The Milwaukee Brewers have made two big additions this off-season, trading for starting pitchers Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke, the latter of which happened yesterday. The combination of Marcum and Greinke, added to a rotation that already included Yovani Gallardo and Randy Wolf, gives Milwaukee one of the best rotations in the NL Central. Add to the fact that they’ve got Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, two of the best hitters in the National League, along with talented hitters like Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks, and Casey McGehee, and the Brewers are starting to look like one of the best teams in the National League in 2011.
To get Marcum, the Brewers traded one of their top prospects in Brett Lawrie. Lawrie, a second base prospect who has been rated in baseball’s top 100 the last two years, is coming off a .285/.346/.451 season in 554 at-bats at the AA level. Meanwhile, Marcum returned from Tommy John surgery in 2010, and had an impressive year, with a 3.64 ERA in 195.1 innings, along with a 7.6 K/9 and a 2.0 BB/9 ratio.
Milwaukee had to give up a bit more for Greinke. They traded shortstop Alcides Escobar, along with top prospects Jake Odorizzi, Lorenzo Cain, and Jeremy Jeffress. Greinke doesn’t really need much of a description. He’s one of the best young pitchers in the game, and even in a down year like 2010 he puts up a 4.17 ERA in 220 innings. Milwaukee paid a lot to get Greinke, giving up a talented young shortstop in Escobar, their top pitching prospect in Odorizzi, and two top prospects in Cain and Jeffress.
That return isn’t universally seen as a big payment, but it all depends on the value you place on Escobar. Escobar got off to a rough start in his first full season in the majors in 2010, but was one of the top 20 prospects in baseball the previous two years, and had a .298/.353/.409 line in AAA in 2009, before getting the call to the majors for good. He just turned 24, and has a good chance of improving on his numbers going forward.
Milwaukee looks strong right now, but as Corey Humes at Titletahn points out, their window of opportunity might be small. They just traded away their shortstop of the future, along with their second baseman of the future. Meanwhile, Rickie Weeks is only under control for two more seasons at second base, and while they also acquired Yuniesky Betancourt in the Greinke trade, he’s only under control for two more years, and is very overpaid, with poor defense (career -8.3 UZR/150 at shortstop) and poor hitting (career .689 OPS).
They traded two of their top pitching prospects to get Greinke, but Marcum and Greinke are only under control for two more seasons each. They do have three more years of control over Randy Wolf, and Yovani Gallardo is under control through the 2015 season. Milwaukee also traded one of their best outfield prospects, which means they’re putting a lot of hope in Carlos Gomez finally realizing his potential in center field.
Essentially the Brewers traded away their 2013 replacements for Weeks, Marcum, and Greinke, while also trading away one of their only long term shortstop options (they didn’t have any other shortstop prospects in the top 30 heading in to the 2010 season). Add to that the fact that Prince Fielder could very well be gone following the 2011 season, and Milwaukee’s long term future doesn’t look as bright as their chances of competing in the next two years.
It’s a smart move for the Brewers to take, as they might not have Fielder beyond the 2011 season, and only had Weeks under control through the 2012 season. If they don’t make these moves, Fielder and Weeks are still likely to test free agency, but Milwaukee doesn’t improve their chances of competing while they have both players. The Brewers increased their chances of competing over the next two seasons, but at the same time, their future beyond the 2012 season now raises a lot of questions.