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Milwaukee Brewers: Doug Melvin on the Brink of Another Mistake in Free Agency

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COMMENTARY | Doug Melvin is flipping conventional wisdom upside down with a series of potential gambles that could sink the Milwaukee Brewers' chances for success in 2014 and beyond.

Recently, the general manager of the Brewers traded popular leadoff hitter Norichika Aoki for work-in-progress relief pitcher Will Smith, formerly of the Kansas City Royals.

The move arguably opened a large hole at the top of the Brewers' order while failing to guarantee the team much in return. Will Smith struggled previously as a starting pitcher for the Royals, which is the same role Melvin has apparently targeted for him on the Brewers.

Should the unproven Smith fail to contribute this year, the Brewers will have gambled away an important and known piece of their team without much in return.

Following quickly on the heels of that transaction, it now appears Melvin is being sucked into a bidding war over a player that had surgery on both knees during a 2013 season in which he failed to play a single game while earning $10 million of the team's precious money.

That player is of course Corey Hart, an outfielder turned first baseman that also missed a month of the season with injury in 2011.

On November 19, Jim Bowden of SiriusXM reported that, "Corey Hart says that his agent have talked to Boston, TB, Colorado, and Milw amongst other interested teams."

That's a fairly vague reference and doesn't indicate which side initiated those conversations. Whether those other teams are actually serious about Hart shouldn't be a factor in Milwaukee's plan anyway.

Doug Melvin and his staff should sit down and come up with a risk-adjusted salary offer that reflects Hart's previous injuries, and then simply pass along that non-negotiable figure to the Hart camp.

The Brewers need to take control of the negotiations instead of being baited into a bad decision. The worst outcome in this negotiation is not missing out on Hart because another team signs him first. The absolute worst outcome would be re-signing Hart for big bucks against the mirage of phantom bidders.

As a small-market team the Milwaukee Brewers could benefit from studying some of the principles that Mark Attanasio likely follows in his role guiding a large investment firm.

In the world of investing, just as in professional sports, there's great reward in buying low and selling high. The Brewers, as demonstrated in the examples of Jeff Suppan, Corey Hart, Trevor Hoffman, and Rickie Weeks, have a recent history of buying high.

When a slightly above-average player like Corey Hart busts out with a good season near the end of his contract, the Brewers would be wise to try and replenish their farm system by selling him for everything they can get.

It would be far better for the Brewers to possess a large stable of young, controllable (by contract) players instead of a holding smattering of highly paid, older veterans that are susceptible to injury.

The latter case is the exact bitter pill the team swallowed with regards to Weeks and Hart in 2013. Two of the team's highest-paid players were virtual non-factors last year.

Buying high won't ever build a strong foundation of long-term success for a team like the Milwaukee Brewers. Despite having some of the greatest fans in the game, the television revenue the Brewers collect simply can't compete with the larger urban markets in the sport.

If a big-city team wants to step up to the blackjack table and throw some money down on a low probability bet, that's certainly its prerogative. It's quite another thing when a team like the Milwaukee Brewers, backed by fewer net resources, charts such a risky course.

Melvin and the Brewers would be better served letting the big-city teams follow the big-money strategy of free-agency acquisitions. The Brewers themselves would be better served adopting a more innovative approach that leverages their own enviable position (i.e. great stadium, great fans).

While trading away peaking players can be tough on the fans, building an actual contender by collecting young talent has a way of erasing bad memories. Melvin was on the right track with the Aoki trade; he simply accepted too little in return.

Throwing good money after bad on Corey Hart would be a strong indication the team isn't yet ready to embrace a new vision of its future. A potentially unfortunate outcome for a team and city that are well-prepared for a new, innovative approach.

Andrew Prochnow is a derivatives trader that previously slung sodas for Sportservice at Milwaukee County Stadium. He is a regular contributor at Yahoo Sports and The Bleacher Report. Tweet him @AndrewProchnow.

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