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If you're not up to date on your trade rumors, the Milwaukee Brewers have reportedly been in talks with the Cleveland Indians for about four or five days now. The rumors started flying on Wednesday when Brewers' scouts were spotted watching C.C. Sabathia's last start against the Chicago White Sox. Sabathia went eight innings in that game giving up five runs (four earned) while striking out five in a no decision. At the same time, Indians scouts were being distributed to different Brewers' Minor League's affiliates. Reports had them in Brevard County and Huntsville watching Brewers' Minor League Player of the Year, third baseman, Taylor Green and top prospects Matt LaPorta, Mat Gamel, and Alcides Escobar.
Ken Rosenthal was the first reporter to suggest a deal that were already on the table, suggesting Escobar and LaPorta were offered for Sabathia. But as usual, Rosenthal got whiff of a deal and just spewed out a few names, hoping to hit at least one. Chances are he's right about one of them, but Tom Haudricourt of the Milwakee Journal Sentinal immediately shot down the idea that Melvin would be willing to give up two of the Huntsville five. Buster Olney then threw in J.J. Hardy into the bunch. Another farce. Do these guys ever go on true knowledge? Or are they just looking for readers? Anyways, Haurdricout was able to dispel this one as well, since he has more inside opportunities than these guys.
Finally, late last night, Haudricourt spelled out the deal that he believes has been offered. The deal includes Matt LaPorta, Taylor Green and an additional prospect, which he suggests is Lorenzo Cain. This is a pretty good deal for the Indians, though it may or may not be the best off they will receive. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who have a pretty good farm system themselves, are also pursuing Sabathia, and may have a bit more to offer including third baseman, Josh Bell, shortstop, Ivan DeJesus and pitchers James McDonald, Scott Elbert, and Jon Meloan. But if this deal does, in fact, go through for the Brewers, what are they really losing.
I suggest not that much. Let's consider the Brewers' current roster situation. In the outfield, they have just signed Ryan Braun to a seven year deal beyond this season. Corey Hart is arbitration eligible after this season, meaning the Brewers have control of him for at least three seasons, and you can fully expect the Brewers to do their best to sign him to a long term deal if at all possible. It probably won't be Ryan Braun numbers, but it will be significant enough. That leaves center field, which at this point is being roamed by Mike Cameron. At 35 and with a $10 million option for next season, you know he'll be gone. This could open the door for Tony Gwynn Jr., but you can only speculate what the organization has in store for center field.
As for the infield, the Brewers appear to be dedicated to J.J. Hardy and Rickie Weeks for quite some time. Even though Rickie has underperformed considerably, he still shows the physical attributes to be one of the best second basemen in the league, and I have a feeling the Brewers are willing to stick with him for years to come since no one in the system could replace him in a pinch. Hardy is slowly but surely becoming a fan favorite, and if he can continue to produce with average everything, he's the perfect fit for this team. He won't make a ton of money and he'll fill one of the toughest voids to get in baseball. That's what the Brewers like.
The corners are a little sketchy. Bill Hall is under control for four more years, but he's not particularly good and is making a considerable amount of cash. Prince Fielder is under control for three more years and has made it clear that he will not sign a long term deal. But let's be honest, Prince probably only has about 2-3 years left in the NL. His defense is already sketchy and as his body continues to change as a result of his genetics, it will not be getting any better. With that being said, the Brewers will likely keep him around for two more years.
In the Minor League system, the Brewers are stacked in the outfield with Michael Brantley, Tony Gwynn Jr., Matt LaPorta, Lorenzo Cain, Caleb Gindl, and Cole Gillespie. LaPorta is really the only big time prospect, so getting rid of him seems like a risky situation. But the Brewers infield prospects often have a problem with defense. Their top infielders consist of third baseman Mat Gamel, shortstop Alcides Escobar and 2B Hernan Iribarren. Iribarren really isn't worth talking about. He's clearly a future back-up in the league if he makes it at all.
Gamel has been improving consistently at the hot corner, but his footwork causes him to struggle with his throws to first. While the Brewers roving infield instructor thinks he has the ability to become average with his defense, many believe he'll have to move to first or the outfield if he plans on making it in the bigs. Alcides Escobar has a plus arm to go with plus range. His error total is pretty large, but that goes along with the plus range. There were concerns about his ability at the plate at the beginning of the season, but those have been erradicated since, batting .331/.359/.446. As you can see, he still needs time to understand the strikezone, but he's got talent. Elsewhere, Taylor Green is batting .297/.381/.452 at the hot corner for the A+ Brevard County squad. Green shows an ability to take a walk, which is great and could be a big loss, but he struggles on the defensive end as well. Ultimately the knowledge of the strike zone puts Green one up on Escobar and may be the reason for the Indians inquiry.
If this move goes through the Brewers lose their top prospect in the outfield, a mid-level prospect in the outfield as well and a third base prospect who is at least three years away from the bigs. Interestingly, these moves may help the log jam in the farm system. The Brewers can now move Mat Gamel to the outfield or first base without blocking Matt LaPorta. Furthermore, guys like Michael Brantley and Tony Gwynn Jr. get a little more confidence that they have a future with the big league ball club. On top of that, the Brewers get a top-notch starter who, if he decides to not sign with the team, will net two first round picks. That would likely give Jack and Doug four first round picks (if Sheets left as well), which is hardly a sacrifice in my book, considering Parra and Gallardo have showed enough talent to anchor the rotation.
This move just makes sense. If the Brewers think they're going to trade Fielder in two years, they can move Gamel over to first and play him in Nashville next season after shipping Brad Nelson somewhere. If they sign Hardy long term, they'll get something good in return the following season for a big league-ready Alcides Escobar. In the end, it's a win win for the Crew and the Indians. The Brewers gain flexibility and start to seriously look like a playoff contender, while the Indians build considerable depth into their system and have a major league ready first baseman/outfielder/DH to come up in a pinch. Unless the Dodgers really blow them away, I would not be surprised to see the Brewers get Sabathia in the next week or two. They may have to up the ante a little bit on Lorenzo Cain, but any other outfield prospect may go just fine because Cleveland cannot deal with Delucci and Guitierrez in their outfield for much longer.
Should be fun to see how it plays out.