07/31/06 6:52 PM ET
Busy Brewers deal well before deadline
GM Melvin boosts playoff run with three trades last week
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
Brewers general manager Doug Melvin did all of his dealing in the span of four days last week, making a statement that he believes the team still can make a move in the National League Wild Card race. With a trio of trades, Melvin solved the Carlos Lee dilemma and tried to bolster the team's injury-riddled infield and sagging bullpen.
"We're going to be a little different ballclub, I think," Melvin said. "Maybe a few less strikeouts on our club, even though Carlos never struck out too much. We're going to have a little less team speed. We're going to have to scratch for runs at times. We're going to be a more steady club, I think. At least we're hoping to be."
A rundown of Melvin's busy week:
On Tuesday, with three-quarters of the starting infield -- second baseman Rickie Weeks (wrist), third baseman Corey Koskie (concussion) and J.J. Hardy (ankle) -- sidelined by varying degrees of injury, Melvin acquired veteran utility man Tony Graffanino from the Royals for Jorge De La Rosa, a young left-hander who never reached his tremendous potential.
On Thursday, Melvin bunkered down with his top advisors and made a final offer to Lee, the two-time All-Star left fielder who was in the final year of his current contract. When Lee and his agent, Adam Katz, turned down an offer in the four-year, $51 million range, Melvin & Co. decided it was better to field trade offers than lose Lee at the end of the season with nothing but draft picks to show for it. The only team offering Major League players was Texas, which sent outfielder Kevin Mench, reliever Francisco Cordero, Triple-A outfielder Laynce Nix and a Minor League pitcher to Milwaukee for Lee and top outfield prospect Nelson Cruz.
Hours later, Melvin struck again. With Hardy out for the year, Koskie sidelined indefinitely and Weeks headed for the disabled list, the Brewers acquired veteran third baseman David Bell -- himself a free agent at season's end -- from Philadelphia for a low-level Minor League pitcher.
Those trades came on top of two major acquisitions earlier in the month. Tomo Ohka and Ben Sheets both returned from shoulder surgery and have re-established some stability in the starting rotation.
A few days have passed and the dust has settled. Is Melvin happy with his rebuilt Brewers?
"I was satisfied when I made the deals," Melvin said. "Now these guys need to get comfortable. When you get traded, there's always a level of, 'Geez, what's happening?'"
Brewers fans know the feeling. Some wondered if the Brewers shouldn't have held on to De La Rosa, who possesses a rare power lefty arm but had yet to harness his command. Many more lamented the loss of Lee, the team's top offensive player, and Cruz, a power-hitting, power-armed outfielder, who had 20 home runs at Triple-A Nashville.
The Mets traded Kazmir on July 30, 2004, and he has developed into one of the league's elite young pitchers. The Rangers -- pre-Melvin -- dealt Sosa on July 29, 1989, and he hit 588 home runs.
The Brewers are not looking for Mench to replace Lee, though the new left fielder drove in all four Brewers runs in Sunday's crucial, 4-3 win over the Reds. But Mench, shortstop Bill Hall (team-high 24 home runs) and Prince Fielder (franchise rookie record 19 home runs) are expected to fill the power gap.
If it is to seriously contend, the team will also need more offense from right fielder Geoff Jenkins, who has 53 RBIs this season and entered Monday's game hitting .277 with runners in scoring position, but has hit just nine home runs. Jenkins has two home runs since May 20.
Does the team need Jenkins to step up?
"I think Geoff is aware of that," Melvin said.
Yost said that Jenkins is not the only veteran under the gun. He expects contributions from all of the team's established players, including newly acquired veterans Bell, Graffanino and Mench.
"Everybody has to step up," manager Ned Yost said. "One day, this is going to be Prince's and Rickie's and Corey Hart's team. We're getting closer and closer to that day. But right now, Jenks is the elder statesman. ... Everybody needs to step up if we're going to win this thing. Not carry the team, just do what they're capable of doing."
Melvin thinks many critics of the Lee trade are overlooking Nix, who is a year younger than Cruz and has already played 240 games in the big leagues. Nix missed much of last season after shoulder surgery and was sent down by the Rangers earlier this year after batting .096 in nine games.
"I still like Laynce Nix. No one's talking about him," Melvin said. "Nix is a talented player, and he's a year younger than Nelson Cruz. He had shoulder surgery, but he'll really track a ball down in center field. He's not Jim Edmonds, but he glides after the ball that way."
Yost, whose Brewers were 50-55 entering their three-game series at Coors Field, was pleased with the team's pre-deadline moves.
"Doug and Gord [Ash, the team's assistant GM] did an unbelievable job improving our team," Yost said. "They stepped up and filled holes that could have been devastating for us. I think we're pretty good right now, and we're even stronger when we get those [injured] guys back."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.