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Milwaukee Brewers Should Transfer Aging Player Investments to Elite Pitching Evaluation

New Recipe for Success in Milwaukee

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | Jarred by the recent Ryan Braun suspension, the Milwaukee Brewers have taken a couple of hits lately in terms of reputation and on-field execution.

Having lost Zack Greinke and Prince Fielder prior to the 2013 season, the Brewers could hardly be expected to legitimately compete without Ryan Braun, too.

But with the Ryan Braun sideshow behind them (at least for now), it's time for the Brewer organization to take an in-depth look at their immediate and middle-term future and make some necessary changes.
Taking stock of the team's current situation, there are a lot of positives that the team can leverage and build on heading into 2014 and beyond.

First, the team's ownership group headed by Mark Attanasio is clearly a huge positive. The group has invested money in the team and made some aggressive trades to produce the Brewers' first couple playoff berths in more than 20 years.

The owners have also done a great job marketing the team to a wider audience and reaped the benefits of a growing fan base. Of course, success breeds attendance, and that has indeed been the case with the Brewers in recent years.

The only problem for the Brewers is that they virtually emptied their farm system in climbing the competitive ranks of Major League Baseball. After trading for players like CC Sabathia and Zack Greinke, the team is now left with the worst-ranked farm system in the majors, as rated by Baseball America in 2013.

The current elephant in the room is obviously that the team's efforts to improve were only good enough to produce short-term success. You can't empty a farm system every day. And as illustrated by the team's inability to sign Zack Greinke, CC Sabathia, and Prince Fielder, the Crew still don't possess the economic foundation to compete with big-city teams in terms of free agency.

Of course, the Brewers could simply restock their talent pool in the minor leagues and attempt a similar push sometime in the future. That would depend on how well the team drafts as well as if it can again augment the team in a timely fashion with veteran trades.

Another option, and one that could possibly produce more sustained results through time, would be for the Brewers to adopt a new philosophy. One that focuses on talent evaluation and development, as opposed to plugging gaps with high-priced, declining veteran talent.

Modern MLB isn't all that different from the league it was when the Brewers nearly won the World Series in 1982. Good pitching still reigns.

While the Brewers aren't the poorest team in the majors in terms of payroll, they aren't ever going to successfully compete against big-city teams that focus all their energy on buying the best free agents -- at least not without a salary cap.

Mark Attanasio and his partners have done a great job building buzz around the franchise and successfully marketing the Brewers to the Milwaukee community. Now it's time for them to reorganize the team's baseball operations.

Baseball is like any other business that builds a product. The only difference is that in this case the goal of the factory is to take raw talent and produce extraordinary hitters, fielders, and pitchers. The Brewers need to get back to basics in producing high-quality players that come equipped with an effective skill set.

Such an effort obviously hinges upon acquiring the scouts and talent evaluators that have proven records of success. The Brewers would likewise need to invest in a staff to develop that talent as well.

Such a process would call for a transfer of considerable dollars from aging veterans to an internal staff. Potentially at price far beneath the amount the team currently spends on even one good veteran player.

Pitching should be the team's No. 1 priority because it has such a poor history of producing at this position -- as well its critical component in winning championships. The Brewers' existing structure for evaluating and developing hitting talent is also arguably in a lot better shape than the pitching department.

By developing an elite, internal operation that identifies and develops grade-A pitching talent, the team could also use any extra resources in this area to trade for hitting talent.

The Brewers' current general manager, Doug Melvin is nearing the completion of his 11th full year with the team and has arguably done a very good job -- the team made the playoffs twice after a long drought.

Having said that, it's likely time for the Brewers to change gears at the top of their baseball organization. The team would be best served transitioning to a general manager with a history of building elite draft and develop programs, much like the one seen under Ted Thompson in Green Bay.

With a world-class stadium, some of the most loyal fans the league can offer, and an amazing ownership group, the future of the Milwaukee Brewers looks very bright.

However, unlocking that potential will require a series of excellent decisions and the ensuing hard work that comes along with such an ambitious plan.

The Brewers could continue to pursue their existing strategy, but the results of that seem fairly predictable in their mediocrity, especially in terms of sustained quality.

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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