2010 has not gone at all like the Milwaukee Brewers and their fans were hoping for. Several offseason free agent pitching signings gave hope to a staff that ranked as one of the worst in baseball in 2009.
Unfortunately, the pitching has been only slightly better, and the Brewers are 33-40, only good enough for a distant third place in the NL Central.
On a positive note, the Brewers have won five in a row, and the starting pitching seems to be producing the way GM Doug Melvin had expected since being very active over the winter.
However, it still seems unlikely that the Brewers will seriously challenge for the division or even the wild card spot this season.
Although Brewers' owner Mark Attanasio recently told Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports that he doesn't anticipate being a seller at this year's trade deadline, it is something that Attanasio, Melvin, and the rest of the Brewers brass needs to think long and hard about.
The most obvious trade candidates are first baseman Prince Fielder and outfielder Corey Hart. Each is under team control until after the 2011 season, but both could be traded to help the pitching staff even more.
While Fielder's numbers are down this year, he has caught fire recently and seems to be on his way to another 30-plus home run season.
Most, including Melvin, feel that the best time to trade Fielder would be after this season, but that could all change if a team is willing to offer a good enough package in return.
Hart may be the most likely player to be traded before the July 31 deadline. After a year-and-a-half of sub-par play, Hart is having a career year in 2010.
He's hitting .272, with 18 home runs and 56 RBI. Those numbers are already significantly better than the ones he posted in 2009. The Braves, Mariners, and Giants seem to be the most likely teams to acquire Hart.
Rumors circulated earlier in the season that Melvin was already interested in shopping newly-signed Randy Wolf.
Wolf signed a three-year, $29.75 million contract in the winter, so it's hard to imagine a team willing to take on that much salary. The best Brewers fans can hope for is Wolf continues to pitch like he has recently, and Melvin may be able to find a taker in the offseason.
Trevor Hoffman is a very interesting case. The all-time saves leader is off to the worst start of his career. He has blown five save opportunities in 2010, already more than all of 2009. After being removed from the closer role, he has made six straight scoreless appearances.
Hoffman is a free agent after this season, so a playoff contender could inquire about him if the price is right and he continues to record outs and not give up home runs.
The Brewers seem to have already moved on with John Axford. Any number of teams could deal for Hoffman, and after Hart, he seems the most likely player that could be dealt before the deadline.
Dave Bush is a darkhorse to be sent packing by the Brewers. Doug Davis is close to returning from the disabled list, and Bush could be the odd man out.
Three of his last four starts have been quality starts, and he picked up his third win of the season Friday night against the Mariners.
Bush is a free agent at the end of the season, but he could become a valuable lower-rotation starter or long-man out of the bullpen for a contender. He has playoff experience, and he won the only game for the Brewers in the 2008 playoffs.
The Brewers could shock all of baseball and become buyers at the deadline, but they would have to catch a major hot streak, and that isn't likely to happen. They seem destined to hover around .500 all season long.
The Brewers still have 2011 in which they could seriously compete for the playoffs with Prince Fielder still on the team. Expect Fielder to finish 2010 with Milwaukee, but there are no guarantees for 2011.
The Brewers can start building towards a contender in 2011 by trading Hart and Hoffman. They may not be the most popular moves right now, but if it makes the Brewers a winner in 2011, it will be worth it.
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