Even as a team that’s rebounded recently, the Brewers have been a significant disappointment in 2010. Pitching has been the Brewers’ weakness once again this season, and the front office will likely spend the next month looking for opportunities to strengthen that aspect of the team for the future.
As a team that’s struggling to hold onto third place in the weak NL Central, the Brewers seem like obvious sellers. They have two much-discussed pieces that could clearly be moved for the right price: Prince Fielder and Corey Hart.
Fielder is one of the most popular Brewers and arguably their most dangerous power hitter. He’s currently in his second arbitration season, and will be under team control through the end of the 2011 campaign. However, his salary is going up (Fielder is making $10.5 million this season, plus a likely $500k bonus for making 500 plate appearances, and is due for a raise next season), and getting him to sign an extension would likely cost the Brewers more than the $125 million the Phillies will pay Ryan Howard, which is more than they can likely afford to spend on him.
Fielder has had a rough first half to the 2010 season: his 2010 OPS and home runs are on pace to be his lowest since 2006, when he hit .271/.347/.483 with 28 home runs in his first full major league season. As such, his value is at an all time low, which might keep the Brewers from trading him. His market will also be hurt by the fact that most competitive teams already have all the help they need at first base. With that said, if the Giants, Angels or someone else are willing to offer major league or near major league-ready pitching for him, the Brewers will almost certainly consider it.
Coming into the season, Corey Hart was on the near-opposite side of the spectrum. Hart’s popularity was at an all time low this spring after he won his arbitration case (he’s earning $4.8 million in 2010), had a terrible spring and lost his spot in the Opening Day lineup to Jim Edmonds. Hart has responded with his highest batting average and OBP since 2007 and the best slugging percentage of his career.
Like Fielder, Hart is under team control through the end of the 2011 season but is due a raise for next season via arbitration. He could help a team that needs extra power from either corner outfield spot, and he’ll likely be cheaper than Fielder because he doesn’t have Fielder’s track record. All told, he’s the Brewer most likely to move this season.
In addition to those two major pieces, the Brewers have several impending free agents that could be available in minor deals and might be useful to the right team as role players. Craig Counsell, Trevor Hoffman, Dave Bush, Doug Davis and David Riske could be sold to anyone that will give the Brewers anything of value in return for them.
As this season’s playoff hopes dwindle, the Brewers should be looking to improve the quality and depth of pitching in their organization to help shore up that weakness for 2011 and beyond. If the right opportunity presents itself, they could be buyers for major league or near-major league ready hurlers. The Blue Jays have been rumored to be interested in Brewers’ #1 prospect Brett Lawrie, and the Crew may consider pulling the trigger if the Jays are willing to offer someone like Shaun Marcum or Brett Cecil.