If the Brewers' emptying out their farm system to pick up Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum this winter didn't convince you that the Brewers were going to do everything possible to try to win the NL Central and more in 2011, their willingness to trade much of anything for Francisco Rodriguez and to play Russian Roulette with his $17 million option (!) in 2012 should probably clinch it for you. There's pretty much nothing Doug Melvin won't do to put the Brewers over the top before Prince Fielder hits the free agent market.
In the long run, this will probably play well for the Pirates (what happens after Fielder leaves in 2012 and Greinke and Marcum go in 2013?) but I'm guessing that it's going to make the division awfully tough for them to win in 2011. I already thought the Brewers were the best team in the division (I wrote most of this before the K-Rod trade last night; you can read it as analysis or as a reverse-jinx, if you're a Pirate fan), but the difference may be simply that Melvin is willing to do things that Neal Huntington simply can't be willing to do at this point. Even if the Pirates needed relief help and were willing to give up whatever the two prospects are that the Brewers just gave up, there's no chance in hell they'd acquire a guy that will make $17 million in 2012 just for finishing 21 more games this year. If the Brewers need to unload more good prospects (say, from last year's draft) to pick up a middling upgrade at shortstop, they'll do it and the Pirates will probably balk. If they need to outbid the Pirates to do so, they will.
The Pirates have some flexibility and some fringe prospects to trade, but they won't go further than that. Maybe things will be different in a few years as Andrew McCutchen faces down free agency, but the two teams just aren't in the same position right now. At least in 2011, that's probably going to work against the Pirates.
To me, the Brewers are the biggest enigma in baseball. When I look at the talent they have on their roster, I wonder why they aren't running away with the NL Central instead of being tied with a Wainwright-less Cardinals team and one game over Andrew McCutchen.I mean, if it weren't for the Reds' complete inability to close out ballgames this past weekend, the Brew Crew would have entered the break riding a losing streak. That's not to downplay what the Brewers did in that series, but I use that to highlight just how badly the team has underperformed relative to its talent levels.
On the one hand, I can see reason for the Pirates to just hold steady this year and wait for the Brewers to drop off in talent while guys like Tabata, Walker, and d'Arnaud refine their games and prospects like Taillon continue to move on up. On the other hand, the Brewers' underwhelming performance gives me thought that the Pirates should consider making a move or two in order to add to the offense. Tim WIlliams seems to think it would take a C-level hitting prospect to land Carlos Pena and Aramis Ramirez in a salary dump by the Cubs. While I would think the deal would take more to complete, I can't see the harm in it right now--that deal would provide a nice boost to the offense, and the return of Ramirez would be very symbolic for the franchise. (Note: I'm not advocating the Pirates make trades based on PR opportunities, just saying that it would make sense in a very big way.) The salary would be an issue, but with PNC starting to sell out more often, I wouldn't imagine there being much of a problem in finding the revenue.
Overall, my heart says go for it, but my brain tells me to think about the ramifications. But when I think about the team adding to the ML roster without really impacting the farm system, I think it makes sense.
Also, the chance of beating Milwaukee in their go-for-broke season with a team like this would be absolutely beautiful.
I think there is a line that separates "aggressive" from "desperate", and I agree the Brewers have crossed it; they have gone all-in for this season, and I'm not sure they really had to, since I'm not sure there is a team in the division right now that is going to be a year-in, year-out 95-win team for a while. Conversely, if the Pirates are where they are right now going into the deadline, how aggressive will NH be? Will he be willing to trade some of the guys who are a step below the crown jewels of the organization--the d'Arnauds, the Mercers, the Rudy Owens, possibly even Marte. Personally, I think you have to at least listen to those kind of deals; the Pirates will always have very narrow windows to contend in, and I think if you can make a deal where you can shoplift a division title with 86 wins without having to give up the A-list guys in your system, you have to think very carefully before you say "No, thanks."
@wkkortas Agreed. If the Brewers make the playoffs and put a run together, they will end up looking brilliant.
I hate to cheer for somebody to get hurt and I have nothing against John Axford, but I'd be a little giddy at the thought of Axford going down and the Brewers having K Rod finish too many games. It's just too comical not to laugh a little at the possibility of the Brewers stuck with that $17 million next year.
When I read about the K-Rod trade I had similar thoughts - the Brewers are going all in. Wouldn't it be sweet if we could turn around our bad run against them, beat them in the second half, and take the playoff spot they are trying so hard to get?
@nickjuneau24 I've been dreaming of the season-closing series, Pirates-Brewers to see who wins the division.