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In 2007 the Brewers made a barrage of moves to try and improve their bullpen. Though this never really panned out, today I want to look at the trades we've completed after the last few years and decide if the moves turned out to be worth anything, or if they were epic disasters.
The Move: First let's go back to Dana Eveland at the request of one of my loyalest readers. In November 2006 the Brewers traded away Doug Davis Dana Eveland and David Krynzel in return for Greg Aquino, Johnny Estrada and Claudio Vargas.
What Did We Think?: At the beginning of this, I was stoked. Johnny Estrada was a switch hitting catcher with pop, Claudio Vargas had a live arm with lots of potential and I didn't have to watch Doug Davis pitch any more. Don't get me wrong, Doug is a very serviceable pitcher, but he's like Steve Trachsel reincarnated: Very deliberate and slow pace. I can stand it.
What Happened?: Initially the trade looked fantastic for the Brewers who put all three guys on the big league squad.
Aquino started off on fire for the Brewers, not giving up a run in his first six appearances, but struggled unbelievable with runners on and ultimately went on the DL with a 'phantom' injury. I say it's a phantom injury because he had been optioned to AAA, and somehow got hurt on the way there, meaning the Brewers had to pay him a big league salary while on the DL. He would return for a September call up and struggle a bit, but mad a good enough case for himself to earn a job in Baltimore, where he has exploded with a 14.21 ERA in just 6.3 IP.
Vargas was outstanding for the Brewers to start the year. While his command was questionable at best, Claudio earned the name Houdini by mid-season for sneaking out of jams unscathed. Eventually it caught up to him though and he would be removed from the starting rotation despite his 11 victories (Because those matter right Dave Bush?). In the end Vargas would be given his outright release this spring so he could find a job, which he did in the Mets minor league system. Since then he has been called up and has started and lost two games for the Mets giving up six earned runs over 11.1 innings.
Johnny Estrada... well Johnny hurt this team immensely and ultimately got traded for Guillermo Mota, which has been a positive thus far. But in 2007, Johnny was a .278/.296/.403 hitter, which is surprisingly close to his career numbers which are .278/.318/.401. The unfortunate thing about those numbers is that they don't tell the whole story. Estrada dogged it constantly, hurt or not and GIDP'd 16 times during the year, most of which felt like pivotal times. He marred the locker room with bad energy and ultimately didn't get along with management, especially Ned Yost who he got into an altercation with. In the end, the Brewers would sign Jason Kendall to a two year deal and immediately ship the cancer out.
So three guys in: All three out at the end of the 2007 season. What about the D'Backs?
Doug Davis did what Doug Davis has always done in his career, which is walk batters at a ridiculous rate, but still pitch around 200 innings and get you 10-12 wins, which is exactly what the D'Backs wanted. Oddly enough, we're paying a guy $10 million dollars to do that instead of $7.75 mil, which is a totally different story. Nevertheless, Doug did well with Arizona amassing a 4.25 ERA and winning 13 games. He will return to the team this week after being diagnosed and treated for thyroid cancer.
Dana Eveland would get his chance in 2007 to play, but struggled mightily in the only five games they let him play in before getting traded to the A's in December in the Dan Haren. Since then Eveland has been unbelievable. Leave it to A's to find talent that looks fallen but really isn't. Eveland is 4-3 this year with a 2.90 ERA and a 1.161 WHIP, and looks like a legitimate big league pitcher, though he still has trouble with his command at times. Sometimes it takes a different set of eyes and a new backdrop to get pitchers on task, but Eveland has some talent and could do extremely well in the future.
Dave Krynzel was once a big time prospect for the Brewers, but he lagged greatly on his way up and refused to take advice from his team while leading a wild lifestyle. It looks like AZ may be having the same problem with Dave, who has only played in 27 games since leaving the Brewers, leading me to believe he's been on the DL for quite some time and doesn't plan on reviving his career. For all I know he's out of baseball.
Grade: C-. Doug Melvin really screwed the donkey on this one. If he would have just kept Doug Davis, didn't pay Jeff Suppan and waited for Eveland the Brewers would be a very different team, but that's a big IF. Nevertheless, the eventual result was a wasted trade where the Brewers left the deal one year later with none of those players on their roster and two teams ended up with starting pitchers who are clear major leaguers.
The Move: In July of 2007, Doug Melvin traded Grant Balfour for hard throwing Seth McClung from the Devil Rays.
What Did We Think?: Let's be honest, nobody really cared. Balfour was a live arm who wasn't throwing strikes and so was Seth McClung. The swap was just to save two pitchers from getting snagged up by waivers.
What Happened?: Seth McClung has slowly but surely made progress in a Brewer uniform. Since arriving, Seth has purposefully taken three or four MPH off his fastball to control it better and it has help immensely. At one point he could toss 100 MPH missiles at any time, but the fear was in the hitter because 'Wild Thing' Vaughn was on the mound. McClung got a call up in August 2007 and struggled immensely to start, as eh could not control his breaking pitches, but as the rest of the season progressed, McClung began to show signs of life and ended the season with a 3.75 ERA over 12 innings of relief allowing only 1.33 batters to reach per inning. This year, McClung has been relatively solid. The walks continue to plague him, but the K numbers are their, having struck out 20 in 20.1 innings of work. As a result, he's been tabbed to join the starting rotation this Saturday.
Grant Balfour's jump to the Devil Rays was not so successful. He immediately was given the opportunity to pitch, but could not seem to command his pitches, walking 16 over 22, while striking out 27. Nevertheless, his ERA ballooned to over six and is currently pitching in the Rays AAA minor league affiliate in Durham where he has a 0.45 ERA in 20 innings of work and a 0.65 WHIP. Wow. Maybe he's figured something out.
Grade: B. No one really knows if Balfour is going to pan out or if he's a straight AAAA pitcher. Nevertheless, he has the stuff, primarily the fastball, that can turn him into a really good pitcher. McClung is beyond serviceable and probably won't be the answer to the Brewer's rotation woes, but you can't complain about what he's done so far. Neither team wins this one giving Melvin a deserving B.
The Move: Three days prior to trading for McClung the Brewers traded Will Inman, Joe Thatcher and Steve Garrison to the Padres for Scott Linebrink.
What Did We Think?: I was livid. The Brewers gave up two big prospects in Thatcher and Inman. Thatcher was the only lefty prospect who was showing legitimate progress and Inman was supposedly a top 10 prospect. Even worse, rarely does a trade for a reliever work out for a team mid-season, especially a struggling one like Scott Linebrink.
What Happened?: Linebrink came in and pitched pretty well for the Brewers, which was a breath of fresh air, but when the season came to a close, the Brewers didn't even talk to him about a contract as they spent their entire time trying to re-sign Cordero, which they failed at. Linebrink would then sign with the White Sox and has been damn solid, throwing 20 innings and giving up only three earnies (1.35 ERA).
Joe Thatcher was a huge positive for the Padres down the stretch, tossing 21 innings while amassing a 1.29 ERA in the final few months of baseball. Unfortunately, he would give up quite a few big runs in the series against the Brewers that would eliminate them from the playoffs. This year Joe has struggled mightily, amassing a 7.45 ERA over 19.1 innings of baseball. The problem may not be that big though considering hitters BAbip is well over .330. Still, it doesn't look like he was as ready as I thought.
Will Inman continues to do well in the minors as a AA pitcher for San Antonio. Inman has pitched 47.2 innings in nine starts this year and has struck out 50 while only walking 19. He has a 2.46 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP which his very promising, especially considering he's only given up two homeruns this year. Inman is still a few years away, but this could be the sign of a huge mistake.
Steve Garrison continues to look like a solid pitcher in AA-San Antonio, but is likely a little bet behind Inman as far as stuff goes. That hasn't stopped him from doing particularly well. In eight starts Garrison has tossed 42 innings, striking out 27 and walking 15 on his way to a 3.86 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. Not bad for a fourth year professional.
Grade: C. Linebrink may have done well with the Brewers, but they did nothing to keep him around and now he's having another solid year. Throw in the idea that Inman might be a solid starter in the future and Garrison a serviceable reliever and the Brewers really sacrificed their future for two month fix in the pen.
So Doug, you sucked last year. Sorry man. The moves at the time didn't look that bad, but in the end they have bit this team hard in 2008. That's not exactly why they're playing awful, but it scares me as far as what we may have lost in the future. The Eveland thing is tough to swallow. He probably wouldn't have been as good as he is now if it wasn't for the path he took, but you have to wonder what the Brewers could have done to help him understand what he needed to do here to be a better pitcher. If he turns into a consistent starter, the "Doug Melvin is Gold," saying has to be changed to, "Doug Melvin gives away gold." In years past he always seemed to get more than he gave, but things may have turned a corner in 2007.