Over the last few years, the Milwaukee Brewers emptied their farm system in order to acquire quality Major League talent understanding that they had a window to win. During the 2010-11 off-season, they dealt Brett Lawrie to the Blue Jays to acquire starting pitcher Shaun Marcum and then dealt a package of prospects and established young players such as Alcides Escobar and Jake Odorizzi to acquire Zack Greinke. They decided to go all out in the final season of Prince Fielder’s tenure with the team and it worked. In 2011, they won 96 games and went to the playoffs for the second time in four years.
Coming in to last season, the Brewers still had high hopes even with the departure of Fielder to Detroit. A strong pitching staff anchored by Greinke, Marcum and Yovani Gallardo was coupled with a deep lineup consisting of the likes of Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks and newly minted Aramis Ramirez put the Brewers in good shape on paper. Then the season started and the wheels almost immediately fell off. By May 22, the Brewers were 17-26 and falling fast.
On July 28, with the team sitting 15 games out of the division, General Manager Doug Melvin waved the white flag and sent Greinke to the Angels for a package of prospects headed by shortstop Jean Segura trying to replenish a barren farm system. He had plans to trade Marcum and Randy Wolf as well, but ineffectiveness and injuries kept them on the team a little while longer. Then, because of course, the Brewers started winning.
In August and September, the Brewers went on an inspired 24-6 run that landed them with a 78-72 record and suddenly they were just a game-and-a-half behind the Cardinals for the second wild card spot in the NL. They would come back down to earth a little in the season’s final weeks, but they still finished with a winning record on a year that looked totally lost in early August.
Whether or not the late season run changed the strategy of Melvin and company heading into the winter is unknown, but the Brewers were not busy this offseason, adding little more than some useful pieces to their bullpen. If they are going to contend in 2013, they’ll be doing it with nearly the same roster that finished last season and therefore are counting on the continued good performance of some serious regression candidates.