COMMENTARY | It's really no coincidence that the Milwaukee Brewers won back-to-back games in which their bullpen started. For those who have played close attention to Milwaukee's agonizing 2013 season, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise, either.
The Brewers have won three straight games for the first time since April 21-23 as part of a season-high nine-game winning streak. Hope that the season would turn into something special has since diminished after a six-win month of May, but the Crew currently has a winning record in June, and it's come as a result of some resiliency in tough situations and more breaks finally going its way.
Four of the Brewers' five victories in June have come by a single run.
Milwaukee has managed to win in spite of its starting pitching behind the continued success of its bullpen and timely hitting. As a result, the Brewers are beginning to win games that they have typically come out of on the wrong end previously this season.
At 25-37, the Brewers still have a lot of work to do if they really want to be serious contenders come September, but right now, the feeling is that the team will be sellers as the trade deadline draws closer, just as they attempted to be in 2012.
This doesn't mean all hope should be lost, however, based on the way Milwaukee closed out the 2012 season, thrusting itself back into the wild-card race.
As opposed to most recent years, the Brewers will not be in search of acquiring players that can put them over the top, but rather minor league prospects that will help replenish the farm system and help the organization down the road.
That is, unless Milwaukee is somehow able to drastically turn its season around within the next month or so, which appears unlikely considering its league-worst starting rotation. And even if it does, the Top 3 teams in the NL Central may very well be the three strongest teams in the entire National League.
Dustin Nosler from the Yahoo! Contributor network suggests Aramis Ramirez could be a target of the Los Angeles Dodgers, a team that isn't afraid to spend and take on big contracts. Corey Seager, the Dodgers' first-round selection from the 2012 MLB draft, would be ideal to get in return, but Milwaukee would likely have to settle for less, as Ramirez is still essentially owed another $20 million past 2013.
There are still so many teams that would consider themselves to be in the hunt for a playoff spot, so it's difficult to say who will be buying and who will be selling as the end of July beckons. But general manager Doug Melvin has publicly stated that should more trades go down this season, it will be to benefit the team down the road -- not in 2013 (via Michael Hunt of JSOnline).
Milwaukee can make several players available while keeping much of its core intact, including Ramirez, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks, Kyle Lohse and just about everybody in the bullpen. The Brewers would like nothing more than to unload the contracts of Weeks and Lohse, although they likely wouldn't get much in return due to their poor performance and lucrative deals.
Still, to get some reasonable minor league talent in return for Hart, Lohse, Weeks or Ramirez would be all the Brewers could ask for, and it would offer an incredible amount of relief on the payroll. Not only that, but Milwaukee has players at the ready to step in should it part ways with Weeks and Hart -- Scooter Gennett and Hunter Morris.
The trade to bring in Juan Francisco, who can play both corner infield positions, cracks the door open even more regarding a potential trade of Hart or Ramirez and to help bridge the gap to Morris' expected arrival in 2014.
Thanks to having talented players like Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura under team control for the foreseeable future, the Brewers don't have to go into total rebuild mode. They could look to add some Double-A or Triple-A level talent this season -- players that would be ready to contribute in the next year or two that would help vault the Brewers right back to contender status.
There are also some promising young arms in the system, such as Johnny Hellweg, Jimmy Nelson and Ariel Pena, that are putting together solid years. It's probably in Milwaukee's best interest to allow those pitchers to develop in the Minors for the rest of 2013 and then give them a shot to make the big league roster in 2014.
Combine that with the hope that Tyler Thornburg and Wily Peralta, the organization's top two prospects entering the 2013 season according to Baseball America, are able to turn things around -- both are still just 24 years of age -- and it's far from the end of the world if the Brewers ship off Lohse, or even a scuffling Yovani Gallardo.
And contenders are always searching for relievers to help bolster their bullpen. Milwaukee has the sixth-best bullpen ERA-wise in the league, so even though that number hasn't particularly mattered because of the Brewers' train wreck of a starting rotation, it could still wind up paying off in the long run.
Now it's just a matter of executing the trades.
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_ .
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