RICK SOLEM column
Matt Garza just hit the 15-day disabled list.
The Milwaukee Brewers are 3-6 in their last nine games and 10-18 in July and August.
The team didn't go out and make a huge move in free agency, instead, trading for the struggling Gerardo Parra, who will simply be a fourth outfielder.
Did Milwaukee make a mistake by not making a bigger move during the trade deadline, not to acquire a big-name pitcher, like David Price or Jon Lester, or a respectable first baseman, but by doing the opposite? Should the Brewers have traded some of their assets now, as a playoff berth slowly slips away, anyway?
Tampa Bay traded away Price - arguably the best pitcher in baseball - who was signed through next season - in the midst of a 30-16 run since June 11.
Garza is locked in through the 2018 season for $12.5 million a year ($13 million in the final year), so he was an unlikely trade candidate, though it was inevitable he was getting injured.
But the Brewers have some very good trade pieces and, now that Garza is on the DL and the team is about to lose its lead on the division, these players should be put on the block to trade through waivers.
Veterans Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse are free agents after next season. Francisco Rodriguez and Mark Reynolds will be free agents after this season - as will Aramis Ramirez, who has a $4 million player/team option he will likely decline.
Gallardo has a club option for 2015 for $13 million. Lohse is due $11 million next year.
It would have been a public relations disaster to trade away solid veterans while leading the division, but it isn't now. Then again, trading Gallardo to the A's for Yoenis Cespedes would have been welcomed by most fans. Gallardo may not be quite the pitcher Lester is, but he's signed for another year.
Milwaukee has through August to put players on waivers and see if they can work out a deal with teams that claim them. One problem in doing so, however, is teams from the National League have first dibs to claim whomever is placed on waivers. And, if it's Lohse or Gallardo, they'd be giving that team a solid pitcher for next season, as well - though that also makes the asking price high.
It will be harder to do now, rather than simply trading them before the non-waiver deadline, but Milwaukee wasn't dumping veterans at that time. The Brewers' strong first half was almost a poison. It would have looked bad, had Milwaukee started trading its core while leading the division.
But a lot has changed in the last few weeks. The Brewers went into the all-star break 2-11 in their last 13 games. They're now just a game up on St. Louis, which just took two out of three. Surging Pittsburgh is a 1½ games out, while Cincinnati is within the lead, five games out.
On the open market next year, the Brewers wouldn't get much for Gallardo or Lohse as half-a-season rentals.