Month: July 2017

A Fork In The Road: Should the Milwaukee Brewers Buy at the Trade Deadline?

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Is the brewers rebuild coming to an end? or should david stearns stay the course?

The Milwaukee Brewers trade deadline activity might be heating up, especially after they have defied the odds all season and have a 5.5 game lead in the division. Even the most optimistic fans did not see the division as winnable after expectations were low to start the season. Many others, myself included, figured there were too many unknowns with this club for it to come together this early. Yet here we are at the All-Star break and the Brewers are 50-41 and leading a surprisingly mediocre NL Central.

Many fans are thinking playoffs and are right to think so. The Brewers offense has shown an incredible amount of power despite Ryan Braun appearing in less than half of the 91 games played. Pitching has held up thanks to big first half performances by Jimmy Nelson, Chase Anderson, and Corey Knebel.

The trade deadline is merely weeks away and some big names are available. Both the Oakland A’s Sonny Gray and Chicago White Sox Jose Quintana had been named as potential targets of the Brewers. Quintana is now off the board after the Chicago Cubs traded their top two prospects plus others for his services. Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers is also rumored to be on the trade block. The Brewers may be tempted to make a splash with a rare opportunity to make the playoffs looming. Should they though? We’ll take a look at the arguments for and against buying at the deadline.

Milwaukee Brewers trade deadline and buying in

The Brewers have a 5.5 game lead in the division with 71 games to play. If they hold a similar lead by the end of July, the division will be theirs for the taking. One big reason to buy at the deadline is that playoff appearances are unfortunately rare in Milwaukee. Aside from 2008 and 2011, one must go back to the 1982 squad to find a playoff team. The Brewers have one of the highest rated farms in baseball, but there is no guarantee that the prospects will pan out as expected. Why wait around for something that may not happen?

General Manger David Stearns does not care about history though, his focus is on the future. Sonny Gray could be a smart pickup as he is under 30 and has two seasons of affordable team control remaining. This would not be a half season rental like C.C. Sabathia back in 2008. Gray would immediately be, at worst, the number 2 starter in the rotation.

The Brewers farm system is loaded with talent with a surplus in the outfield. Stearns could flip a couple prospects and not damage the overall health of the franchise. While they would still be underdogs in the NLDS, a playoff rotation of Gray, Nelson, and Anderson could at least keep the Crew competitive. If Stearns feels like the roster is built to compete within the next several seasons then adding a starting pitcher could be the final piece needed.

The Case For Standing Pat

David Stearns has repeatedly said that his goal is to build a long term winner in Milwaukee. Selling off prospects for a pitcher now could help this year, but could also hurt the Brewers down the road. The Brewers have done a remarkable job over the last two years flipping veterans for prospects. The team could very well sell off some prospects, getting burned in the process when a player they acquire does not live up to expectations.

In fact the Brewers are already benefiting from the trades they’ve made as Travis Shaw, Domingo Santana, and Corey Knebel are big contributors now. The sheer amount of talent in the Brewers farm could have them set up to be a playoff caliber squad for a decade. Given Milwaukee’s rather non-competitive history I think most fans would welcome a sustained period of success.

In the end it’s about trying to bring a championship to Milwaukee and two seasons of Gray is unlikely to push the Brewers over the likes of the Dodgers, Astros, or Nationals. The Brewers have shown that they will go all in to acquire a front line starter; Sabathia in 2008 and Zack Greinke in 2011. Stearns may not feel that 2017 is the time for the big push, especially if either the Cubs or Cardinals close the divisional gap by the deadline.

My Opinion

The idea of acquiring Gray is tantalizing for sure. Winning the division title over the heavily favored Cubs would be sweet considering the meager expectations heading into the season. However I would not expect the Brewers to pull the trigger on a large scale deal this season. They might make another low risk trade similar to the one made for reliever Tyler Webb, but not much else.

The reality is that the Cubs gave up two of their top prospects to get Quintana. The A’s will want a similar deal for Gray which might require the Brewers to trade two of Lewis Brinson, Josh Hader, or Isan Diaz. Given the potential of those players I expect Stearns will pull out of any trade talks. There will come a time when the Brewers add a top line starter for a World Series push but it is unlikely to be this season.

 

Matt Kenseth hits free agency: Will JGR sign him to a new deal?

 

 

If Matt Kenseth hits free agency in 2018, where will he land?

When Matt Kenseth hits free agency in 2018, there will be options for him to continue his career in NASCAR’s Monster Energy Series. While Kenseth is indeed the oldest active driver in NASCAR’s top series at 45 years old, it would be a shock for teams pass on a driver who still turns in quality runs, even through a dismal first half of 2017.

Kenseth joked back in April that he could race another “15-20 years”. It seems as if Kenseth has no real desire to retire. But it is compelling that nearing the midway point of the 2017 season, there has been no real “progress” regarding a contract extension with Joe Gibbs Racing. With that being said, it is unlikely that Gibbs would hold Kenseth’s struggles entirely against him, as none of the four drivers in Gibb’s stable have won a race this year.

The complex nature of NASCAR’s sponsorship woes in recent years, as well as a batch of new drivers waiting in the wings, adds more uncertainty to Kenseth’s position at JGR. When Kenseth left Roush Fenway Racing after the 2012 season, he immediately made an impact at JGR. Replacing Joey Logano was seen as a suprise move, but Kenseth initially proved it was the right decision. In 2013, he won seven races and was Jimmie Johnson’s main competition for the championship that season. Since then, Kenseth has had mixed results, but has always remained competitive, winning a total of 14 races with JGR.

One of the primary reasons Kenseth left RFR, was because their team was losing sponsorship. Something that has also happened at JGR. Since 2013, the #20 car has lost Home Depot and Dollar General as major sponsors. The team gained a familiar sponsor in DeWalt for the bulk of this season’s races. They also acquired Circle K for this season as well as next season. While Kenseth’s talent is undeniable, it will prove difficult to drive for a team without major sponsorship commitment. So here are a few possibilities of where he could land as we enter Silly Season.

Joe Gibbs Racing/Furniture Row Racing

Joe Gibbs would be incredibly farsighted to give up on Kenseth. Especially with sponsorship commitment from Circle K through next year and Kenseth still being a top 15 driver. With Kenseth’s recent struggles, he still brings a lot to their stable of drivers. The untimely retirement of Carl Edwards forced Gibbs to promote Xfinity Series Champion Daniel Suarez while having Erik Jones in the #77 car at FRR. With the added flexibility of working with FRR, Gibbs has options for what he could do with Kenseth.

Kenseth could very well remain in the #20 for another few years. It is also possible to shift over to the #77 team and work aside Martin Truex Jr. Truex Jr. has turned FRR into a respectable team in the garage area. Kenseth would go to a team that is a big threat to win the title this year. If Gibbs is interested in rolling with a youth movement and having Suarez in the #19 and Erik Jones to the #20, this would be a viable option for Kenseth to stay with a Joe Gibbs affiliated team.

Hendrick Motorsports

Rick Hendrick is no stranger to identifying talent and taking risks. Jimmie Johnson is the most obvious example of Hendrick finding an unknown talent and turning him into a superstar. Hendrick took a risk on a 50 year old Mark Martin in 2009. Martin had not run a full schedule since he partially retired in 2006. He would end up winning five races for Hendrick Motorsports that year in the 5 car. Martin would go on to race two more seasons for Hendrick and then finished two 24 race season with Michael Waltrip Racing.

If Hendrick were to take a risk on signing Kenseth, it would pale in comparison to signing Martin in 09. With Dale Earnhardt Jr. retiring, there is at least one car open for Hendrick to fill. Kasey Kahne has one more year on his contract, so Hendrick will be looking to most likely fill two cars in the next year.

Kenseth would be a great fit here because Hendrick Motorsports only has William Byron and Alex Bowman as a possible prospects to bring up for now. Kenseth could sign a 2-3 year deal and provide Hendrick with a quality driver for the time being. Byron and others could then work through the Xfinity Series. Of course, Hendrick could opt to put Alex Bowman in the 88, giving him another year of cup experience. If he wants another viable option to compete for a championship, Kenseth would be his best bet.

Stewart Haas Racing

Tony Stewart knows what Kenseth has to offer as a driver. Stewart/Haas may have an opening, as Kurt Busch’s contract is up after this season as well. Stewart would add Kenseth next to Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Danica Patrick. Patrick has one year left on her contract, but sponsors have been concerned about her level of competition. For Kenseth to sign with SHR, he would have to have been denied seats at Hendrick and Gibbs first and most likely would accept a spot there as a last resort.

Brad Keselowski is also a name that has been discussed in the garage area regarding his contract status. Kenseth and Keselowski are no doubt the two hottest free agent names and both could very well change seats in 2018.  One of Keselowski or Kenseth will end up at Hendrick Motorsports next year if you ask me. Roger Penske has no real reason to cut ties with Keselowski, so I expect a contract decision with him real soon. But with Ryan Blaney’s recent success, could we see him in the #2 car, giving Penske a young face to build around? Let the Silly Season begin!