For Part II of the NL Central Fall Preview, I’m looking at the Brewers (77-85) and writing pretty much the same thing everybody else is going to write about them (at first). The team finished 2010 12th in runs scored (750), 11th in average (.262), 9th in OBP (.335), and 6th in slugging (.424). Nothing about those numbers is really surprising for a team that pencils-in Rickie Weeks, Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, Casey McGehee, and Prince Fielder in lineup almost every day. Based on a slightly tougher schedule and the word “rebuilding” being used in Milwaukee so much recently, I projected the Brewers as a 72-win team for 2011. That’s not to say that all hope is lost, though. If ownership there is serious about contending next year, I believe that an aggressive move could change things in a big hurry.
Fielder isn’t eligible to become a free agent until after the 2011 season, and he’s expressed interest in both a long-term contract and playing for a competitive team. Instead of waiting until the trade deadline to make a deal, why not work out something now? His trade value is high, and it’s unlikely to go higher based on demand. Yes, a bidding war could erupt if the right set of teams are in a playoff push and want to rent him for a few months, but that scenario isn’t a given. If the Brewers work the phones now, they have the market all to themselves without Adrian Gonzalez being used as leverage against them, so they could technically beat San Diego to the punch. If all they ask for is pitching, pitching, and more pitching in return, they could still start 2011 with enough offense to make noise in the NL Central. Consider what they would still have left at the top of the order:
- Rickie Weeks (2B) .269 avg, 29 hr, 83 rbi, .366 obp, .464 slg
- Casey McGehee (3B) .285 avg, 23 hr, 104 rbi, .337 obp, .464 slg
- Ryan Braun (LF) .304 avg, 25 hr, 103 rbi, .365 obp, .501 slg
- Corey Hart (RF) .283 avg, 31 hr, 102 rbi, .340 obp, .525 slg
Even more good news for Brewers fans is that all those guys could be there for several more years. Braun and Hart are signed to reasonable contracts and cost $4M and $6.5M in 2011 respectively. McGehee should cost less than 500k next year, and Weeks is in his last year of arbitration. The team just declined Hoffman’s $7M option, and there could be significant savings realized by not paying Fielder another year ($10.5M in 2010). If the Brewers trade Fielder before opening day, the team could start the 2011 season with a payroll under $70M and a pitching staff that could easily be 100 runs better than the 804 runs against posted in 2010. It’s not that I’m rooting for all this to happen, but it’s another example of why the Cardinals can’t afford to sit around and watch events unfold around them.