By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Jul 16, 2006 at 5:20 AM
There is a lot of buzz around town regarding the Milwaukee Brewers’ position as a buyer or a seller when the July 31 deadline rolls around. On one side of the spectrum is a group clamoring for general manager Doug Melvin to make a move that would put the team in position for a second-half playoff push, while another says that trading the team’s top offensive threat, Carlos Lee, is a sign that the team has thrown in the towel and accepted a 24th consecutive season watching the playoffs on television.

Enough is enough, and it’s time to point out some truths -- as painful as they may be -- about any potential trade or non-trade. Ironically, most of these scenarios involve the aforementioned power-hitting left-fielder.

There is absolutely no guarantee that Carlos Lee will re-sign with Milwaukee: This is the biggest misconception in town.  Talk radio pundits are keen to tell you that owner Mark Attanasio signing off on a deal involving Lee is akin to the Germans breaking their non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union before World War II broke out. Sorry, but that’s not the case. It doesn't matter how much money is in the Brinks truck that Melvin and Attanasio would back up to Lee’s Panamanian cattle ranch, it’s entirely within the realm of plausibility that Lee is looking to go to a bigger market. Those rumblings heard out of the Cubs locker room recently weren't just random thoughts, Lee thoroughly enjoyed his days in Chicago, he hits well at Wrigley Field, and would probably greatly enjoy the chance for White Sox GM Kenny Williams to see his performance in the Chicago newspapers day in and day out.  That said, just because Lee may not sign here does not mean the franchise is reverting back to the Selig-Bando days.

A trade involving Lee does not mean the team has given up on the season: Suggest that theory to manager Ned Yost, and you very well could enjoy the taste of a fungo bat. A quick look at the Brewers’ pitching staff should tell you that there is a pretty significant need for quality arms in the farm system. For your consideration: Chris Mabeus, Allan Simpson, Jared Fernandez, Joe Winkelsas, Ben Hendrickson, Chris DeMaria and Justin Lehr all failed to hold onto a spot on the pitching staff that was decimated by injuries to two starters and its long-reliever and an inconsistent bullpen.  Top prospects like Manny Parra, Mike Jones and Mark Rogers have had their own share of problems with injury and ineffectiveness in the minors. If Lee were traded, it’s a safe assumption to some quality arms would show up in return. That brings us to the next point..

You can NEVER have too many prospects: Plenty of people have opined about their disillusion with Melvin for always trading for prospects. Have these people ever really followed baseball? Let’s see if we can break it down.

It’s deadline time, and Team A has a one-game lead in it’s division, and lacks a quality, left-handed power-hitting outfielder. Team B is many, many games out of first place, has just such a player, and is in the midst of a rebuilding program.  Team A deals a handful of prospects to Team B for said player, and goes on to win the division. If Team A has an above-average GM, it has made enough wise trades and drafted intelligently to repeat the process annually as needed.

So, should the Brewers deal Lee for prospects, which would put the team in good position when it is poised at a serious playoff run? Getting to the playoffs is always a good thing, especially when nearly a quarter century has passed since it’s happened. But from the get-go, 2007 has been the goal so why not continue to build.

Not trading for a big-name pitcher and keeping Lee then not re-signing him doesn't mean the franchise is operating on the cheap: Attanasio has said he is willing to spend money, but as a successful businessman, he’s not going to spend it foolishly. Just because he has deep pockets shouldn't mean he has to dip into his own passbook account to sign a player. Yes, Miller Park and bigger attendance means an increase in revenue. Don't forget there is debt-service to pay on Miller Park, and that while cash flow has improved, the Brewers don't get the local broadcast revenue that New York and Chicago get. Small-market status isn't always an excuse, it’s a reality. If the Brewers go out and resign Lee and he tanks, how quickly will people call it a stupid deal? A good number of fans are already chiding the franchise for signing Ben Sheets and Geoff Jenkins to big extensions. Who’s to say it couldn't happen to any free agents the Brewers might pick up?

Just because Geoff Jenkins and Brady Clark are slumping does not mean anybody will take them: As discussed in a previous column, Jenkins’ history of streaky performance is not some secret that only Milwaukee fans know about. It’s well-documented in baseball. It is highly unlikely that the Brewers could get any type of player that would put them over the top in exchange for a power hitter that has eight home runs on the year and went 142 at-bats between homers at one point. A journeyman reliever, sure; a middle-of-the-pack minor-league infielder, possibly; but a front-line starter or a top pitching prospect? Let’s be rational. The next person to suggest a Jenkins-for-Dontrelle-Willis deal should be sentenced to a lifetime of Royals season tickets.

Getting Ben Sheets and Tomo Ohka back for the second half IS like a trade: Ohka has performed well since being acquired last season. In fact, he’s pretty much the ideal No. 5 starter: he might not win you the game, probably won't cost you the game, and usually eats enough innings to keep your bullpen from burning out. Sheets, despite his detractors, still has enough stuff to be considered among the best young pitchers in the game. Yes, he needs to stay healthy; yes, his victory totals have stunk, but he gives his teammates enough confidence just by being on the mound.  If the Brewers can add two starters without having to give up anybody and fill two holes in the rotation that went 4-16, how can that not be as good as a trade?

Greg Maddux is not a cure-all to the Brewers woes: Yes, it would be nice to reunite Greg and his brother, Mike, who is the Brewers pitching coach. It would probably be nice for manager Ned Yost to have a buddy around from his days in Atlanta. But the fact remains that Maddux is no spring chicken, has had his moments of trouble this season, and will probably either re-sign with Chicago or head out west -- where he maintains a home -- after the season. The Brewers would have to give up prospects -- to a divisional rival -- that could probably be better used elsewhere to get a 40-year-old pitcher that would probably be gone next season. Would it be great PR? Probably, but Melvin isn't worried about his Q= rating.

The Brewers aren't the only team shopping: Have you been to a club, where the creepy guy is dancing by himself in the corner? The same holds true in baseball: you can't dance alone and you can't trade alone. The Brewers may be shopping, but there are 19 teams either in the lead or within five games of first place in their divisions. Like dealing on eBay, the Brewers may make a solid offer, but with that many teams in the hunt, there could be better ones out there. At the same time, having so many teams in contention is like trying to hookup at a party where there are four guys to every girl.

Doug Melvin is not a moron: Without standardized test scores, it’s hard to scientifically prove that statement, but given Melvin’s track record so far, as well as his ability to pull players off the scrap heap and turn them into solid ballplayers (Dan Kolb and Derrick Turnbow were All Stars, Matt Wise and Brady Clark have emerged as everyday players, for the most part), he has shown he has an eye for talent. If he brings one guy in or passes on another, giving him the benefit of the doubt wouldn't be too much of a stretch. There have been a number of bad trades in this franchise’s history, but few have come during the last four seasons.

So there we go. Hopefully this laundry list of has helped shed light on the situation. The Brewers started the second half two games under .500, 5½ games behind St. Louis, and 3½ out of the wild card. Considering injuries and slumps, things could be an awful lot worse.