Monday, March 31, 2014

The 25 - 0 Down and 162 (& hopefully more) to Go

For those new to this space, The 25 is much like The 53 posts that I do for the Green Bay Packers or The 15 posts that I do for the Milwaukee Bucks.  For each iteration of the post throughout the season I rank the trade value of the entire active roster based on age, contract, health, and reasonable expected future performance.  Instead of writing a short blurb about each player, I will focus on a few with the most interesting changes since the last post.  Basically this post is meant to help Milwaukee Brewers general manager Doug Melvin properly value his assets for potential trades while simultaneously shinning light the biggest needs on The 25.

If that seems too abstract let me go over a simple example.  Right fielder Ryan Braun is probably the most talented player on The 25 despite coming off a 65-game suspension for use of performance enhancing drugs (PED's).  When you factor in Braun's mega contract and age, there are actually other players on The 25 that are more desirable to the other 29 MLB general managers so that is why he is not ranked number one.  Without further adu, here are my initial rankings of The 25 of the Brewers in 2014:

Player Rankings
1. Jean Segura (SS)
2. Carlos Gomez (CF)
3. Jonathan Lucroy (C)
4. Ryan Braun (RF)
5. Kyle Lohse (RSP)
6. Yovani Gallardo (RSP)
7. Matt Garza (RSP)
8. Wily Peralta (RSP)
9. Tyler Thornburg (RSP)
10. Scooter Gennett (2B)
11. Marco Estrada (RSP)
12. Khris Davis (LF)
13. Jim Henderson (RRP)
Will Smith (LRP)
15. Brandon Kintzler (RRP)
16. Aramis Ramirez (3B)
17. Wei-Chung Wang (RRP)
18. Logan Schafer (LF)
19. Mark Reynolds (1B)
20. Francisco Rodriguez (RRP)
21. Zach Duke (LRP)
22. Martin Maldonado (C)
23. Jeff Bianchi (3B)
24. Lyle Overbay (1B)
25. Rickie Weeks (2B)
Disabled List
1. Tom Gorzelanny (LRP, 15-DL)
#1) Jean Segura (SS): Melvin is going to look back at Opening Day 2014 as the start of the official count down to Segura's exit from Milwaukee.  Melvin and Segura's agent discussed an extension but apparently were so far off that negotiations brown down right after they started.  The Atlanta Braves recently signed shortstop Andrelton Simmons to a seven-year, $58 million contract.  That is a little rich compared to what Segura should command but is at least a relevant data point for the negotiations.  I actually don't understand Melvin's thinking given that the the first long-term contract extension for young studs (e.g. Tampa Bay Rays third basemen Evan Longoria's six-year, $17 million contract with three years and $30 million in rolling guarantees with a $3 million buyout to stretch it to a ridiculously affordable nine-year, $47 million contract or Braun's initial eight-year, $45 million contract) are NOT financially crippling. The Brewers should get Segura locked up long-term on the cheap(er) now but proceed cautiously on his second long-term extension because that one can be a back breaker (e.g. Braun's five-year, $105 million extension).

#4) Ryan Braun (RF): We know that Braun tested positive for the use of some performance enhancing drug in the same season he was voted the N.L. MVP.  Braun fought the positive results and ultimately pulled the reverse Al Capone. We know Braun was ultimately suspended but the specifics of why Braun was suspended for 65-games is still not completely flushed out given that he apparently negotiated a shorter suspension.  That worked out well for Braun since last season he was scheduled to earn $8.5 million before his 65-game suspension so he lost out on $3.4 million (65/162 * $8.5 million) but returns to the field this season when his salary jumps to $10 million before going to $12 million in 2015.

I am sure fans will cheer Braun in the home opener and sanctimonious baseball writers, the same ones that blindly covered the Bonds/Sosa/McGwire PED fueled home-run era with kid gloves, will decry Brewers fans as stupid.  I am torn on this one because if Braun wasn't so indignant when he won his PED suspension appeal, I might cut him some slack but the way he savagely attacked the sample collector is unforgivable to me.

Plus Braun roped in Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers into backing his "innocence".  Since then, Rodgers severed his personal and professional (used to co-own 8-Twelve MVP Bar & Grill) ties with Braun.  The Brewers have Braun under contract through at least 2020 so let's hope the healing process can being today.  Hopefully if Braun can put up decent numbers while clean, at least that would allow the Brewers to get some assets in return for Braun but if Braun struggles sans PED's then Melvin has a potential franchise crippling contract on The 25 for almost a decade.

#10) Scooter Gennett (2B): Hopefully we are in the infancy of another home grown youth movement for the Brewers.  In the mid-to-late 2000's the Brewers graduated the likes of Braun, Prince Fielder, and Rickie Weeks from their farm system.  Since then, they failed to graduate an everyday player from the farm system that they drafted at any position besides catcher.  Gennett is gunning to replace the much maligned and overpaid Weeks, which is one of the last everyday players Melvin drafted and developed.  Besides Gennett, Melvin is placing tons of faith in left fielder Khris Davis to give the Brewers two graduates of their farm system via the draft as opening day starters for the first time since the late 2000's.

#17) Wei-Chung Wang (RRP): The most improbable member of The 25 went from pitching in single-A for the Pittsburgh Pirates last season to the majors this season.  Melvin selected Wang in the Rule 5 Draft, which means Wang has to stay on The 25 (or disable list) for the entire 2014 season or be sent back to the Pirates for half the amount the Brewers originally paid for Wang.  That condition on Wang's contract with the associated "buy-out" for sending him back to the Pirates makes it seem like he did not earn his spot on The 25 but in spring training Wang posted a 3.86 ERA to earn his spot on The 25 irrespective of the conditions of his contract.

I am not a huge fan of making broad season predictions, especially in baseball because teams evolve throughout the lengthy season, but for some reason I have a good feeling about the Brewers this season.  I am not ready to guarantee they will make the playoffs but I think it is more likely than not that they make the post-season for just the 5th time in 46 seasons and the first time since 2011.

For those lucky enough to attend Opening Day as the Brewers host the Braves, enjoy.  Make sure to check back in this space for regular coverage of the front office moves by Melvin throughout the season.

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