COMMENTARY | A team with the payroll and the stature of the Milwaukee Brewers has surprisingly found itself in the middle of some high-profile trades over the past five years.
It's hard to argue that trading for CC Sabathia and Zack Greinke didn't work out despite parting ways with promising talent like Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, Jake Odorizzi, Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain. While those deals helped to deplete the farm system, without them the Brewers are unable to reach the postseason in 2008, or go on their magical run in 2011.
Turning around and swapping Greinke for Jean Segura and Co. wound up working OK as well.
The Brewers were fortunate those trades paid dividends. It's difficult for a small-market franchise like Milwaukee to part ways with so many prospects considering how team's like the Brewers usually rely on building through the draft to thrive.
The trade took place right before the trade deadline in 2006, with the Brewers on the verge of entering contender status. But at 48-55, Milwaukee wasn't quite knocking on the door. With Lee set to become a free-agent at season's end, general manager Doug Melvin knew it was time to trade El Caballo.
It was the right decision. Lee and the Brewers were unable to find a middle ground regarding a contract extension, and Ryan Braun would become Milwaukee's full-time left fielder by 2008.
Well, it was the right decision at the time.
Unbeknownst to Melvin, however, was what would become of Nelson Cruz, who ironically is also involved in the Biogenesis/Tony Bosch scandal. The Rangers wanted a prospect to tag along with Lee considering the risk that they would be unable to re-sign Lee, so it was Cruz who was included in the trade.
It didn't seem like a big deal. Geoff Jenkins was the everyday right fielder for the Crew, blocking Cruz's path to the big leagues. Corey Hart was an up-and-coming young talent at the time and was waiting in the wings to take over in right once Jenkins' time was up in Milwaukee. Cruz was just one of several outfield prospects in the system, but perhaps the most promising.
At the time of the trade, Cruz was hitting .302 with 20 HRs and 73 RBIs with Triple-A Nashville. That's a pretty good throw-in to go with Carlos Lee. You can always find a place in your lineup for a player putting up those kinds of numbers, especially when your center fielder is Brady Clark and Lee is on his way out.
In return, Milwaukee received some Major League-ready players -- outfielders Kevin Mench and Laynce Nix to go along with relief pitcher Francisco Cordero. As Brewers, Mench hit .240 with 9 HRs and 55 RBIs in 141 games while Nix battled injuries and poor performance during parts of three years in Milwaukee's system.
Because of the struggling Derrick Turnbow (cringe), Cordero was the most important piece of the puzzle. He would be a fine closer for the Brewers up until his departure following the 2007 season, racking up 60 saves in 94 appearances with a 2.60 ERA.
But when you trade two All-Star caliber players for what amounted to a good relief pitcher and two replacement level (at best) outfielders, you lost the trade. Lee was an All-Star for the Houston Astros the following year and played six more seasons in the big leagues while Cruz is still going strong, reaching two Midsummer Classics with the Rangers.
Granted, Cruz is likely facing suspension for his connection to Biogenesis. Can you imagine having two All-Stars on the same team being wrapped up in that scandal? It doesn't sound fun.
All things considered, the Brewers wound up with Braun in left field following Jenkins' departure and Hart, a two-time All-Star himself, in right field in time for their 2008 run to the playoffs. So for this to be the most regrettable trade in franchise history, Milwaukee faired pretty well, and it says a lot about how successful the Brewers have been executing trades throughout their 44-year existence.
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who is an avid follower of Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline, as a featured columnist on other sites and publications, and been a guest on multiple sports talk radio shows.
You can get the discussion going and follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_ .
- Sports & Recreation
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Nelson Cruz
- Carlos Lee