Brewers general manager Doug Melvin chatted online with fans Thursday about Carlos Lee's trade status, the recovery of Ben Sheets, Tomo Ohka and J.J. Hardy, and some of the Brewers' top Minor League prospects. He also talked about his optimism for Milwaukee in the second half of the season.
Doug Melvin: It's great to see that even on an off-day Brewers fans want to talk Brewers baseball! I am looking forward to spending the next hour with you all. Let's get started.
bdsoccer: Doug, what will you do with Carlos Lee?
Melvin: This is the most asked question at this time of the year. I would like to feel that I am pretty consistent with our answer. We would like for Carlos to remain a Brewer and we will make efforts toward that result. As long as the club continues to play well and we are confident that we can get to the postseason, Carlos will be a big part of that. We still have 40 games left before the trading deadline and again, if we are in the race, we will need Carlos for us to reach the postseason. If for some unknown reason, due to a rash of injuries or under performing, then we will address the situation at that time. But I still remain confident that this is a team that will remain in the playoff hunt.
Cody_Smith: Are there any plans of signing Chris Capuano before the end of the season since he is arbitration eligible next year?
Melvin: We have not had conversations with his agent at this time. I think it is best at this time that he continues to focus on the outstanding year he is having.
Cody_Smith: How do you feel the team looks so far this season? Where do you think they will finish up the season?
Melvin: In spite of the injuries to two of our top starting pitchers, we feel that the club has played well enough for us to feel optimistic about the second half of the season. We do recognize that there are areas that need to improve such as defense, middle relief and timely hitting, but over the past two weeks I have seen improvement in those areas. If we can stay around the .500 mark or above until we get Ben Sheets and Tomo Ohka back, then we feel we can make a very good run for the postseason.
Nancy_Gillette: Hi Doug, this is Nancy Gillette. I was wondering what you think of Steve Bray from Branford, Conn., now in your organization with Huntsville?
Melvin: Hi Nancy! Great to hear from you. Steven has been pitching extremely well at the Double-A level and we have taken notice that he has worked himself into prospect status. He throws strikes and I know our current pitching coach is very fond of that.
Base_Ball: Who is involved in the decision-making behind Minor League promotions, for example Mark Rogers? Is there a rule of thumb behind doing that during the season or is it typically done after the year ends?
Melvin: We have monthly conference calls with Reid Nichols and the Minor League department. We also have plans for each individual prospect on whether it makes sense to promote them during their developmental process. In Rogers' case, we feel that he is having success in his most recent four or five starts and it is important for him to continue that at the level he is pitching. Yovani Gallardo had success over a longer period of time, the entire first half of the season, and earned the promotion to Double-A. We also have scouts that have input in these decisions, so it is an organizational decision on player movement.
crazyforcappy: Who has a really good chance of going to the All-Star Game this year from the Brewers?
Melvin: I think Lee, Capuano and Derrick Turnbow should be considered. Lee should be a lock and Capuano should be highly considered and Turnbow should also be considered. I would like to see a spot for a multi-positional player like Bill Hall and then I think he would be considered.
bigbootytrudy: What do you like most about your job?
Melvin: I like watching baseball games the most. What I like least is negotiating player contracts.
stumpp: Brewers fans are pretty excited about Gallardo. Could you tell us a little bit about his actual stuff and when the earliest you could possibly see in Milwaukee?
Melvin: I think he is just 20 years old and he reminds a lot of us of Javier Vasquez of the White Sox. He has command of four pitches and has great poise and composure on the mound. He also is a very good competitor. As you recall, he pitched two scoreless innings against the Japanese National Team in Spring Training and opened everyone's eyes. I believe he and Rogers rank one and two in the Minor Leagues in strikeouts per nine innings. Yovani is now at Double-A and we hope for him to have success there.
casey1992: When discussing trade proposals, I often hear comments like, "Doug wouldn't make that trade. He doesn't want to help another NL Central team." When making trade proposals, how much weight do you place on the fact that you're dealing with a divisional foe?
Melvin: The most important thing about making a trade is that it helps your ballclub and if it helps another ballclub, regardless of the division they are in, it is not a bad thing. That team will be willing to deal with you in the future. If I did deal with a team in our division, I would probably be a little more reluctant if we were within a game or two of each other in the standings. Dealing with teams ahead of you may be a little more difficult than dealing with teams behind you in the standings. But, if in the end it helps our ballclub, that is the most important thing.
Base_Ball: Doug, With the history of young pitchers in the draft, when do you change philosophy and go with a more mature arm? Or is the risk of a higher ceiling always more rewarding?
Melvin: Our philosophy remains to take the best talent that we feel will have the longest career in the Major Leagues. Obviously, every pitcher has a risk of injury regardless of age. If you recall, only a couple of years ago, Rice University had three first-round pitchers taken in the draft and all three of them have had surgery and have yet to produce at a high level. With young pitchers like Gallardo, Rogers and our recent first-round pick Jeremy Jeffress, our pitching coaches get the opportunity to work with their mechanics and develop them in a way that may prevent injury in the future. The young high school pitchers do have high reward with some risk.
Brent_Chabbas: Doug, what would you classify as the move that most helped this team the previous three seasons?
Melvin: I still think that the Richie Sexson trade brought us great return. If you look at our current pitching staff of Capuano, Dave Bush, Zach Jackson, Ohka and Jorge De La Rosa, they have all been a result of that trade. To get three-fifths of a rotation in one trade is difficult to do.
brewmann04: What are you looking at come the trade deadline?
Melvin: Probably like 29 other clubs, I am looking for starting pitching. There really isn't much else that I feel we need other than staying away from injuries.
fielderfan: Have the Yankees contacted you about Lee?
Max_Kraft: How is Ben Sheets doing with his injury?
Melvin: We still don't know the timetable, but we were very encouraged by him throwing 80 pitches off the mound this week. He has been a lot more positive about his injury recently and we still hold hope that we can get him back after the All-Star break. That would be the best trade we could make! As for Tomo, he is making very similar progress and will be throwing to hitters in practice in Kansas City this weekend. At this point, he is a little bit ahead of Ben.
stumpp: If we re-sign Lee, what does that do to the status of Nelson Cruz and Corey Hart? Don't we need to get them experience this year?
Melvin: If this was a developmental year, I would say yes, we should see what Hart and Cruz can do at the big-league level. But since we are contending and trying to win as many games as we can, it is obvious that Carlos, Geoff Jenkins and Brady Clark will be playing most of the time because of their experience. We do feel that Nelson and Corey will be good big-league players.
brewmann04: What are the Brewers right now, sellers or buyers?
Melvin: I would like to say that we are buyers and to encourage our fans that if we can improve our ballclub, we will. The problem exists that there are about 22 other ballclubs with the same philosophy.
gameman88: Just curious to get your thoughts on the first-round pick for this year. What have you seen from him that has really impressed you?
Melvin: Obviously, we are very impressed with Jeffress. As a young high school pitcher, he comes to our organization with very good mechanics in his delivery and an outstanding fastball. I would be very surprised if we are not talking about Jeremy in the next year in the same way we are talking about Rogers and Gallardo. He is also an outstanding athlete, which a lot of people don't think is important for a pitcher, but is extremely important. If you look, a lot of your top quality pitchers are outstanding athletes.
mike_goeden: What do you think about Jeff Cirillo?
Melvin: Hi Jeff, I know that is you asking this question. I think you are goofy, but you are also a very key part to our ballclub. He is great in the clubhouse with our young players, but also performs in a lot of clutch situations and prepares himself well physically and mentally for his role in the ballclub.
Base_Ball_3: When do you see the team bringing up Tony Gwynn Jr.?
Melvin: Tony is having a fine year. I know he is ready in case we need him and we would be very confident in calling him up if the need arises.
bdsoccer: When do you expect J.J. Hardy to make a return?
Melvin: I don't have a specific date as he continues to rehab and take ground balls. Again, we are hoping sometime shortly after the All-Star break. He will have to go out on a rehab assignment when he is ready to swing the bat.
Tyler_Berg: I haven't heard much about Ryan Braun anymore? How's he doing?
Melvin: He was recently promoted to Double-A Huntsville and was selected to play in the Futures Game at the All-Star Game in July.
Ed_Riley: Rickie Weeks' defense certainly seems to be improving lately. How is the relationship between him and Robin Yount?
Melvin: He has a fine relationship with both infield instructors and I think that has a lot to do with Rickie's recent improvement over the past few weeks. They continue to work every day on taking ground balls and throwing from different angles at the second base position. Robin and Dale Sveum both believe that you do not give up on a talent like Rickie as a second baseman.
bdsoccer: Can Prince Fielder be considered as a Rookie of the Year even though he played last season?
Melvin: Prince will still be considered for Rookie of the Year this season. This is one of the strongest groups of rookies I have seen in awhile. Prince, Hanley Ramirez of Florida, Conor Jackson of Arizona and Josh Johnson in Florida all lead the group of this year's rookies.
madisonian: Is it difficult for front office staff to avoid getting swept up in the city's reborn enthusiasm for the Crew?
Melvin: We embrace the enthusiasm, but are realistic that we always need to look at ways to improve the team. We have had a dry spell for so long, I am thrilled to see the enthusiasm Brewers fans have shown over the past couple of years. They deserve it.
Timothy_Jackson: Do you think Jackson is at, above or below expectations at this point since the winter trade?
Melvin: We did not anticipate bringing Zach up here this early, but due to injuries and lack of performance, he is getting the opportunity. For a young player who is only 2 1/2 years out of the draft, he is showing a lot of poise and composure and has given us an opportunity to win in each of his starts.
ajay: Has the reputation of the Brewers organization improved enough that good players are showing interest in coming here?
Melvin: I think there is no doubt that we get a lot of positive response from visiting players and front office that we are headed in the right direction. With new ownership and the respect Ned Yost has gained as a manager, it has given us an opportunity and hope that free agents will take us seriously.
ajay: Why haven't the Brewers brought up a third catcher? I want to see someone pinch-hit for Chad Moeller when the game is on the line.
Melvin: One reason we didn't call up a third catcher is because we had 13 pitchers and if you are pinch-hitting a third catcher, it weakens your bench because you are always holding him back to pinch-hit for one guy.
BJ_Garczynski: Thank you for bringing solid baseball back to Milwaukee. How did you get involved with sports management/baseball operations and as a college student, how could I become involved?
Melvin: I was a released Minor League player that was given an opportunity to work in the front office once my playing career was over. I worked my way through the front office system by working in the scouting office, player development office and eventually became an assistant GM prior to becoming a general manager. I worked in the front office for 17 years before getting the chance to be a general manager. My career path was different than today's GM's in training. I would not trade my 17 years of prior baseball experience for a short-term opportunity that some GM's are getting. I am now entering my 33rd year in baseball and I think that prior experience has led to my longevity.
Melvin: Thanks for your participation and your continued support of the Brewers.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.