First, let me apologize for the long hiatus, things have been hectic lately and the blog has suffered for it. I'm ressurecting the blog like a phoenix rising from the ashes... or something equally poetic. Now on to the real reason I'm writing today...
My dad always told me, "if it smells like dog s!#@, and looks like dog s!#@, then it probably is dog s!#@". At last night's game (a Brewers 8-6 victory over the Marlins) JJ Hardy leaves the game early and at the time I didn't think much of it. However, upon leaving the game, I learn that top prospect Mat Gamel is on his way to Milwaukee. Instantly, my mind starts racing with the possibilities. You don't call up your top prospect to ride the pine and replace a struggling Brad Nelson (a move made to make room for Gamel). Especially with your "third baseman of the future" who just so happens to butcher that position at every opportunity. The guy needs everyday reps to improve his defense and his prospects of manning that position in the big leagues for years to come. Doug is stonewalling like always, giving the excuse that he's just up to DH. How stupid do you think I am Doug? We have one three game series against the Twins this week, then we don't play an interleague away game until mid-June. So why the call-up now? So I start thinking about what could be happening. With Hall playing good defense and improving his production at the plate, I don't see him as a prime candidate to move. Also, he's a tough sell to bring back any value given his contract and lack of production (save his decent start this year). Which brings me back to Hardy. The guy just seems like a whiner. When he was moved out of the two hole last year, he went crying to Ned to get his spot back. When the possibility of a position change came up when Escobar was the talk of the town, Hardy complained again, saying that he didn't want to switch positions, even if it made the team better. He's easier to move because he's under team control for two more years, and he's relatively cheap, given the high dollars given to elite shortstops (I wouldn't call him elite yet, but an all-star appearance doesn't hurt). Melvin could maximize his return on a trade for Hardy given his overwhelming value at a position where big talent is rare.
Now on to prospective trading partners. Detroit has a TON of starting pitching and the weak hitting Adam Everett starting at shortstop. With Dontrelle Willis poised to return, I can see us snagging a quality starter who would only benefit from moving to the National League. (Armando Galarraga anyone?). Also, Boston is rife with starting pitching. John Smoltz is working his way back, and Dice-K is coming back any day now, all for a team that trots out 5 legitimate starters WITHOUT these two. Now Boston's starters haven't been blowing batters away, but imagine going from facing the Yankees and Blue Jays every other week, to facing the Pirates, Reds and Astros... you take your pick. Look at what a move to the National League did for Jeff Karstens, granted the guys not a Cy Young winner by any stretch of the imagination, but he went from a sixth starter (maybe) to a top of the rotation type in Pittsburgh. (I've got my eye on Masterson from Boston, but that's just me). Finally, there's the Chicago White Sox. Again, a ton of starters and a position open at short. I know what you're saying, "they've got Alexei Ramirez! Why would they want Hardy?" I'll tell you why. Hardy has more experience and shown he can play at a high level for multiple seasons, Ramirez has ONE season under his belt. Also, Chicago doesn't have a legit second baseman, a position that Ramirez has shown he is more than capable of playing. As far as pitchers, the pipe dream is John Danks. I've been in love (not exaggerating) with this guy since I saw him pitch last year. However, he's about as close to untouchable as you can be in this league. However, a Gavin Floyd might be available if the right piece came through (i.e. Hardy).
You'll notice I listed nothing but AL teams, this is mainly because I don't want to see that pretty boy prancing around the bases in an opposing uniform for more than three interleague games a year. He's a quality shortstop and it's been a pleasure watching him grow as a player, I just don't want him to become a Brewer killer (see Francisco Cordero).
As far as who this new starter would replace, that's a tough one. Given the depth chart, Dave Bush is your fifth starter and in most circles, that's the first guy to go. However, Bush has shown he belongs in this league and is pitching like a man possessed (1.05 WHIP ranks among league leaders). In my mind, he's out. Then you take a look at your starters who are NOT named Yovani Gallardo. Looper was signed in the offseason, doubtful they give up on him this quickly even though he's struggled in his last several outings. Parra is not only your only left hander but he's an arm the Brewers are investing in for the long term, if he doesn't get the experience now to develop into an elite pitcher, when is he going to get it? He always seems to be on the verge of disaster true, however, he's been able to work out of it in his last 4 starts, which is what good pitchers do. And finally there's Jeff Suppan, the Brewers' fans lightning rod. There's 12.5 million reasons this guy should be getting the ball every fifth day, but as a contender (and current division leader) we've passed the point where salary dictates playing time. You perform, or you don't play (ask Brad Nelson and Jorge Julio). It's true that Suppan has looked good in his last four outings, but let's be honest, he hasn't faced a lineup that's worth it's salt in this league and he's one bad start from taking his ERA back over the 5.50 range. Given the best interest of this team both now AND the future, Suppan is the logical choice to make the move to the bullpen.
So you heard it here first! Mat Gamel will be the Brewers starting third baseman by the end of the week, and hopefully it's Billy Hall playing short right next to him.