At the end of last season, Milwaukee Brewers GM Doug Melvin found himself in a quandary. He took the job after the 2002 season, when the Brewers lost a franchise-record 106 games. By 2005 they reached .500 and broke a streak of 13 consecutive losing seasons. Melvin has kept the Brewers around the .500 mark ever since, an impressive feat for a team that plays in the smallest metropolitan area of any major league team. But a .500 record won't get you to the playoffs....
They weren't good enough to contend or bad enough to rebuild. Prince Fielder was in his final season before free agency, and the Brewers' pipeline of minor league talent was drying up.... [Melvin] pushed all his chips into the pot last December, making a pair of trades to strengthen Milwaukee's rotation, which already had a pair of viable starters in Yovani Gallardo Randy Wolf. Melvin sent his best prospect, infielder Brett Lawrie, to Toronto for changeup artist Shaun Marcum. Then Melvin again made the surprise winning bid for the best pitcher on the trade market — this time, it was Royals ace and 2009 Cy Young winner Zack Greinke. All it cost Melvin was his two best remaining prospects and rookie centerfielder Lorenzo Cain. As a result, the Brewers entered this season with the weakest farm system in recent memory. Fielder will be a free agent in four months; both Marcum and Greinke can be free agents after 2012. It will be a mild upset if the Brewers aren't the worst team in the majors come 2013. But for 2011, the division is wide open, the Brewers have an elite rotation, and their lineup core is the envy of rival front offices.
The Brewers are built to win now. If they overcome their competition in the NL Central, they'll also overcome the most pervasive trend in baseball today....
Doug Melvin and the Brewers aren't hopping on the defensive bandwagon. In order to close the trade for Zack Greinke, Milwaukee had to agree to an exchange of shortstops. The Brewers surrendered Alcides Escobar in return for the Royals' Yuniesky Betancourt. Escobar had been an elite prospect largely because he was considered one of the minor leagues' best defensive shortstops. Betancourt, on the other hand, possessed below-average speed, a terrible first step, and poor fielding instincts. According to defensive metrics, Betancourt was the worst starting shortstop in baseball.
Which meant he would fit right in with the Brewers. Doug Melvin managed to assemble one of the best pitching rotations in baseball while also preserving a lineup that included Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, and Rickie Weeks, who were all among MLB's best hitters at their positions. But Melvin had to compromise on something, and that was defense.... With every other team in baseball trying to zig, Melvin decided to zag.
And you know what? It just might work.
Edited by maufman, 07 July 2011 - 07:48 PM.