Friday, December 5, 2003

Brewing Trouble?

At first glance it appeared the Milwaukee Brewers were doing the unthinkable, taking a horrible team with a tiny payroll and trading a way their best players in an attempt to lower payroll even further. All this after fleecing the taxpayers for millions of dollars for a new stadium that killed three workers and opened a year late. And after that new stadium resulted in a nice payday for the owners after Milwaukee was chosen to host the all-star game, an honor bequeathed to them by the owners dad, commissioner Bud Selig.

Of course Bud used to (read “still does”) own the team, though he claims he is not involved in financial or baseball related decisions. Still, here is a team that is pocketing its revenue sharing money instead of investing it in the on-field product. Recent evidence that Bud has been helping finance a team he allegedly does not still own did not do much to help the Brewer’s image.

I was one of those people who cried foul over the idea of trading Richie Sexton, it seemed like another move by management to cut payroll and increase profit at the expense of the fans. But looking at the deal the Brew-Crew got good value for Sexon without taking on too much money. In these economic times you cannot trade a star player or a big contract without making some concessions. Basically you either need to take back salary in return (i.e. the proposed A-rod for Manny deal), agree to pay part of the player’s salary (i.e. Colorado and Florida helping to pay for Mike Hampton to play in Atlanta) or accept crap prospects in return. Usually teams take option one and two. In this deal the Brewers took back some money, and got some decent players in return. They were not going to resign Sexon next year and they got something while they could. Here are the main players as I see it:

To Arizona: Richie Sexon 1B/OF
To Milwaukee: Craig Counsel 3B, Junior Spivey 2B, and Lyle Overbay 1B

Basically the Brewers gave up one slugging al star 1B (and his .270 BA) for 3/4 of a starting infield. Counsel and Overbay won starting jobs last year, and while they won’t be all-stars this year (or perhaps ever) they are legitimate starting infielders. Spivey was starter on the 2001 D-Backs team that shocked the Yanks in 2001. He may be shifted to the outfield in Milwaukee, again, not a super star but a legit player.

In “Money Ball” Billy Beane talks about how he knew he couldn’t find or afford one player who could replace Jason Giambi so he had to find two or three who could. He ended up with Scott Hatteberg (cast off from both Boston and Colorado), Mark Ellis (brought up from the Minors), and David Justice (trade from NYM). Milwaukee is taking the same tact here, hoping that the players they bring in are better then those they have now, and can contribute to victories in a similar way that Sexton did (or didn’t depending on how you look at it). It may be that having moderate production throughout the line up can be more helpful than having one or two sluggers and a bunch of scrubs. After all, “Moneyball” provided a formula wherein 9 Scott Hattebergs would constitute the best offense in baseball.

So, dont discount the Brewers moves completely. Maybe Bud is telling the truth and they are rebuilding in the model provided by the A’s and Marlins. We’ll see, only 5 months ‘til spring training.

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