The Milwaukee Brewers' farm system has been talked about all spring, but for all the wrong reasons.
After unloading a boatload of young talent to acquire two top-tier starters before Christmas, a common thought has been that the Brewers have the worst system in all of baseball. Yes, in order to acquire Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, the Brewers had to shell over top prospects Brett Lawrie, Jake Odorizzi and Alcides Escobar among others.
First of all, saying that one team has a better farm system than another is like saying both teams are playing the lottery, but Team A has five tickets while Team B only has one. Just because one team has more tickets doesn't mean they're going to win.
For the last 10 years, the Kansas City Royals have been regarded as having one of the league's best farm systems. When was the last time the Royals made the playoffs? Their roster is filled with "top prospects," yet they've been lucky to reach 70 wins over the last decade. Don't let their fast start this season fool you—they will be in the cellar of the AL Central by early June at the latest.
With prospects, it's either hit or miss. Some will get hurt and never make it, while others will tear it up in minor league ball but flame out in the majors. There is no such thing as a "sure thing," especially in baseball.
To acquire the services of Jose Reyes or Rafael Furcal, the Brewers would have to deplete their system even further, but it is definitely possible. Both are in the final year of their contracts and would give the Brewers a legitimate two-hole bat while removing the defensive liability currently at shortstop in Yuniesky Betancourt. With Furcal expected to be on the disabled list until mid-May, the Brewers may even be able to snag him for a discount.
It just so happens that both the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers are off to sluggish starts in top-heavy divisions, and both the Mets and Dodgers owners are in the midst of financial uncertainty and may be looking to unload the salaries of players who will be free agents at the end of the year.
Shortstop and bullpen help are the only glaring needs for the Brewers at this point, but they have three arms on the disabled list that should all return to action in the near future. Knowing that Brewers GM Doug Melvin likes to get his work done quietly and well before the actual trade deadline, he could be on the prowl for a shortstop beginning in mid-June.
Do the Brewers have the pieces to get a deal done for Reyes or Furcal?
Believe it or not, the Brewers still have plenty of prospects that could make an impact on a major league roster sooner rather than later, including a plethora of young pitching prospects.
RHP Wily Peralta, a first-round pick in 2005, opened plenty of eyes with a solid spring and is ready for a chance in the big leagues. Then there are RHPs Eric Arnett, Cody Scarpetta and Kyle Heckathorn who are all a year or two away from being ready to pitch in the majors, depending on the situation. Out of the four, Heckathorn may be the only one Melvin would be reluctant to trade.
On the offensive side, the Brewers top prospect could be OF Kentrail Davis, who is projected to be ready for the majors as soon as 2012. Davis has speed and power and he's shown the ability to be a strong defender in both center field and right field.
They also have middle-infield prospects in second baseman Eric Farris and shortstop Scooter Gennett, both who are still a few seasons away from making an impact on a major league club.
When dealing with two of the largest MLB markets in New York and Los Angeles, the Brewers won't necessarily need to ship away major league-ready talent in return for Reyes or Furcal—although Peralta could be expendable at this point since the Brewers rotation is locked up through the 2012 season (at a minimum).
When Fielder leaves after the season as a Type A free agent, he will net the Brewers two draft picks to help replenish the system, so they can afford to send a few prospects away in return for "proven" talent. The organization already has a "win now" attitude, so why hold back at this point?
Plus, an NL Pennant would look great on Wisconsin's mantle next to the Lombardi Trophy.