It is never too early to start talking about the trade deadline, especially when we can talk about would-be contenders that might unexpectedly end up being sellers rather than buyers at the deadline. Over the next few weeks, we'll be taking a look at many of these such teams, and there is a surprisingly large amount, and what exactly they might be looking to sell if they don't turn around their season in a hurry.
The Brewers are coming off a 2011 NLCS appearance that they loaded up for by gutting their farm system in order to acquire several key players for that post-season run. Now, the Brewers are paying the price. They lost Prince Fielder to free agency and now the big league roster is being ravaged by injuries, which has all added up to a very disappointing start to the 2012 season.
The NL Central is considered to be wide open, so Milwaukee shouldn't give up hope yet, but if they don't kick it into gear soon, the weakness of their division won't mean a thing.
So what can the Brewers potentially offer to the rest of the league?
Big Chips: Zack Greinke
The Brewers will be facing a tough choice: keep Greinke and work to re-sign him before he gets a massive payday in free agency after the season, or trade Greinke, their best asset, and get a big haul of prospects back to replenish their famished farm system? Odds are that the small market Brewers will ultimately decide that the nine-figure contract Greinke is likely to demand is just too rich for them. That's good news for the depleted upper levels of the Brewer minor league system since Greinke could end up being the best available starting pitcher on the trade market, especially if the Phillies catch fire and decline to shop Cole Hamels around.
Money Moves: Aramis Ramirez
Aramis Ramirez has been a major bust since the Brewers signed him to a 3-year, $36 million deal this last off-season. Plus, his contract is heavily backloaded to the point that he is owed $30 million of that AFTER this season, so the Brew Crew will have a lot of incentive to dump the underperforming slugger if given the chance at the deadline. As bad as a Aramis has been, Milwaukee might be able to find a taker since several teams have holes at third base right now.
Solid Pieces: Shaun Marcum
OK, fine, Marcum is probably better than a "solid piece" but his wretched 2011 post-season performance isn't going to artificially suppress his trade value. If Milwaukee decides that they want to hold onto Greinke, then the economics of that decision make it almost mandatory that they trade Shaun Marcum, who is also an impending free agent. Either way, the contending clubs will be happy because it means a very good pitcher is going to be available. The Brewers will be hoping that teams are so happy that they will pay Greinke-level prices in exchange for Marcum.
X-Factor: Francisco Rodriguez
K-Rod is a weird case. On one hand, he has the talent to arguably be the best reliever available on the trade market, especially since he can either stay in a setup role or get promoted back to closer by his new team. On the other hand, he hasn't been very good this season, so he is going to have to step it up to rebuild his value. On the mutant third hand, he is making a lot of money, $8 million this season, so the Brewers may move him regardless if it means they can save a few million bucks in the process.
Warm Bodies: Randy Wolf, Nyjer Morgan
Randy Wolf has an expiring contract and "veteran guile and grit." Old school GMs already can't wait to acquire him for a song.
Morgan is nothing more than a platoon player having a bad season, so he may not have much value, but he could make for nice bench depth on a contender. Plus, what I think we all can agree that playoff races are more fun when Tony Plush in involved.
But what they'll probably do is... keep Greinke and move Marcum and K-Rod. Big sweeping changes likely aren't in store for the Brew Crew who just handed their GM and manager contract extensions despite their sluggish start. Moving Marcum and Rodriguez, two players they know they aren't going to try to re-sign, is the best way for them to get the team in good position to reload for another playoff run in 2013 without admitting that they erred in their moves last off-season, namely signing Aramis Ramirez.
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