you competitive.

Most individuals in their right mind wouldn’t associate a 75-80 win team as competitive. But, maybe that’s because most people’s minds aren’t right. If the Brewers win 75-80 games this year and then do the same thing next year with players such as Arcia and Phillips, then that’s a different kind of competitiveness. An old team who wins 80 games is a bad team in a bad place. A team that wins 75-80 games with a young roster is a team on the rise. It’s a young team that was working through its flaws but has the potential to make great improvements in the years to come. Then, in 2018, the Brewers could find themselves in an interesting spot on the win curve. For example, they might project themselves to win around 80-85 games, in which case they could go for it. Now, I know I’m making a number of assumptions here; namely, that Arcia and Phillips and other prospects are going to come up and follow a linear path to reaching their peaks. Of course prospects and players are a lot more complicated than that and don’t always follow a traditional path.

That said, we always seem to think of prospects as hitting their potential and not hitting their potential.

Prospects are more like probabilities: the probability that a player will succeed. The better the prospect, the more probable that prospect will become a big leaguer. Sure, a prospect can be described as a “chance,” but there are different levels of “chance”. Orlando Arcia is a top ranked prospect in Triple-A and succeeding. The higher you are in the minors, and the better you are as a prospect, the more probable you are to becoming a successful big leaguer. Of course, a pitcher such as Josh Hader has a lot of variability in his future potential, but I don’t think the Brewers are banking on him being a true major league ace. That would be foolish.

Essentially, this is saying that Arcia has a high floor. Even if he doesn’t become a superstar, there’s a good chance that he’ll become a quality big leaguer, which has a lot of value. And, not all prospects have to hit their “full potential” for the Brewers to be successful. As I’ve mentioned before, the Brewers have a lot of depth in the minors. The reason you acquire a lot of depth is to do your best to account for the unpredictability of prospects. If Domingo Santana doesn’t work out, well then, the Brewers have a number of outfield prospects they can trot out.

The true problem for this team is the pitching staff. That’s why the Brewers should do their best to acquire a top end pitching prospect this trade deadline, and that’s why it’s important to trade players such as Carter, Lucroy, Jeffress, or Braun. It doesn’t mean you trade all them. Not trading Jeffress or Braun might be a smart move. Braun is hitting the ball very well, and due to his contract and injury history, teams might be reluctant to give the Brewers anything in return.

The true testament as to when the Brewers will be ready to compete will depend on how the prospects develop. Some could come up and crush the league, such as Kris Bryant, and Carlos Correa, but it’s actually more likely that the Brewers prospects take a couple of years to fully develop. If that’s the case, then the Brewers will be looking at a 2018-2019 timeline. But, if Arica, Phillips, and Lopez come out as gangbusters next year, then we could be looking at an accelerated timeline. The point is to keep an open mind.

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3 comments on “When should the Brewers be Competitive?”


We could keep Braun, Luc & Carter to enhance the success of a quick rebuild. Sell Hill, Nieuwenhuis & Anderson or Peralta for high risk, long range P prospects. Replace them with Arcia [Villar & Perez play 3B], Phillips, Hader or Lopez on the ML roster. If the young guys develop as expected we could surprise next year. If not we’re not going to miss the 3-4 sold guys. Plus we could get a boost from Smith, Knebel, Santana & Garza [well, maybe not] & become competitive this year. Good perspective on the article.

Julien Assouline

Thanks for the comment Spahnie. I think where we differ is that I don’t see Hill, Nieuwenhuis, Anderson and Peralta bringing much of anything back in a trade. I still think Milwaukee needs to add more pitching prospects to the system, and the players you mentioned simply aren’t good enough to garner that. That’s why you try to trade Luc, Carter, and Braun at the deadline. This rebuild should come off the backs of the young studs, not old vets. I think you could still have a few of them on the team, which is why maybe you maybe keep Braun. But keeping all of them would seem like a mistake and waisted opportunity. If Brewers compete next year, it should be seen as a bonus, it should not be the primary goal.

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