Drumbeat to the trade deadline for the Brewers

Following the K-Rod trade, the Brewers front office has been relatively quiet.  Though it is well-known that Doug Melvin is working the phones for, among other things, players at short, second, and center field, the only fruit of that labor thus far has been a minor deal:  reacquiring former Brewer Felipe Lopez from the Tampa Bay Rays for cash.

Amid news that the Cardinals are now one of the Brewers’ chief competitors in the shortstop market, I thought it might be helpful to look at that market and see who the Brewers might be checking out.  Of course, the need has diminished somewhat in recent weeks, as current shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt has heated up to a post-All-Star-break line of .378/.396/.578.  However, over that span Betancourt is also rocking an unsustainable .395 batting average on balls in play, which means he has been incredibly lucky.  The Brewers would be remiss not to continue to seek out infield help.

You can be certain the premier shortstop names are not being shopped, at least not the Brewers and their talent-depleted farm system.  Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez are not going to be in Brewers blue, and it appears the Mets are interested in locking Reyes up long-term. My preferred trade target, former Brewer J.J. Hardy, recently signed a 3-year, $22 M extension with the Baltimore Orioles, so he’s not going anywhere.

There are a number of low-key players that could be a good fit for the Brewers, though.  The most talked about are both Dodgers, Jamey Carroll and Rafael Furcal.

In terms of batting average and on-base percentage, Jamey Carroll, 37, is having a great year with the Dodgers and can play multiple infield positions, making him especially valuable to the Brewers.  Carroll is a career .277 hitter with no power and good plate discipline (think a better-hitting version of Craig Counsell).  He was also, at least until last year, decent defensively in the IF.  The Brewers are known to be in on him, but so are the D-Backs, Cardinals, Indians and Pirates, so the asking price is likely high.

Rafael Furcal is probably the prize of the remaining shortstop crop, but he’s having an off year.  He missed most of May and June, and is hitting only .197 in his 152 plate appearances.  Furcal seems destined to be traded before the deadline on Sunday, but his unappealing batting line, which does not represent an upgrade for the Brewers, coupled with the fact that the Cardinals and Giants are also in the race, means he probably will not find his way to Milwaukee.

Houston IF Clint Barmes might be a good fit for the Brewers, and could join the team immediately since the two teams are in the midst of a 3-game weekend series.  But as recently as yesterday, Houston was apparently telling teams that Barmes, a free agent after this season, was not available.  Barmes has excellent defense and can play short and third, giving the Brewers some late-inning defensive options.  He hasn’t been lighting it up at the plate (.250 BA), but does have a bit of power and would make a nice piece at the bottom end of the Brewers lineup.

Jason Bartlett and Juan Uribe have also been mentioned as available in a weak shortstop market.  Bartlett, an All-Star in 2009 when he hit .320 with 14 HR and 30 SB, isn’t exactly wowing anyone with his glove or his bat this year, and the Padres aren’t thought to be actively shopping him anyway.  Uribe is having a miserable year at the dish and has been frequently injured.  If I were Doug Melvin, I wouldn’t want to touch either of these guys.

Washington shortstop Ian Desmond may or may not be available, but doesn’t represent much of an upgrade offensively over Betancourt at .224/.227.303, and strikes out more frequently than any other shortstop in the game.  He is young, but is by position only a shortstop and would not help the Brewers at second or third.

Seattle’s Jack Wilson, 33, is another name sometimes mentioned, but he has barely played this year (50 games), and has not impressed when he has been at the plate (.229/.259/.252).  Wilson still plays good defense, and that could be the lone factor working in his favor.

We’ve known for a while now that there’s not much out there for the Brewers to choose from.  And the few players that might help this team are also coveted by others, driving the asking price beyond what the Brewers are probably willing to pay.  It would not surprise me at all to see the Brewers stand pat on the shortstop situation, especially considering Betancourt’s recent success at the plate.  While I understand that sentiment, I do not share it.  The Brewers should pay for Jamey Carroll.

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