Let's face it, 2010 has not been a good season for the Milwaukee Brewers. Currently, they sit 43-53, 11.5 games back in the NL Central. According to CoolStandings.com, the Brewers have a 0.2% chance of making the playoffs this season. Like I said, it hasn't been pretty.
That's not to say there hasn't been bright spots. Rickie Weeks is tearing the cover off the ball. Young relievers have come to the major leagues and shined. Although the Brewers best story lives in right field.
Coming over a very disappointing 2009, many wanted Corey Hart out of Milwaukee. Rumors of his release followed him throughout Spring Training and the beginning of the season, culminating in sitting the bench on opening day in favor of Jim Edmonds.
Hart ended up rebounding to the tune of his second all-star appearance in three seasons. What makes this even better for the Brewers is what it could mean for the future.
Hart currently has a .908 OPS and is second in the national league in home runs. He is free agent eligible after the 2011 season. He is likely to receive a raise in arbitration after his strong season.
If Corey Hart and Prince Fielder are part of the 2011 Brewers, they will have a better chance at the playoffs, but at what price? Is having a shot in 2011 worth selling off the future of the franchise? I agree the Brewers have a much better chance of signing Hart long term than Prince Fielder, but that doesn't mean he's going to come cheap. Signing Hart long term would likely cost the Brewers $10 million per season in a multi-year deal. I'm not saying Hart is not worth that, but why give him that much money when he could be dealt for a nice package? With the Brewers chances for success in the near future looking rather slim, there is no time like the present to trade Hart.
With divisional races so tight, a big piece at the trade deadline could propel a team to the playoffs. Lucky for the Brewers, the teams in those races are in need of a right fielder and would likely part with good talent to acquire one. Corey Hart has been linked to numerous teams, but three have stood out. Here is the start of the Corey Hart trade series and what each deal could mean for the Brewers.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants have a big need in right field. They're currently trotting out either Nate Schierholtz, or Aubrey Huff, who also starts at first base. Starting Huff in right field leads to poor defense (-35.8 UZR/150 in RF) and starting Ishikawa at first base (a normal power spot) leads to fewer runs. Granted Ishikawa has hit the ball well this season, but he has never really been that good of a hitter and his 77 at bats indicate a small sample size. If Corey Hart came to the bay, it would a go a long way to securing a possible playoff spot for the Giants.
That's not to say Corey Hart is going to be easy to acquire. After already racking up 2.5 WAR this season, the Brewers really don't want to part ways with Hart. In return for his services, many have said the Brewers are asking for either Madison Bumgarner, or Jonathan Sanchez in return. Let's take a look at each player and what acquiring them would do.
Bumgarner, 20, is already pitching in the major leagues. In five starts this season, Bumgarner is 3-2 with a 2.41 ERA, including eight scoreless at Miller Park on July 6th. He has struck out 24 batters in 33.2 innings, while walking seven. Pretty good numbers for someone who is younger than me (that's scary).
In the minors, he was just as good. Over three seasons, Bumgarner went 34-6 with an ERA of 2.00 in 355.2 innings. He fanned 315 batters and walked only 77. He was recognized as the 9th best prospect in baseball by Baseball America in 2009 and 14th best this season.
The most exciting part about acquiring Bumgarner to me is how cheap he will come. Bumgarner's major league service time currently sits at 0.027 years, meaning he will not hit free agency for another six seasons. With how cheaply he will come and the ceiling he has, I am jumping up and down with his name being mentioned as a possible return.
Sanchez, 27, is also a pretty good pitcher with an incredible arm. He tops out in the high 90's, with good movement on his pitches. His career is highlighted by the no-hitter he tossed last July against the San Diego Padres.
This season, Sanchez is 7-6 with a 3.42 ERA in 19 starts. He is striking out nearly a batter an inning (110.2 IP, 109 K's) and walking one every two (110.2 IP, 54 BB's). This season's ERA is the best in his career, likely due to some luck. His BABIP this season is .275, which is by far the lowest in his career.
One thing that worries me with Sanchez is the high amount of fly balls he tends to surrender. His GB:FB ratio this season is .81. While he might be able to get away with that in the cavernous AT&T Park, Miller Park is not so forgiving. Another less attractive thing on Sanchez is he has been in the majors for a while. He has accumulated just over three years of service time thus far and would hit the open market in 2013. Sure that's down the road, but he is also due for a large arbitration raise soon.
The strangest thing about this deal is mentioning Sanchez and Bumgarner is the same sentence. If Doug Melvin is saying we will take either player, does he really think the Giants are going to part with Bumgarner? He is much cheaper and could very well be a better pitcher than Sanchez next season. That just seems odd to me. If Bumgarner is on the table, take it. If Sanchez is the only one being offered, I think the Brewers are best inclined to explore their options. I'm not saying Sanchez is a bad return, but the great thing about the trade deadline is the amount of options teams are given for players in demand.
Stay tuned, I'll have more on Corey Hart and his possible destinations coming very soon.