Rodriguez Makes Brewers Undisputed Contenders

Milwaukee Brewers make first splash in trade market, reinforce their World Series-aspirations

Remember that old saying: “It isn’t a matter of if, but when?”

The Milwaukee Brewers know it quite well.

While the 2011 MLB All-Star Game saw the National League successfully put together back to back victories for only the first time since the 1995-1996 seasons, the Milwaukee Brewers and GM Doug Melvin were busy working on a deal that would send Francisco Rodriguez to the Brew City for two unnamed prospects in Milwaukee’s farm system.

As we reported early in the week, the deal — which was completed Tuesday but would not go public until the cessation of the game itself — would send Rodriguez to the Brewers along with a large sum of additional cash.  It also should be noted that Milwaukee will now pick up the $5 million remaining on Rodriguez’s contract through this season, and could very well end up paying the $17.5 million buyout option for 2012 on vesting option if Rodriguez finishes 55 games this season.

While this whole contract/buyout fiasco is only beginning to rear it’s ugly head, it should be noted that Milwaukee remains fully invested and confident with their decision to acquire New York’s famed fire-baller.  Melvin, among other things, was quoted as saying:

“Offense is down in baseball this year, and there seems to be a lot of one-run ballgames. To win those games, you have to have strong pitching in the bullpen.”

He’s certainly right.  For as dominating as pitching was in 2010, the first-half of 2011 yielded 8.4 runs per game compared to last year’s 8.9 — down nearly 6 percent 2010 and 20 percent from 2000.

But, aside from the potentially detrimental financial aspects of the trade, the Brewers are nothing short of ecstatic for their second-half sprint towards an NL Central crown.

As Brewers first-baseman and All-Star MVP Prince Fielder put it:

“As a player, you appreciate it, because you’re going out there every day, and you’re wanting to win.  When management does things like that, you appreciate it, because you see that they’re going for it with you every day, too.

Truth be told, the Brewers have been on the positive end of major deadline deals over the years (see CC Sabathia in 2008), and the K-Rod deal comes as no surprise to the Milwaukee faithful.

Even so, Ron Roenicke’s crew cannot overlook the ultimate goal: winning the World Series and bringing a championship back to Milwaukee.

But the question remains: can they actually do it?

Despite adding Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum in the offseason, 2011 has still proved to be very inconsistent for Milwaukee, who currently holds true to the baseball’s 10th-worst team ERA (4.06).  Takashi Saito (another notable offseason addition) was only recently removed from the disabled list, and has pitched just five innings thus far.

Although the gaudy statistics would show otherwise, Rodriguez should bring unprecedented talent and leadership to Milwaukee’s bullpen in need of major addition.  At the midway point of the season, Rodriguez maintained a 3.16 ERA while converting 23 saves in 26 opportunities.

Offensively, however, it’s a completely different story for the Brewers.

With All-Stars Fielder, Rickie Weeks and Ryan Braun (who will be fresh off missing a week’s worth of games due to a calf strain), the Brewers are clearly ready and capable to contend with the bats.  Along with great support off the bench, what’s not to love about Milwaukee’s postseason chances?

The Brewers have invested anything and everything into this 2011 season, and with a few breaks here and there, they will be able to ride their revamped pitching into the postseason.

Alec Dopp is a Milwaukee Brewers featured columnist on Bleacher Report.  Follow him on twitter:@doppler9000, and read his Brewers beat blog.

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