When the week began, the Milwaukee Brewers had a losing team and a below-average farm system. As the trade deadline expired Friday afternoon, the Brewers succeeded in improving the future of the franchise at the expense of even more losses this season. But that was exactly what needed to happen.
Outfielders Carlos Gomez and Gerardo Parra, starting pitcher Mike Fiers and relief pitcher Jonathan Broxton were all traded. Including last week’s deal to unload Aramis Ramirez, that’s five big leaguers out the door.
In their place are seven minor league players, several of them highly regarded. The haul was so good for Milwaukee that the list of its best prospects underwent a significant shakeup.
Based on the MLB Pipeline’s rankings, the Brewers have a new No. 2, No. 4, No. 11, No. 15 and No. 28 prospect. Being able to add two top-four prospects can only be viewed as a positive for the work that general manager Doug Melvin did.
Outfielder Brett Phillips was reportedly deemed as "untouchable" by the Houston Astros. By Melvin including Fiers along with Gomez, Houston decided to remove that tag from Phillips and made him the headliner of the package Milwaukee got in return. Phillips, who turned 21 years old in late May, is known for his big arm and plus bat (both with contact and power). Though he’ll begin his Brewers career in Double-A Biloxi, it’s conceivable that he’ll be ready to contribute at the major league level by 2017.
Milwaukee wasn’t done raiding Houston’s quality minor-league squads though. Outfielder Domingo Santana, who was the Astros’ No. 7 prospect, has now become the fourth best prospect for the Brewers. At 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, Santana has plenty of power and arm strength. The 22-year-old has had a brief taste of MLB action, hitting two home runs earlier this season for Houston.
The two pitchers the Astros included were both good enough to join the MLB Pipeline list of top Milwaukee prospects: 21-year-old lefty Josh Hader (No. 15) and 22-year-old right-hander Adrian Houser (No. 28).
In a straight-up swap with the Orioles that sent Parra to Baltimore, the Brewers added 22-year-old right-handed pitcher Zach Davies. The undersized (only 150 pounds) changeup specialist became No. 11 on Milwaukee’s prospects list.
When the Brewers went all-out for contender status, first in 2008 to acquire CC Sabathia and then again in 2011 to get Zack Greinke, it meant depleting the farm system in order to secure those two prized arms. At some point, Milwaukee needed to go the opposite direction. With a 44-59 record entering the weekend and 21.5 games out of first place in the Central division, it was obvious that now was the time for it.
But did the Brewers sell hard enough?
Jonathan Lucroy, Jean Segura, Adam Lind, Francisco Rodriguez, Neal Cotts, Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza all still call Milwaukee home. While more trade action could take place in August, the process will require a player going on waivers. That could be possible with a player like Lohse, but barring completely unforeseen circumstances, Lucroy, Segura and Lind are all finishing the season as Brewers.
Melvin isn’t going to say how much – if at all – those players were discussed in potential deals, but Milwaukee certainly stopped short of a fire sale.
Eyes were clearly set towards the future, but not all the way down the line at the 2020 season. The moves Melvin made – and didn’t make – suggest the team believes it will be competitive again as early as 2017.
The soonest Segura could be a free agent is 2019, and Lucroy is locked into a team-friendly deal through 2017. Lind and Rodriguez are both under contract for 2016. Rodriguez could even still be around in 2017 if the Brewers pick up his team option for that season.
The rebuilding process took shape this week in Milwaukee. And, perhaps, both types of Brewers fans were appeased by what transpired.
For those who don’t want to sit through year after year after year of losing, the good news is that Milwaukee has a chance to have things turned around by the time a new United States president is sworn in.
For those who wanted the Brewers to add new, top-tier talent to their minor league clubs, mission accomplished.