The Brewers plan for Mat Gamel entering the 2013 season is to use him in a utility role as a corner infielder/outfielder. The plan in 2012 for Gamel was to replace Prince Fielder at first base until an ACL tear prematurely ended his season. Corey Hart’s diminished range in the outfield and his 6’6” frame are a perfect match at first base. Hart is in the last year of his deal at $10 million in 2013 before free agency. If the Brewers were looking to reload now would be the time to move Hart, but this is a club going for it again in 2013. The first baseman of the future had an award winning 2012. Hunter Morris won the Southern League MVP and the Robin Yount Performance Award as the Brewers Minor League Player of the Year.
Gamel is yet again a man without a position and not part of the Brewers plans. I believe Gamel can be a solid 5 or 6-hole major league hitter. In 7 minor league seasons, Gamel has a slash rate of .304/.376/.498. It’s tough to judge Gamel because he’s only had 269 major league plate appearances in 5 seasons.
The Brewers starting pitching is Yovani Gallardo followed by a slew of young pitchers. Ryan Dempster signed with the Red Sox and Edwin Jackson’s price may be too high. The Brewers won’t break the bank on the free agent market to sign starting pitching. Going with a rotation full of young pitchers doesn’t make sense for a cub in win now mode. The Brewers won’t look to move their high-ceiling prospects to improve the pitching staff, so that leaves Gamel as the logical tradable asset. There are a few American League clubs that could use a stick the caliber of Gamel and could send the Brewers a starting pitcher in return.
The Astros move to the American League West is going to difficult in 2013. Houston doesn’t nearly have enough offensive firepower to matchup with the Angels, A’s, and Rangers. The Astros have a lot of holes to fill in as organizational top prospects grow up in the minors. Jonathan Singleton is viewed as the first baseman of the future, but is a ways away. Instead of going after an old broken down Lance Berkman, why not move Bud Norris for a package of young players. I’m not sure what the asking price is for Norris, but Gamel and a lower level pitcher could make it happen. I’d be surprised if Astros would be able to command a king’s ransom for Norris. The earliest Norris can become a free agent is 2016. His career record of 28-37 with a 4.42 ERA and 1.402 WHIP doesn’t stand out as a top of the rotation starter. The career 8.8 SO/9 is often sabotaged by the 3.8 BB/9.
The Rays are another potential trade partner for the Brewers. Jeff Niemann is coming off a nightmare 2012 due to a broken fibula and shoulder problem. This 6’9” righty owns a career 40-26 record with a 4.08 ERA and 1.286 WHIP. His career SO/9 sits at 6.8. The metrics should improve a bit if Niemann were to move from the AL East to the NL Central. Niemann has pitched well against the Rays top rivals. The veteran righty owns a career 7-2 record vs. the Yankees and Red Sox in 13 starts. Niemann is eligible to become a free agent in 2015. The Rays offensive team rankings in the AL weren’t very good in 2012. (11th in runs, 11th in RBI, 12th in avg., 11th in SLG%) Evan Longoria’s extended DL stint definitely played a part in the clubs low offensive rankings.
The Rays have a surplus of high-end young arms in the farm system. Major League ready power on the other hand is in shortage. Its possible Will Myers may need a little more seasoning. Gamel could provide an offensive upgrade a DH over Ryan Roberts and possibly James Loney at 1B. Loney’s calling card is defense at this stage of his career. Gamel isn’t a defensive wizard by any stretch of the imagination, but could provide power.
I believe these are 2 reasonable trade possibilities for the Brewers to explore. Matching a young pitching staff with a win now offense doesn’t seem to make much sense. If the Brewers are going all in for the 2013 season then the starting rotation needs an upgrade. There’s still plenty of time for the Brewers to make moves this offseason.