by Nathan Petrashek
Doug Melvin has taken a lot of heat for some terrible past signings. Jeff Suppan, David Riske, Braden Looper, Eric Gagne, Bill Hall; you could write a book on his bad transactions. But you have to give the guy credit where it’s due, too. C.C. Sabathia, Francisco Rodriguez, Nyjer Morgan, and the Ryan Braun and Yovani Gallardo extensions are among his greatest hits.
You might have picked up a theme for this post based on that first paragraph. It’s judging fairly.
Over at the Sporting News, former Journal-Sentinel writer Anthony Witrado grades each MLB team’s offseason. I honestly expected a B- for the Brewers. Prince slipped away, but that was inevitable. In his place, Melvin acquired one of the best free-agent sluggers, Aramis Ramirez. Sure, his defense will drive us mad next year, but having his bat firmly cemented in the cleanup spot is worth the risk. The addition of Alex Gonzalez at short should make Ramirez all the more palatable at third, and Melvin obtained some much-needed bullpen help in exchange for the embattled Casey McGehee. Offering K-Rod arbitration was the right move, and his decision to accept a reduced rate contract ($8MM) means the Brewers eighth and ninth innings will once again be cost-effective. In short, I think Melvin did what he had to do to preserve the Brewers’ chances of winning a pennant in 2012.
I skimmed, first through the As. Then Bs. No sign of the Brewers. Down past the Cs. Nothing. Nothing until I hit number 25: The Milwaukee Brewers. D-.
Let that sink in for a minute. Of all the clubs, the Brewers ranked sixth from the bottom. Witrado gave the Red Sox a B+, and they didn’t do much of anything besides fire a successful manager and trade all of their shortstops. The Cardinals got a C, and they lost their best hitter. And the San Francisco Giants, whose offense only got worse thanks to the loss of Carlos Beltran to the Cardinals, even managed to generate a C-. How in the world to the Brewers garner a full letter grade below that?
Witrado notes the Brewers lost Fielder. Fair enough. He also notes the Ramirez, Gonzalez, and Norichika Aoki signings, which you have to believe goes a long way toward restoring the value lost with Fielder. So if you’ve made up for the loss of an elite first baseman by improving your club in other areas, you’d think that’s a win, right? But Witrado’s focus is on something completely out of the club’s control: Ryan Braun’s potential 50-game suspension. And though he recognizes that this is no fault of the organization, Witrado still calls the offseason a total loss.
It’s not, though. Even if Braun sits out the first 50 games, Melvin’s moves have made it possible for the team to tread water until his return. And once he does come back, the team could certainly do worse than a 1-2 punch of Braun and Ramirez. Gonzalez at short should improve the starting rotation’s collective fate, and once you get to the late innings, it’s once again lockdown mode thanks to the K-Rod deal. This was not a D- offseason, even considering Braun’s looming suspension. And if you remove his positive drug test from the equation – something that the front office has no control over – the organization deserves no worse than a B.