According to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the Atlanta Braves and the Baltimore Orioles are believed to be the frontrunners in the Zack Greinke sweepstakes as the July 31 trade deadline nears.
The Baltimore Orioles will make a run at Brewers star Zack Greinke, sources say, and some now believe the Orioles and Atlanta Braves loom as the most likely to land Greinke in trade.
Of course, it’s very early, so early Greinke isn’t even known to be available yet. The Brewers are likely to wait to see how they fair against division competition in the games following the All-Star break before deciding whether to sell, a source said.
How the Brewers’ first few series following the All-Star break turn out could ultimately decide their intentions with respect to Greinke this summer. They are currently eight games out of first place in the division with the first game of a three-game weekend set against the Houston Astros coming Friday night.
Stay tuned for more news and rumors surrounding Greinke in the subsequent hours.
As Major League Baseball’s annual July 31 non-waiver trade deadline draws nearer by the day, the Milwaukee Brewers continue to question whether or not they should become buyers or sellers come the final day of July. Currently treading water at 34-41, the Brewers haven’t been a complete disaster this season, however, they haven’t looked like a club destined for a postseason berth, either.
Easily the most pressing issue facing GM Doug Melvin and owner Mark Attanasio this summer is the trade status of Zack Greinke, who through the first half of the season has performed nothing short of Cy Young-worthy. His fabulous production this season will consequently offer tremendous trade value as the summer persists, and despite the numerous reports saying Milwaukee will opt not to trade him, you have to believe that if the Brewers continue to slip in the standings that they’ll have no other choice but to deal their ace.
If that’s the case, then the question obviously becomes: Which teams could be interested in trading for Greinke and what would they be willing to relinquish in order to attain his services?
I recently spoke with a few featured columnist on Bleacher Report in the hopes of sorting out a few potential deals that could go down as the trade deadline nears.
New York Yankees
Yankees Receive: Zack Greinke
Brewers Get: RHP Dellin Betances, SS Eduardo Nunez, OF Slade Heathcott, C Francisco Cervelli
Yankees FC Doug Rush‘s take:
With this trade, the Brewers would get a backup catcher who is MLB-ready, and a super utility infielder/outfielder who is also MLB ready with a bat. With Betances, they get the Yankees #2 prospect who, if he ever straightens out, can be very good. With Heathcott, they get a young outfielder they could use in maybe 2 years.
The Yankees just scouted Greinke’s latest start today. With the injuries to Sabathia and Pettitte, looking into Greinke makes a lot of sense.
My take: The news that the Yankees scouted Greinke in his last start shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone, as the immediate and distant futures of CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte are in deep question after suffering injuries. Needless to say, New York will need to add another guy to their rotation of Greinke’s caliber if they’re to stay atop the AL East.
If the Brewers aren’t able to lock up Greinke between now and the All-Star break, I think they’ll look to deal him away. Unfortunately for the Yankees, I think they’d rather keep him and run the risk of not signing him in the offseason that take this deal up. Betances’ monster 6’8″, 240-pound frame has a ton of potential as so does Nunez, but I don’t think Melvin will have much of an interest in Heathcott or Cervelli.
Chances this deal goes through: Not likely
Braves Receive: Zack Greinke
Brewers Receive: SS Tyler Pastronicky, RHP Todd Redmond, OF Jordan Parraz, RHP Zeke Spruill
Braves FC Chris Stephens‘ take:
With the loss of Brandon Beachy for the year, and possibly next year, the Braves are in dire need of starting pitching, especially considering the performances of Mike Minor and Randall Delgado thus far.
Greinke would be a great addition to the Braves rotation, but there could be a few snags – Greinke is a free agent after this year and will likely carry a high pricetage to re-sign. Because of that, giving up a bunch of talented prospects for Greinke will be hard to come by. The Braves definitely don’t want to get burned like they did in the Mark Teixeira trade, so they’re going to be careful here.
Prospects and/or other guys the Braves would consider relinquishing would be Triple-A Gwinnett’s SS Tyler Pastronicky, P Todd Redmond and/or OF Jordan Parraz, and Double-A Mississippi’s Zeke Spruill. Guys on the big-league team that could be considered are Anthony Vavarro and Jose Constanza. Obviously, not all of these guys will be involved in a trade, but they’re some of the ones I believe they’ll consider letting go. Julio Teheran, Evan Gattis, Todd Cunningham, Christian Bethancourt and Sean Gilmartin won’t be involved in my opinion.
My take: The loss of Brandon Beachy to Atlanta’s rotation was an unfortunate one, as he was in the midst of quite possibly a Cy Young-worthy season. Now, the Braves are stuck trying to decided whether or not Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens will be able to carry the load for their rotation for the remainder of the season.
If the Braves do decided to acquire a veteran power-arm before the deadline, Greinke will likely be atop their wish-list. Given that Atlanta’s farm system has a number of high-ceiling prospects, the Brewers could very well be enticed by a potential deal. Problem is, if the Braves aren’t willing to deal youngsters such as Julio Teheran or Christian Bethancourt, then I just don’t see a viable reason for Milwaukee to pull the trigger — the Brewers will be looking for at least one top-tier prospect in return for Greinke.
Chances this deal goes through: Not likely
Rangers Get: Zack Greinke
Brewers Get: 3B Mike Olt, RHP Neil Ramirez, RHP Justin Grimm
Rangers FC Lance Reaves‘ take:
Jurickson Profar and Martin Perez are probably the two most untouchable prospects in the Rangers organization. Their farm system is very pitching heavy. A starting pitcher that might satisfy the Brewers is 23-year-old Neil Ramirez, who is considered one of the team’s top prospects with a high upside. A guy who could be ready to contribute fairly soon is pitcher Justin Grimm. Another young player with a lot of promise is Mike Olt, a third baseman who is having a great season for the Rangers’ Double A affiliate.
However, even for a player of Greinke’s caliber, it’s very unlikely Texas would be willing to offer both Ramirez and Olt in a deal. Centerfielder Leonys Martin might also be mentioned, but that will have a lot to do with Josh Hamilton’s contract situation.
My take: While the Rangers are absolutely loaded in the bullpen, the injury to Colby Lewis (who was the only real strikeout threat featured in their rotation outside of Yu Darvish) was a wretched one for the AL West front-runners. They may have the ability to ward off the surging Los Angeles Angels for now, but you can bet your bottom dollar that they’re already in the works to upgrade their rotation — possibly through the acquisition of Greinke.
From the Brewers’ vantage point, anything short of annexing at least one top-caliber prospect through trading Greinke should be considered unrealistic at this juncture. As Lance mentioned, both Jurickson Profar and Martin Perez are all but untouchable. However, I do believe that Milwaukee would be tempted by the prospect of acquiring Mike Olt, who’s been nothing short of a slugger during his stay in the minors. Throwing in two arms that are fairly big-league ready such as Neil Ramirez and Justin Grimm might actually be enough to get something done.
Chances this deal goes through: Somewhat likely
Boston Red Sox
Red Sox Get: Zack Greinke
Brewers Get: RHP Anthony Ranaudo, SS Jose Iglesias, OF Jackie Bradley
Red Sox FC Benjamin Klein‘s take:
The Boston Red Sox starting rotation isn’t in the best shape. The starters have been inconsistent, injured or just flat out bad this season—with possibly the exception of Felix Doubront—but somehow they’re still in the playoff hunt. They really need a front-line starter badly and could be interested in Zack Greinke. Greinke will enter free agency at the end of the season so Boston GM Ben Cherington would have to be sure he could lock him up long-term if a deal were to happen.
If I’m Cherington, I’d be willing to give up three impact prospects from the minor league system—possibly Anthony Ranaudo, Jose Iglesias and Jackie Bradley. I would really have to make sure that Greinke had interest in a contract extension with the Red Sox before completing a deal, though.
My take: Similar to the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox starting rotation has suffered through injuries, and that unfortunate reality could be the incentive they need to try and complete a deal with Milwaukee in return for Greinke.
As with many teams that would love to annex Greinke through a trade, the problem is that Boston won’t part ways with the two top-tier prospects in their system. Shortstop Xandar Bogaerts and RHP Matt Barnes would be two of the names Melvin would love to add to his system, but the odds that Cherington parts ways with either are slim to none. Consequently, settling for a lesser prospect in Jose Iglesias or Anthony Ranaudo doesn’t seem like something Milwaukee would be interesting in doing.
For now, it looks as though the Red Sox and Brewers must look elsewhere to fulfill their needs.
Chances this deal goes through: Slim to none
Toronto Blue Jays
Blue Jays Get: Zack Greinke
Brewers Get: OF Anthony Gose, RHP Deck McGuire, RHP Chad Jenkins
Blue Jays FC Stephen Brown‘s take:
The Blue Jays have become desperate for starting pitching following the injuries to potential All-Star Brandon Morrow and youngsters Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison as well as the general ineffectiveness of Ricky Romero. If you take a look at their probably starters for their series against the Angels it includes Carlos Villanueva and Aaron Laffey two guys who were nowhere near the rotation at the beginning of the season.
Greinke would be a great asset for the Blue Jays and they have the assets to acquire him. There are some pieces that would most likely be untouchable (CF Anthony Gose, C Travis D’Arnaud, SP Noah Syndergaard) but there are also many plausible scenarios.
OF Travis Snider and Eric Thames are two of the main pieces that would be included in a trade. Neither are a top tier prospect anymore but definitely an extra piece that could be added.
The Jays have a glutton of SPs like Deck McGuire, Chad Jenkins that would have to be involved. Drabek’s injury makes him untradeable at this point but a young SP would most likely be the key piece.
My take: This deal makes a whole lot of sense, honestly. Not only does it satisfy Milwaukee’s need for at least one top prospect to go with a couple other average ones, but it doesn’t severely deplete a Blue Jays organization that many consider to be the most talent-laden farm systems in Major League Baseball.
Needless to say, Toronto needs help with their starting rotation. As Stephen mentioned earlier, injuries to both strikeout machine Brandon Morrow and Kyle Drabek — among others — has left their rotation destitute of a veteran, power-type arm. Greinke would certainly bring that to John Farrell’s club.
I believe this deal will hinge on the willingness of Toronto to include Anthony Gose. He’s a premier centerfield talent that the Brewers would jump all over if given the chance, as the Nyjer Morgan-Carlos Gomez experiment has failed epically this season and neither will be around for much longer.
Chances this deal goes through: Somewhat likely
This summer, the Milwaukee Brewers find themselves in a tough spot.
Traditionally a team that looks to acquire talent at the July 31 trade deadline in preparation for post-All Start game push toward the postseason, the Brewers — who currently find themselves at fourth place in the NL Central, six and a half games behind the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals — could find themselves on the opposite end of the spectrum come July if they aren’t able to make headway on the rest of the competition. If that’s the case, then there’s a real possibility for Zack Greinke to become available.
Scheduled to hit the market as an unrestricted free-agent this winter, Grienke has enjoyed a tremendous 2012 campaign. In 11 starts, the 28-year-old boasts a 3.46 ERA (2.04 FIP), 1.32 WHIP while striking out over 25 percent of the competition. His dominance has directly affected his free-agent value, leading many to believe that the Brewers aren’t likely to re-sign him at the end of the season.
There are plenty of reasons as to why the Brewers should be inclined to deal away their unquestioned ace at or before the July 31 trade deadline, but here are the five most important.
Greinke’s Talents Are in High Demand
Greinke’s preponderance this season has been truly astounding. Aside from the basic statistics I mentioned earlier, Milwaukee’s apparent ace has posted some pretty impressive sabermetric statistics.
Just to name a few, Grienke has improved his LOB% (left on-base percentage) from 69.8% in 2011 to an impressive 72.1% this season. He’s also increased his GB% (ground-ball percentage) from 47.3 % to a career-best 51.9% and has also boosted his IFFB% (infield fly-ball percentage) from five percent last season to a career-mark of 12.8%.
Throw in the fact that Grienke holds true to a 2.4 WAR (wins above replacement) that ranks best among all National League starters, and it’s easy to see why Grienke’s talents are in such high demand this season. The Brewers should act on his widely unparalleled production this season by dealing him this summer to a pitching-needy contender.
Greinke’s Tremendous Value Presents Unique Chance to Restock the Farm
The Brewers came into the 2012 season with one of the most shallow farm systems in baseball, with only a handful of youngsters with any real hope of making an impact for Ron Roenicke in the near future. While improvements have been made, they still have a long way to go before they can return to the upper-echelon of minor league systems.
If there’s anything to be learned from recent blockbuster trades, it’s that there is much young talent to be had. Given the fact that Greinke has been, well, the single most valuable starter in the National League thus far this season, I’d say there’s a legitimate chance for the Brewers to pick up a few solid youngsters from a desperate contender.
With the MLB Draft this week and the trade deadline approaching, Milwaukee has a unique chance to re-tool their farm system. Opportunities such as that don’t come around a whole lot, so the Brewers should act on Greinke’s value now in preparation for the imminent and distant future.
If Resigned, Shaun Marcum Would Be a Solid No. 2
In the event that Greinke were to be dealt away this summer, it would all but guarantee a re-signing of Shaun Marcum this winter. While Marcum is no Greinke, he certainly wouldn’t be a much of a downgrade.
From a production standpoint, the 30-year-old grizzled veteran righty is in the midst of one of his best seasons. Generally not known for his strikeout capacities, he’s upped his strikeout rate from 19.2% in 2011 to an impressive 23.1% this season. Moreover, Marcum has increased his LOB% nearly two points from last season — up to a very solid 75.1%.
No one will argue that Marcum is as complete a pitcher as Greinke is based off an all-things-considered production standpoint. However, given the fact that he isn’t likely to demand as much money as Greinke this offseason, his overall value as Milwaukee’s No. 2 starter wouldn’t be tremendously lower than Greinke’s.
Matt Cain’s Extension Puts Brewers in Tough Spot
When the San Francisco Giants made 27-year-old Matt Cain the richest right-hander in MLB history by signing him to a six-year, $127.5 Million contract extension through the 2016 season, it immediately put the Brewers in a situation they probably didn’t want to be in.
Many have speculated that the deal would set precedent for Greinke, another decorated right-hander, once he hits the free-agent market this winter. Already recuperating from the loss of Prince Fielder last winter, a small-market team such as the Brewers with a ton of contractual money committed toward next year isn’t likely to have the dough necessary to sign Greinke after Cain’s extension.
Owner Mark Attanasio may want to try to re-sign Greinke this winter, but it would be in the best interest of the franchise if he tried to deal him away at or near the July 31 trade deadline. Shelling out that kind of money can hamper an organization for years.
Are the Playoffs Really Within Reach?
The Brewers have been one of the more aggressive teams in the trade market over the past few seasons, and that in large part comes from the fact that they’ve been in the hunt for a playoff berth more often than not. This season, that isn’t the case. In fact, it’s far from it.
At this point last season, Ron Roenicke and company boasted a 31-26 record (including an MLB-best .750 winning percentage at Miller Park), just two games back of first place in the division. Their offense was raking at a World Series-caliber level and they were able to get some pretty good outings from their starters and relievers.
After Sunday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Brewers now find themselves at 24-30, six and a half games out of first place. They’ve received mediocre production out of the cleanup spot in the lineup — unlike last season — and have gotten unstable and often unpredictable outings from their starters and bullpen.
According to ESPN.com, the Brewers have roughly an 11 percent chance at making the postseason, which ranks fifth-worst among all National League clubs. Anything is possible, especially in baseball, but ask yourself this question: Are the playoffs really within reach? If not, it’s only more incentive to deal Greinke.
Sitting at 16-21, currently tied for fourth place in the National League Central division, the Milwaukee Brewers must begin to ask themselves a number of important questions. Possibly the most meaningful of those questions, however, is what they intend to do with Zack Greinke.
After blowing through the New York Mets last Tuesday night to the tune of seven strikeouts, five hits, no runs and no walks allowed through seven innings, Greinke improved to 4-1 with a 2.88 ERA so far this season. But while Greinke’s unambiguous dominance has helped Milwaukee arrive to this point of the season, it has also drastically increased his value across Major League Baseball.
Greinke is set to become a free-agent at season’s end, and many have speculated that his 2012 preponderance will make him one of the highest-paid free-agent starters this winter. The Brewers have made it known that they want to sign him to a contract extension, however, they also realize fully that many teams will be after his services this winter.
For the Brewers, who at this juncture look like they could be sellers at the July 31 trade deadline rather than a buyer, Greinke’s future with the club seems uncertain. However, one thing remains clear: Milwaukee cannot allow yet another star (see Prince Fielder) to walk at season’s end. Here are five reasons why.
This one seems pretty obvious.
Greinke has been one of the most productive starters in baseball since making his way to Milwaukee last season. In 36 starts with the Brewers, the 28-year-old is 20-7 with a 3.63 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, has struck out well over 10 batters per nine innings pitched and has a walk rate of just 5.7 percent.
While that’s nowhere near the numbers he put up during his 2009 Cy Young campaign, they’re still impressive numbers nonetheless.
It’s excruciatingly hard to find such dominant production like that from a starter, especially for the Brewers, who are so heavily dependent on their pitching. Allowing Greinke, who has clearly been Milwaukee’s most productive starter since the beginning of last season, to walk would prove detrimental.
The Brewers stuck to their guns last season and went all-in for a World Series championship, knowing full-well that first baseman and free-agent to-be Prince Fielder would likely leave town for greener pastures. While they managed to secure a division championship and play host to the National League Championship, they ultimately fell short of their goal. Needless to say, they payed dearly for their shortcomings.
Fielder walked and signed a monster nine-year, $214 million deal with the Detroit Tigers in late January after realizing that the Brewers simply didn’t have the dough he desired.
While Milwaukee likely won’t be as cash-strapped as they were last winter, odds are that they may not have the capital required to keep Greinke in town, especially after 27-year-old right-hander Matt Cain signed a six-year, $127 Million contract extension with the San Francisco Giants in early April.
Many have said Cain’s extension will set precedent for what Greinke could be offered this offseason. If that’s the case, then the Brewers would be wise not to take the Fielder route with Greinke, because a small-market team like Milwaukee probably won’t be able to afford him.
Attaining Greinke’s talents was no easy task.
Two winters ago, the Brewers dealt a heap of youngsters to the Royals in return for the former 2009 Cy Young Award winner. Blossoming shortstop and defensive superstar Alcides Escobar, aspiring outfielder Lorenzo Cain as well as pitching prospects Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress were all included were all sent to Kansas City as part of the deal.
Each were highly touted prospects at the minor league level and looked to grow into lethal talents on the baseball diamond for the Brewers. When general manager Doug Melvin sent them away, he essentially put Milwaukee’s farm system on wholesale, losing a hefty amount of future talent.
If the Brewers allow Greinke to walk away this winter after dealing away these four youngsters, many (this writer included) will look back only to feel that the trade was a waste of prospects that could have helped the team in future years.
Hindsight is always 20/20, and this case is certainly no exception.
If He Did Walk, What Would 2013 Rotation (and Beyond) Look Like?
The Brewers currently boast one of the most complete starting rotations in baseball. A large reason for that distinction has come because of Greinke’s dominance while with the club. So, what would happen if management decides to let him walk after this season?
First and foremost, it would mean that an extension for Shaun Marcum would be in order. I would assume that Marcum would be thrust into the No. 2 role just behind Yovani Gallardo. As for the rest of the rotation? I’m not sure even Melvin himself would know what to do.
The Brewers have a few top-caliber prospects — namely Wily Peralta, Jed Bradley, Taylor Jungmann and Tyler Thornburg — who could help fill the void, however, none of them (with the exception of Peralta) will be ready to take on a full-time starter’s role by the start of next season. Moreover, I don’t think a combination of Randy Wolf, Marco Estrada and Chris Narveson toward the back end of the rotation will be able to get the job done. Any way you look at it, allowing Greinke to walk would set chaos to Milwaukee’s rotation.
It’s no secret that the Brewers are lacking in talent down on the farm. With just three prospects (Wily Peralta, Jed Bradley and Taylor Jungmann) who were able to crack MLB.com’s top 100 prospects list entering this season, significant work has yet to be done to replenish the young talent lost two winters ago in the trade that brought Greinke to Milwaukee.
Given Greinke’s dominance to start this season, it wouldn’t be surprising if needy contenders start to make offers to the Brewers as the trade deadline draws nearer. Doug Rush, a Yankees columnist here on B/R recently wrote that New York should revisit trading for Greinke.
While the Yankees aren’t exceptionally deep in young minor league talent, they do have a few prospects that could entice Melvin to deal Greinke to the pitching-destitute Bronx Bombers. Other teams such as the Orioles, Mets, Blue Jays or Indians might try to acquire Greinke as a rental-type player.
Which ever way you look at it, Greinke will offer tremendous trade value once the deadline rolls around, and if the Brewers are out of contention, they absolutely should open up talks to trade him.
Despite tossing eight complete innings of two-hit baseball with 11 strikeouts against the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday afternoon at Miller Park, it doesn’t seem as though Zack Greinke and Brewers GM Doug Melvin are making any headway in their quest of a long-term contract extension.
According to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, there have “been no recent contract negotiations involving Greinke” and the Brewers at this juncture of the season. From Heyman’s Twitter page early Wednesday morning:
Wednesday was easily Greinke’s best outing of the season, setting season-bests with 11 punchouts, two hits allowed, eight innings, no walks while moreover conceding no runs. His dominance of Reds hitters yesterday now gives Milwaukee’s 28-year-old free-agent-to-be a 3.35 ERA (2.17 FIP), 1.14 WHIP with a whopping 46 strikeouts to just 10 walks so far this season. Outside of his second outing of the season against the Chicago Cubs — where he conceded eight runs on nine hits over 3.2 innings — Greinke has pitched lights-out thus far into his 2012 campaign.
Milwaukee Brewers right-handed pitcher Zack Greinke has been one of the most accomplished starters in all of baseball over the past few seasons. After winning the 2009 AL Cy Young award in historic fashion, he’s put together two respectable seasons that many pitching-needy teams would give an arm or leg for. The good news for those teams is that Greinke could be on the trading block this season. If the Prince Fielder-less Brewers slump early in the regular season that could make way for GM Doug Melvin to open up trade-talks for the veteran right-hander.
Needless to say, teams with postseason aspirations can’t get enough pitching, particularly starting pitching. But which contending teams will be hard-pressed to pursue Greinke this season?
New York Yankees
The New York Yankees were in desperate need of starting pitching this winter and they were able to mitigate their woes on the mound by trading for 23-year-old Michael Pineda. While the addition of the 6’7″, 260-pound right-hander will no doubt provide young stability to their rotation, there still remains the question of A.J. Burnett and whether or not they plan to retain him. As recent indications prove, though, they are very willing to deal Burnett and that could make way for adding Greinke into the fold later in the season. Greinke has proven that he’s worth his weight in gold (he led MLB with a 10.54 K/9 IP last season) and there’s no reason to believe Brian Cashman wouldn’t be willing to take on around half of Greinke’s $13.5 Million salary next season.
As sad and unethical as it may seem, the Philadelphia Phillies could still be in the market for more starting pitching. The departure of Roy Oswalt suggest the Phils could be looking to bolster the No. 4 slot in their rotation. Yes, Joe Blanton and Vance Worley are each more than capable of being at the very least serviceable at the end of Philadelphia’s rotation. But if the impossible happens and the Phils start to slip early on, they may take to the trade market, possibly dealing Blanton, for a rental of Greinke’s caliber. The Phillies are near stacked with young minor league talent that the Brewers would be more than intrigued in acquiring through a trade. The only question is whether or not Philly can take on Greinke’s contract, though I doubt they’d turn away from a deal that takes them a step closer to a World Championship simply because of financial constrictions.
The Washington Nationals managed to significantly upgrade their starting rotation this past winter by selling the farm for Gio Gonzalez and signing Edwin Jackson, but in a stacked NL East division, the Nats are going to need a whole lot more pitching talent if they expect to contend. A five-man rotation of Stephen Strasburg, Gonzalez, Jackson, Jordan Zimmerman and John Lannan is respectable but not quite postseason worthy. The addition of a Cy Young-caliber right-hander would certainly put the young Nationals up with the Phillies and Braves of the baseball world. The Brewers are desperate to restock their devoid farm system and Washington has a number of prospects Milwaukee would be interested in. And seen as how GM Mike Rizzo was near ready to sign Prince Fielder, one can only assume the Nats have the capital to take on Greinke’s weighty contract.
The Cleveland Indians were a team on the fringe of making the playoffs last season with much hope heading into 2012. But with the Detroit Tigers’ addition of Prince Fielder, the only way the Tribe can expect to compete in this season is through their starting rotation. Trading for Ubaldo Jimenez at the deadline last year will help bolster their staff comprised of Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin and Kevin Slowey. Going out and trading for Derek Lowe in October will also prove to be a crafty move. But can the Indians honestly expect to compete for the division title with just these pieces? Going out and getting Greinke as a rental-type addition would significantly help Cleveland’s chances at either the AL Central title or the AL Wild Card spot. Moreover, the Indians compass a bevy of prospects such as Dillon Howard or Zach Putnam that would appeal to the Brewers.
Dealing away Ubaldo Jimenez last summer may have replenished the Colorado Rockies’ farm system, but it also left their starting rotation in shambles. Currently, 24-year-old Jhoulys Chacin and trade pickup Jeremy Guthrie top off Jim Tracy’s underwhelming rotation. If that remains, the postseason will be but a pipe-dream for the Rockies. Post All-Star break last season, Colorado garnered the NL’s worst team ERA (4.82) despite having the league’s best run-support average (0.27). With the addition of a power-type arm of Greinke’s caliber, the Rockies’ chances of taking the relatively wide-open NL West division would skyrocket. The offensive pieces are already in place and if the Rockies find themselves relatively close to the division lead come the trade deadline on July 31, there’s no question they would be willing to ship off a few top prospects in return for Greinke’s services.
Every player on the Milwaukee Brewers’ 2011 roster contributed in some fashion or another to the club’s most thrilling campaign in nearly30years, resulting in an NL Central crown as well as the opportunity to host the National League Championship Series.
However, ample changes to their roster from a season ago will largely reshape what Milwaukee’s lineup might look like in 2012. The addition of third baseman Aramis Ramirez and shortstop Alex Gonzalez — as well as the likely subtraction of first baseman Prince Fielder — will bring about a number of new play-makers and top performers next season.
Let’s try our hand at predicting Milwaukee’s top 10 performers in 2012.
10. Alex Gonzalez
The Brewers were one of the worst defensive teams in baseball last season (they finished with MLB‘s seventh-worst fielding percentage collectively), and GM Doug Melvin made it a point to upgrade defensively this offseason.
After declining Yuniesky Betancourt’s 2012 option, the Brewers found their new shortstop in veteran Alex Gonzalez. Needless to say, the move firmly improved Milwaukee’s infield. The 34-year-old boasts a career .972 fielding percentage and 6.3 UZR.
Gonzalez will be expected to hold down the unstable fort that is the left side of Ron Roenicke’s infield with above-average efficiency, and fans should expect him to do just that. They should also expect something close to a .250/.290/.400 line offensively — nothing too overwhelming.
2012 Statistical Projection: .265 BA, 15 HR, 65 RBI, .310 OBP
Shaun Marcum was absolutely sensational in his first season with the Brewers, however, his best work came away from Miller Park.
Last season, the 30-year-old right-hander went 8-3 with league-leading 2.21 ERA on the road proving essential in Milwaukee’s regular season successes. Without Marcum, it’s arguable the Brewers don’t even challenge for the division in 2011. Next season, much will stay the same in that Marcum will be largely responsible for providing stability and dependability to the rotation. Expect his stat line to comparable to last season, as well.
2012 Statistical Projection: 15-8, 3.60 ERA, 150 SO, 210 IP
8. Francisco Rodriguez
When Milwaukee offered arbitration to setup man Francisco Rodriguez after the season, they probably had no intention of actually bringing him back at or near his $13.5 Million salary from last season. Nevertheless, he accepted, and will assume his role as the Brewers’ eighth-inning man in 2012.
Last season, the seasoned vet posted a 1.86 ERA, punched out 33 and amassed 17 HLD in 29.0 innings of work with the Brewers, and will be held to a high standard next season as he is begin paid much more than he is actually worth.
2012 Statistical Projection: 2.60 ERA, 40 HLD, 75 SO, 70 IP
7. Aramis Ramirez
With Prince Fielder gone and Ryan Braun potentially missing the first third of next season, Aramis Ramirez could be responsible for shouldering a good portion of the offensive load for the Brewers to start next season. While he likely won’t put up the gaudy numbers he did in Chicago over the past eight seasons, he will be expected to perform at a high level nonetheless. Even at 33 years old, he has a power bat at the plate and could outperform expectations in a still very lethal Milwaukee lineup.
We would’ve ranked him higher than seventh, but since he is getting up there in age and his bat is a bit in question, this seems like the appropriate spot.
2012 Statistical Projection: .295 BA, 30 HR, 105 RBI, .530 SLG
From the beginning of the 2011 season until an untimely ankle injury in late July that led to him missing a month’s worth of time, Rickie Weeks may have been the best offensive second baseman in all of baseball.
Prior to the All Star break, Milwaukee’s 29-year-old second baseman posted a .278 BA with a league-high 17 home runs and 67 runs scored, 39 RBI and a .486 slugging percentage, subsequently earning a trip to the MLB All Star game for the first time in his once promising career.
Of course, he wouldn’t return to his previous form after the injury, but he nonetheless maintains a considerable amount of success and momentum at the plate that can carry over to 2012. With Prince Fielder now gone, Weeks will take on a whole new role in Ron Roenicke’s lineup. Will that result in an increase in production at the plate? I think so.
2012 Statistical Projection: .280 BA, 31 HR, 95 RBI, .370 OBP
5. Corey Hart
Corey Hart has become an essential piece to Milwaukee’s lineup over the past five seasons, but has yet to even come close to reaching his potential. Next season will be his official coming-out party.
An abdominal strain halted the beginning of his 2011 campaign, yet Hart still managed to hit 26 home runs with a solid .822 OPS. The season prior, he batted .283 with 31 home runs and broke the 100 RBI barrier for the first time in his career. The guy knows how to hit the ball.
If he can stay healthy throughout next season, there’s absolutely no doubt he can reach the 40 home run plateau and may find his slugging percentage at a healthy .525 to top it off. His RBI count will hinge on where he is placed in the lineup, but you can expect him to get his fair share.
2012 Statistical Projection: .280 BA, 35 HR, 83 RBI, .510 SLG
4. John Axford
Outside of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, John Axford was clearly Milwaukee’s MVP last season.
In his first full season as the Brewers’ ninth-inning man, the 28-year-old was nothing short of sensational. He posted a league-best 1.95 ERA with 86 strikeouts in 73.1 IP while tying for the league-lead for saves (46), setting the franchise’s single-season mark for saves in a regular season.
With a full season’s worth of production and experience under his belt, Axford looks poised for another impressive season — potentially surpassing his numbers from a season ago. If he can do that, who’s to say he won’t challenge to be the NL Cy Young?
2012 Statistical Projection: 2.10 ERA, 48 SV, 95 SO, 85.0 IP
Now looking toward his third straight season as Milwaukee’s undisputed ace, Yovani Gallardo has a lot to build off of for 2012 after a staggeringly successful 2011 campaign.
Last season, Gallardo went 17-10 with a 3.52 ERA, 207 strikeouts and 8.99 K/9 IP, setting career-highs in wins, ERA and strikeouts. He also led all Brewers starters in just about every meaningful category to boot.
If last season was any indication of what this season holds in store, Gallardo will not only have a spot on the All Star roster, but he should vie for a considerable amount of Cy Young votes. Look for Milwaukee’s 26-year-old ace to take his game to the next level in 2012.
2012 Statistical Projection: 18-10, 3.15 ERA, 215 SO, 200 IP
2. Ryan Braun
Obviously, Ryan Braun’s production next season will ride largely on whether or not his 50-game suspension holds up, but since there hasn’t been any official word as to what’s to come, we’ll just assume he’ll be in the starting lineup on opening day.
Last season, Milwaukee’s beloved left fielder batted .332 wtih 33 home runs, 111 RBI and a league-leading .597 slugging percentage. Without the protection of Prince Fielder, Braun’s numbers are bound to slip ever so slightly. Nevertheless, Braun will surely be vying for consecutive NL MVPs next season.
2012 Statistical Projection: .320 BA, 35 HR, 105 RBI, .580 SLG
1. Zack Greinke
Zack Greinke knows as well as you and I know that he simply underperformed last season and wasn’t worth anything near the four top prospects Milwaukee gave up in return for his services.
That being said, one could argue there wasn’t a better pitcher in the second-half of 2011 than Greinke. In 15 starts, he went 9-3 and posted a 2.59 ERA with 202 strikeouts in 97.1 innings. If Greinke can extend the startling success that ended his 2011 campaign, there’s no doubt he’ll be Milwaukee’s top performer in 2012. Look for Milwaukee’s preeminent addition from a year ago to return to Cy Young form next season and for Melvin to re-sign him at season’s end.
2012 Statistical Projection: 20-8, 2.90 ERA, 215 SO, 200 IP