When the Brewers traded JJ Hardy for Carlos Gomez, they sealed their fate as to how they will acquire starting pitching this winter.
Other than John Lackey, the free agent class for pitchers is rather underwhelming, but Brewers' GM Doug Melvin is determined to find two starters on the market.
The Brewers still have players they could trade for pitching, most notably Mat Gamel. Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi report that while a trade isn't out of the question, it is unlikely to happen unless the Brewers find another team willing to offer comparable pitching talent that is the equivalent of Gamel.
In the report, they note the logjam the Brewers could have in the infield. Rickie Weeks and Casey McGehee will enter the season as the starters at second and third base, respectively. Gamel will serve as the primary back-up at third, while McGehee could also fill in for Weeks at second on occasion.
If the Brewers decide McGehee is capable of being a full-time player, they could still decide to trade Gamel. He is, by far, the player that could bring the most in return to the Brewers.
Should the Brewers decide to go ahead with a trade of Gamel, what could they hope to get in return?
In the eyes of most fans, the Brewers received an unspectacular return for JJ Hardy. They wanted to focus on his 2007 and 2008 seasons as selling points, while ignoring his awful 2009 and hoping to get value from his previous successes as opposed to his current flaws.
While Gamel hasn't set the league on fire in his time in the majors, he is still a top left-handed hitting prospect that is under team control for several more seasons. The Brewers would like to get back a pitcher they could insert directly into their rotation with team control over the player for at least a couple of seasons.
Projecting possible trade partners is difficult. One must take into account that the trade must make sense for both teams, not just the Brewers trading Gamel to a team for the best possible pitcher, regardless of whether the other team needs Gamel or not.
The Red Sox and Tigers currently have options at third base; however, both Mike Lowell and Brandon Inge are free agents after the 2010 season. Acquiring Gamel now could shore up third base for either team in the long-term.
The Red Sox wouldn't give up Clay Buchholz or Daniel Bard for JJ Hardy, but would they be willing to give up either for Mat Gamel. Michael Bowden is another name that came up in the Hardy talks. If Milwaukee thinks any of the three are legitimate future starters, dangling Gamel would be a smart move.
Edwin Jackson is reportedly being shopped by the Tigers. He is under team control for two more seasons. Gamel could see time at third base and designated hitter for the Tigers before taking over for Inge in 2011.
The Marlins are constantly looking to get younger and shred potential high-salary players. Ricky Nolasco is under team control for three more years and could be a huge addition to the Brewers' rotation. The Marlins could insert Gamel as an immediate starter.
The Orioles will be trying to replace Melvin Mora. Gamel could team with Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and Brian Roberts as the foundation of the offense. Jeremy Guthrie is under team control for three more seasons. His numbers aren't overly impressive, until you remember he pitches in the same division as the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays.
Milwaukee and Minnesota have already been involved in one trade this winter; could they be partners for another?
The Twins have a ton of young pitching they could trade and they have a hole to fill at third base. While none of the Twins' starters may be future superstars, filling a spot in the bottom of the rotation for the next several years is also a very important need.
The Brewers talked with the Mariners at the trade deadline about acquiring Jarrod Washburn. Mariners' GM wanted both Alcides Escobar and Gamel for the three-month rental of Washburn. Obviously, that is something Doug Melvin never gave serious thought to. The Mariners have several young pitchers that could appeal to the Brewers, and if the Mariners don't re-sign Adrian Beltre, they'll have a need for a third baseman.
Trading Gamel will net the Brewers a good starting pitcher. It will also mean they are trading off the best hitting prospect currently in their organization. Casey McGehee is anything but a sure thing to maintain the type of production he produced in 2009. Given all that, Melvin will be very hesitant to give up Gamel.
The Brewers are likely to overspend for mediocre starting pitching in free agency. That's what the market will dictate. The Brewers would be smart to spend as little on these pitchers as possible and continue to develop pitchers in their own system.
With the uncertain futures of McGehee and Prince Fielder, Mat Gamel is too valuable to trade unless for a top-of-the-rotation arm.
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