The Milwaukee Brewers (52-45) have been the darling of Major League Baseball so far this season.
The Brewers, thanks to youngsters playing well and a few shrewd free agent signings and trades, have played great baseball and are impressively well above .500 as we approach the trade deadline. Milwaukee was in the middle of a rebuild, but their 2017 surge has them ready to expedite the process.
Expedited rebuilds can be complex, especially when trying to consider the risk of making a run at the division or wild card berth early and continuing to rebuild even if it means not making a move to make a playoff run.
Let’s look at the recent history of teams whose rebuilds were expedited. The most recent examples came in the 2015 season, as the Astros, Cubs, and Twins had big years ahead of schedule. While each team made a move of some kind, only the Astros made one worthy of being dubbed a blockbuster, sending three elite prospects to the Brewers for center fielder Carlos Gomez and starter Mike Fiers. Those prospects included outfielders Domingo Santana, Brett Phillips, and pitcher Josh Hader. All three are currently on the Brewers’ 25-man roster.
According to several reports, the Brew Crew have been interested making an acquisition prior to or at the trade deadline this year. They have been linked to names like Sonny Gray, Gerrit Cole, Chris Archer, and before the Cubs nabbed him, Jose Quintana.
While many people haven’t believed that the Milwaukee Brewers are actually good enough to make a push here in the second half, I think there are two Chicago executives who do believe in them. Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer. The Chicago Cubs brass made no secret that they were in the market for young, controllable starting pitching to add to an underachieving World Series championship club.
The Cubs jumped at the opportunity to acquire Quintana even if it meant trading their top two prospects in return. While the main goal of the Cubs’ big acquisition was to add an arm for the next few years and help bolster their championship core, I also think keeping Quintana off the Brewers’ staff did cross their mind.
No, I don’t think Theo and Jed lay awake at night thinking about what the Brewers are doing, but consider this: While Esptein and Hoyer were part of the Red Sox front office, it stands to reason that there were several times the Red Sox made a move that not only helped their ball club, but kept players out of the Yankees’ hands, perhaps somewhat like Tuesday’s trade that sent Todd Frazier and David Robertson to New York and kept both away from Boston.
The Brewers got a taste of what it’s like to sit at the big kids’ table as they saw Quintana land with their neighbors 90 miles to the south. Is it the end of the world in the Brewers’ search for pitching the stretch run? No, but now that they know teams around baseball look at them as a legitimate contender and not just a pretender, they should conduct themselves as such and be just as aggressive as the teams trying to outbid them.
Lead photo courtesy Charles LeClaire—USA Today Sports