Brewers were close to three-team deadline deal
The Brewers were so close to completing what general manager Doug Melvin called a “big,” three-team trade for a pitcher ahead of Friday’s nonwaiver Trade Deadline that Ken Macha tuned into the MLB Network in the visiting manager’s office at PETCO Park and waited to see the news break.
It never did.
The deal fizzled, and the pitcher in question wasn’t traded. Because of that fact, Macha and Melvin refused to talk about the blockbuster that wasn’t — Melvin did assure reporters that the pitcher in question wasn’t Toronto’s Roy Halladay — and the Brewers were left to soldier on with a weakened starting rotation that will be re-joined Saturday by right-hander Mike Burns.
Macha didn’t sugarcoat the factors that brought back Burns, who was bounced from the rotation and then returned to Triple-A Nashville after going 2-3 in five Brewers starts.
“We have kind of depleted all of the options,” Macha said.
Melvin wanted to bolster those options. He talked extensively to the Mariners about left-hander Jarrod Washburn, who instead went to the Tigers on Friday. Melvin also showed interest as recently as Thursday in Royals right-hander Brian Bannister, but Kansas City held onto him. He called on D-backs left-hander Doug Davis and, to a lesser degree, Jon Garland, both of whom stayed put. Melvin never got serious about the Padres’ Jake Peavy, who went to the White Sox, because he knew Milwaukee couldn’t put together the package of pitchers necessary to get him.
The Brewers will face one of those pitchers, lefty Clayton Richard, on Saturday at PETCO Park.
The trouble, Melvin said, is that San Diego wasn’t the only team seeking young arms in the high levels of the Minor Leagues. All of Milwaukee’s pitching prospects are lower in the system including right-hander Jeremy Jeffress, who might have been an interesting chip were he not serving a 50-game suspension. At the same time, Melvin made it clear early that he was hesitant to trade his top offensive prospects: Third baseman Mat Gamel and shortstop Alcides Escobar.
“Most teams are looking for one or two guys who are closer to the big leagues,” Melvin said. “We’ve been a team that’s drafted real well on the positional side.”
Melvin was hopeful that he’d have a match with Seattle because Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik was Milwaukee’s scouting director until last fall, and he knows the Brewers’ farm system as well as anyone. For two months of Washburn, a free agent at season’s end, Zduriencik received two left-handers: Luke French, who was in the Tigers’ rotation, and Mauricio Robles, a top prospect who was at Class A.
“I didn’t think on Washburn we were ever close,” Melvin said.
But Melvin was near to completing, “a much bigger deal,” that was so close to happening that within a half hour of the 3 p.m. CT deadline to deal players without first exposing them to waivers, Melvin had principal owner Mark Attanasio waiting near a phone, ready to approve a deal. When the three-team proposal fell apart, Melvin had another trade possibility in the works within 10 minutes of the deadline.
“It just didn’t happen,” Melvin said. “Both of them revolved around what another team was doing. Those are always tough.”
So who was involved in the mysterious big one? Macha would only reveal that it was not a pitcher who would have been available to start for the Brewers on Saturday. Melvin wouldn’t say, either, even when a reporter presented him with some possible names. One of them was Atlanta right-hander Javier Vazquez, who had just pitched on Thursday, but a National League scout offered assurances that the Brewers and Braves weren’t talking about Vazquez on Friday.
The Brewers’ quiet Deadline day left fans, more than two million of whom have already packed into Miller Park this season, venting their disappointment on talk radio and Internet message boards.
“I talked to him an hour and a half before the [Deadline] and he told me had another thing that he thought he was going to get done,” Macha said of his midday chat with Melvin. “I’m sure that he’s just as disappointed as all the other people.”
On the other hand, Melvin received as many as 50 messages of support, many of them via e-mail from fans who were glad to see him thinking about the future by keeping Gamel and Escobar in the fold.
“How can people judge what’s there when they don’t know what was involved?” Melvin said. “Had we made a deal involving some of the players we talked about, I’m pretty sure they would have been disappointed, too. …
“With every deal you talk about, there’s some hurdle you have to get over. It’s not just as easy as, ‘Why didn’t you give up this guy for that guy?’”
Teams can still make trades in August, but players must pass through waivers first. Players must be on a team’s roster by midnight ET on Aug. 31 to qualify for postseason rosters.
Melvin will remain on the prowl, and he still has the postseason in mind.
“A lot of things have to go right,” he conceded. “A lot of teams still feel they are in races, and we feel we’re in the race. Teams could have injuries. But in our situation, we’re going to have to play very well and be consistent. … We can’t have anything else go wrong, and we have to have a few things go right.”