Starting pitching possibilities

30 06 2008

UPDATE 06-30-08 1:39 pm – Here are a couple more names you can add to the possible starting pitchers. Jonathan Sanchez and Matt Cain are just a couple of rumors that are coming out of San Fran.

RHP Derek Lowe (Los Angeles Dodgers)08: $10M

RHP Matt Cain (San Francisco Giants)08: $0.7M, 09: $2.65M, 10: $4.25M, 11: $6.25M (club option)

LHP Jonathan Sanchez (San Francisco Giants)08: $0.395M – Under team control through 2012

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With all the trade rumors flying around concerning the Milwaukee Brewers and a starting pitcher, I thought it would be a good opportunity to take a look at some options connected with the Crew. Sorry about the lack of a game-wrap last night. The game sucked, and I’ve been working on this.

LHP C.C. Sabathia (Cleveland Indians)08: $9M

The Milwaukee Brewers have been most closely linked to the big left-hander out of Cleveland. The 2008 season has not gone as planned for the Indians, and they are almost certainly sellers at this point in the game.

C.C. scuffled out of the gate in 2008. Last year’s Cy Young leader sported a 7.88 ERA after April, and the baseball world wondered what was going on. Was he hurt? Did he get complacent?

Turns out nothing was wrong whatsoever. Sabathia may have even taken it personally. In May, C.C. dominated with a 2.44 ERA. He’s gotten even better in June. The biggest name on the trade market in 2008 has a 1.89 ERA this month. That is enough to make any team salivate nearing the trade deadline.

Okay, we’ve established that C.C. is the most dominate pitcher available come July, but how does he fit in Milwaukee? C.C. would certainly be only a rental player, as Milwaukee does not have the payroll to give him the Johan Santana-like contract he desires after the season is done. With that said, a Ben SheetsC.C. Sabathia top of the rotation would be the best in baseball. That is not a hyperbole by any stretch of the imagination, either.

It would take a talented group of prospects to get Sabathia to Milwaukee, and Mat Gamel or Matt LaPorta would almost certainly have to be included in the package. Cleveland’s farm system lacks power in the outfield and at third base. Either prospect would make a lot of sense for the Indians. I would suspect Cleveland would also demand either Jonathan Lucroy or Angel Salome in the deal. Perhaps Milwaukee could throw in Cole Gillespie/Chris Errecart into the mix and get Sabathia to Milwaukee.

When it comes down to it, it will cost three or four of Milwaukee’s best prospects to get C.C. Sabathia. Is it worth it for two and a half months of service? Unfortunately, the answer is not that simple. If Sabathia could get Milwaukee to the post-season, it would definitely be worth it. If Milwaukee is not playing in October after making the move, however, Doug Melvin just gave away its future core and got nothing in return. Sure, they would get two draft picks, but replacing Mat Gamel or Matt LaPorta with either of those is highly unlikely.

If Doug pulls the trigger, it would mean 2008 is an all-or-nothing campaign. That’s dangerous for a small market team. I think Brewers fans would much rather go after someone with multiple years left on his contract. This would help ease the pain of losing Ben Sheets after the season is over. There are plenty of others that could greatly help the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008 and beyond.

RHP Zack Greinke (Kansas City Royals)08: $1.4M – Under team control through 2010

One of the biggest surprises in 2008 has been the play of Zack Greinke for the Kansas City Royals. The 24-year old has a sparkling 3.40 ERA thus far this season, and many Brewers fans (especially those at Brwe Crew Ball) are calling for a Greinke acquisition over Sabathia because he would be under the team’s control for longer.

Greinke would certainly cost just as much, if not more, as far as prospects are concerned. His value has skyrocketed over the past three months, and Milwaukee would have to pay dearly to get him. Gamel/LaPorta, Salome/Lucroy, plus a major league ready player like J.J. Hardy or perhaps a pitcher. If not a major league caliber player, two more prospects would be needed. Needless to say, it would be quite the haul for Kansas City.

Greinke is the en vogue pitcher of 2008, and he is a fine young pitcher. His success in 2008, however, has been bloated because of a fantastic March/April. Since those two months when he put up 1.25 ERA, he has posted a pedestrian 4.38 and 4.65 ERA respectively in the past two months. The young right-hander has been susceptible to the long ball lately, giving up eight home runs this month alone. That would not bode well for pitching in Miller Park.

It would be a nice addition for the Brewers, and it very well may put them over the top in 2008. Greinke is not a staff ace at this point, however. He is not on the same level as C.C. Sabathia, and Doug Melvin would have to put more on the table to get the Kansas City Royal. If Doug made the move, I could get behind it. The price is too high, however, in my opinion. Giving up four elite prospects for someone who has gotten worse as the year has gone on is not my first choice.

RHP Rich Harden (Oakland Athletics)08: $4.5M, 09: $7M (club option)

Rich is not definitely on the market, but Billy Beane is always willing to listen to offers. When healthy, Harden is one of the top 10 pitchers in the league, as is evidenced by his 2.15 ERA this season. The obvious problem is that the right-hander is rarely healthy. He has the Ben Sheets problem, that is. When on the mound, he is dominate, but that seems to rarely happen.

The Brewers could conceivably get Harden for a little less than Greinke because of his history of injuries. That is, if Rich Harden was on any other team, Doug Melvin may have a chance to get a steal. That doesn’t happen with Billy Beane, however. He waits and waits until he gets what he wants. Beane is one of the best GMs in the game for a reason. Other teams will not cheat him.

One thing Milwaukee does have going for them with Oakland is that Beane seems to go after quantity rather than pure quality of prospects. He gets as many as he can get and hopes to hit on a couple of players. That’s the philosophy he used when moving Dan Haren to Arizona during the off-season. Milwaukee would not have to touch their major league team to get Harden in a Brewers uniform.

The real question mark remains Harden’s health. Does Doug Melvin feel Harden’s arm troubles are behind him, and he can be a productive member of the Brewers starting rotation for the next year and a half? If the answer is yes, Melvin will not be afraid to post an offer like Mat Gamel/Matt LaPorta, Angel Salome, and Zach Braddock. Those three should be enough to get Harden to Milwaukee. If not, the risk is not worth it the price.

LHP Erik Bedard (Seattle Mariners)08: $7M – Under team control through 2009

Seattle gave up the farm to get Bedard to the West Coast during the off-season, but the results have not been what they had hoped. With a new man at the helm of the team, Bedard is almost certainly on the trading block. He should also not cost as much as Seattle paid to get him in January.

I think Mat Gamel/Matt LaPorta, Cole Gillespie, and Tony Gwynn Jr. should be enough to get Bedard to Milwaukee. If not, a player like Caleb Gindl or Amaury Rivas would need to be thrown in the mix. I don’t think Jeremy Jeffress is going anywhere this summer. Zach Braddock would be too much, as well. Seattle lacks offense in general in their farm system, so a package like this could get the deal done.

Is Bedard worth it though? Bedard has never pitched over 200 innings in his big league career, and he has already experienced back spasms this year. The left-hander is not a sure thing to take the mound like Rich Harden, and not as dominate when on the mound. Before this year, however, Erik had consistently improved on his previous year’s stats. That is always a trend a GM likes to see when making a move.

Another interesting aspect of Bedards stats in 2008 is that left-handed hitters have had more success than right-handers – .254 BA to .226 BA, respectively. He has also struggled away from the pitcher-friendly park in Seattle. Bedard could be had without costing Milwaukee too much, certainly less than the above mentioned pitchers. He also has a chance to be just as dominate as any of them. Melvin would be buying low at this point, which is always a positive aspect in a trade. It gives him some leverage when designing a package.

That is the main difference between Bedard and the rest of the pitchers on this list. Doug Melvin would be buying low, banking that a change of scenery will get Bedard back on track. It is interesting though that a 3.97 ERA is a disappointing season for the left-hander. He could be a nice pick-up for the Milwaukee Brewers. The problem is that Bedard only has 70.1 innings pitched in 2008. Compare that to Sheets’ 104.3, and you can see the durability concerns.

LHP Cliff Lee (Cleveland Indians)08: $3.75M, 09: $5.75M, 10: $8M (club option)

Cliff Lee has been a big surprise for the Cleveland Indians in 2008, and he is the cheapest option for the Milwaukee Brewers other than Zack Greinke. I believe that Doug Melvin would be wise to go after the overlooked pitcher in Cleveland. Lee has bounced back nicely from a below-average 2007, and his stats are great.

After an absolutely sensational 0.96 ERA in March/April, Cliff has regressed a bit in May and June. Emphasize a bit. He has a 2.88 and 3.41 ERA, respectively, but his control has remained fantastic. The lefty has a 16:90 BB:K ratio. That would be a relief for a Milwaukee Brewers pitching staff that has walked its fair share of opposing batters in 2008. The 29-year old also keeps the ball in the ballpark. Only five long balls have been hit off Lee in 2008, which would be very important in Miller Park. Zack Greinke has had surrendered more home runs in June alone.

I would think it would cost about the same to get Lee as Sabathia, just because of the fact that Lee is under contract through 2010. It would again be the likes of Mat Gamel/Matt LaPorta, Angel Salome/Jonathan Lucroy, and perhaps Zach Braddock. I would like to stress that Lee is most likely not the pitcher who has a 2.34 ERA in 2008. He is most likely someone that will fall between his 3.79 ERA he had in 2005 and his 4.40 ERA he had in 2006. With that said, the Brewers would be getting a #2/#3 pitcher for the next two and a half years. Melvin would be wise to give Lee a look.

LHP Jarrod Washburn (Seattle Mariners)08: $9.85M, 09: $10.35M

In one of the more interesting developments this June, Jarrod Washburn has reemerged as a viable option in the trade market. After posting a horrendous 9.30 ERA in May, the veteran left-hander has rebounded with a 2.93 ERA in June. He is making a serious push to up his market value as the trade deadline approaches. The price tag may be a hindrance to Milwaukee, however.

Cole Gillespie, Lorenzo Cain, and Brad Nelson should be more than enough to get him to Milwaukee. There is no elite talent in that package, but let’s be serious, Jarrod Washburn is not an elite talent. He is more in the mold of a left-handed Jeff Suppan. I realize how unappealing that sounds at the trade deadline. This is the most unlikely option, but his name has been connected with the Brewers, so it does warrant a look.

Overall

Milwaukee has plenty of options. If the price is right, any of these options would be a good pickup for the Brewers – minus Jarrod Washburn. Out of all of these pitchers, Zack Greinke and Rich Harden look to be the most unlikely. The Kansas City Royals have developed more of a “win now” mentality, and the are reportedly trying to sign Greinke to a contract extension. Harden is unlikely because of his injury history. Milwaukee does not want Sheets and Harden atop their rotation. Both are apt to be injured within the next couple of months. That would certainly be a negative for the Crew.

Doug Melvin has the best chance with Erik Bedard and C.C. Sabathia. Erik Bedard has a reportedly surly attitude in the clubhouse, which may speed up his ticket out of Seattle. The Brewers have the offensive prospects Seattle so desperately needs in their depleted farm system. The chances that C.C. comes to Milwaukee is augmented simply because of the big name attractiveness of him. He is far and away the best option on the market, and he has the best chance of pushing Milwaukee to the post-season. That alone will make him the number one target for Doug Melvin. Last year’s Scott Linebrink trade also shows that the front office is willing to mortgage a bit of the future away for a shot at the playoffs. I may not be a fan of it, but it does make some sense. If the Crew is still in the thick of the NL Central battle come mid-July, Doug may pull the trigger on Sabathia.

Cliff Lee is a long shot, but he would be a very intriguing pick-up for the Brewers. His control and his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark is very attractive at this point in the season, and Milwaukee would have him under contract through the 2010 season. The big downside is that they would be buying high, as he’s not as good as he’s showing right now. With that said, he could be very effective for the next two and a half years in the front end of the rotation.

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9 responses

29 06 2008
Aaron

I’d be down with Greinke or Lee. Low price tag, cheap salary and control for at least one more season. I think we could get one of these guys without LaPorta or Gamel. I once was on the Harden bust, but I caught him throwing the other day and just was not convinced. Does this really put us over the top though? 1250 keeps saying 8th inning guy. Eh… how about a high on-base guy in center? I really think the Cameron experiment is over. He has enough ABs now to show his true worth. Find a guy with a .370-.390 OBP and put him in that two hole.

30 06 2008
Bernie Carbo

Greinke would be a feel good story coming to Milwaukee and reuniting with Riske who apparently reached out to Greinke during his time of major social phobia disorder or whatever….plus like Aaron says…cheaper salary and control for more than one season…and maybe a more realistic fit for Milwaukee….smaller market, kinder fan base.

Depending on Parra and McLung for quality innings as the season moves past the halfway point is very risky….If we can azquire Greinke and not deal LaPorta or Gamel, we have to make that trade…And if the Royals ask for Gwynn, we have to let him go. He is wasting away at AAA…..with a .400 OB%…drives me nuts to hear talk of trading Fielder due to a free agency future when we signed Cameron with Gwynn waiting…waiting…waiting.

30 06 2008
Bernie Carbo

You mentioned that Greinke would cost too much, but you also mentioned that he is not the same pitcher he was back in early May…so he really has only 2 quality months to show in his career and his mental state is always a factor. Maybe, it wouldn’t cost as much as we think..

30 06 2008
Aaron

I wouldn’t say Greinke’s a two month pitcher. His numbers from last year are indicative of a 3.50-4.00 ERA with pretty good K:BB numbers and a solid 1.3 WHIP in the AL. That should translate pretty well in the Central.

30 06 2008
Aaron

Wow, if you could get Matt Cain and give away a LaPorta or Gamel, you’re actually not mortgaging your future at all. Are those salaries ‘arbitration’ savvy? Because I those really aren’t locked in. I’m all for getting that guy. We would have the best upside rotation in the league with Yo, Matt and Manny. If that’s a real possibility, I would be working my ass off to get it done.

30 06 2008
Jim Breen

It would take quite a haul to get Matt Cain out of San Fran…but they’re open to trading anyone but Lincecum right now. Or so I hear.

30 06 2008
Kyle

Can I suggest someone else? Aaron Harang! One of the most consistent pitchers in the NL, the Reds are in rebuild mode with a lot of young good players… Would take some of our young prospects for him I am sure! His 3-10 record is not indicative of how he is playing this year… would really solidify the Brewers rotation

30 06 2008
Aaron

Harang is a true ace. Probably the most under-appreciated one as well. It would take more than just a couple of prospects to get him. I’m not sure how long Harang is under the Reds control, but if it’s a couple of month rental, it’s a waste of time.

30 06 2008
Jim Breen

Harang’s not going anywhere, boys. Sorry.

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