It’s the job of a general manager to find talent to fill his club from anywhere and everywhere, so it should come as no surprise that they make good moves now and again. But Melvin has seemingly been able to find real value in the most unlikely of spots at times, whether through trades, under-the-radar free agent signings, or simple waiver claims. Considering how the Brewers have been virtually absent in the international market for a long time, this is a special gift.
Read to take a stroll down memory lane? Some of these names just may make you nostalgic for some Yost-isms...
Perhaps one of Doug Melvin’s first truly bright moves was snagging OF Scott Podsednik off of waivers from Seattle. Pods was originally a member of the Texas Rangers after being selected in the 3rd round of the 1994 draft. From there, he bounced around in the minors from club to club until landing with the Mariners, with whom he made his major league debut in 2001. When the Mariners cut Podsednik after the following year, he fell right into the lap of the Brewers, who at the time were looking for anybody with a pulse on the heels of a 100-loss season.
Given the opportunity to play everyday, Podsednik responded with arguably his best years in the majors. In his two seasons with Milwaukee, he stole 113 bases while averaging just a .330 wOBA. With just a .313 OBP in 2004, he stole 70 bases. That’s right: he got on base in less than 1/3 of his total plate appearances and still managed to steal that many. In comparison, Rickey Henderson never stole more than 70 bases with an OBP lower than .358.
Without a doubt, Podsednik was a real value to the Brewers during his short tenure, and was used as a key piece in acquiring Carlos Lee the following year, who I guess was okay for the Crew.
But really, this was just Melvin getting warmed with his ability to find diamonds in the rough.
Before he became a Japanese superstar, Casey McGehee was a very productive 3B for the Brewers.
As a waiver claim from the Cubs, McGehee had a total of 25 big league plate appearances before making Milwaukee’s roster out of spring training in 2009. With no sure playing time anywhere around the infield, he made the most of his limited opportunities before finally getting the nod over Bill Hall to play third base full-time. Although a bit rough with the glove, McGehee more than made up for it with his bat, averaging a 103 wRC+ over his 3 seasons with the club (120, if you take away his poor 2011), hit 52 home runs and accumulated 4.6 WAR, which is just .1 above his career 4.5 WAR.
Whatever McGehee had to give, he left it all on the field for the Brewers, providing a solid bat behind Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder where he would pick up any scraps they left behind. Those are the kind of returns you may hope for out of some top draft picks, not some guy who originally was just hoping for a bench job.
Sabathia isn’t here because the production wasn’t expected (although that 1.65 ERA was awful good), but because the returns were worth more than the price.
Michael Brantley has had a fine career to date. Not spectacular, but better than decent. Matt LaPorta though? Zach Jackson? Rob Bryson? All toiling away in the minors. LaPorta has pretty much bombed as any sort of hopeful prospect, with little hope he’ll ever exceed “useful regular” status (although he is off to a pretty nice start following hip surgery). So pretty much all the value the Indians have gotten in return has come from Brantley, and if you asked me to trade Brantley for a half season of Sabathia in his prime, it's a no brainer. Sabathia gave the Brewers 130.2 innings, 7 complete games (3 of which were shutouts), a 5 to 1 K:BB ratio and posted a ridiculous 255 ERA+.
Now, are you ready for the big one? To this day, meaning up to this point in the 2013 season, the combined WAR of Brantley, Jackson and LaPorta’s major league CAREERS has not eclipsed what Sabathia recorded with the Brewers in 2008. That's using scores by both Baseball-Reference (4.9 vs. 3.1) and Fangraphs (4.3 vs. 2.5). Yeah, it was a pretty darn good move in retrospect.
That's all for today though, folks. Stay tuned for part 2, with 50% more content and 100% more bipolar relievers...