I'll say this for the Brewers—I might not have traded Brett Lawrie to get Shaun Marcum, but Doug Melvin and company clearly know why their team failed in 2010, and they've made major and obvious efforts to upgrade in the right places. And unlike last year, where the solution involved throwing a lot of money at Randy Wolf, they've done an excellent job of making those upgrades. Marcum had good peripherals in 2007 and 2008 and excellent peripherals in 2009, although his home run rate seemed, at its worst, to prefigure Jose Bautista's. Zack Greinke is fascinating and also one year removed from one of the better pitching seasons of the last decade.
They're replacing, optimistically, David Bush and Manny Parra, who combined to throw about 300 innings, not to mention brief and awful stints by Doug Davis and our own Jeff Suppan. The Brewers' roster, with its impressive, soon-to-be-unsignable hitters, anonymous rotation, and agonizingly bad bullpen, had a lot of replacement-level-hanging fruit, and rather than addressing the structural problems by trading the hitters they've decided to pluck all the fruit and hope for the best.
Given the Reds and Cardinals' parochial concerns this offseason—the Reds had to lock up Jay Bruce (good) and Miguel Cairo (also a baseball player), while the Cardinals have concerned themselves with a gnostic, astrological shuffling of subpar middle infields—it's a move worth making. The Brewers don't spring to the front of the division, which is almost difficult to avoid after adding six wins or so to your rotation, but they're in the discussion, now, at least as much as the Reds and Cardinals.
And I might be alone in saying this, but all the pseudo-Ed-Hardy shirts in the world couldn't keep Zack Greinke from evening out Ryan Braun's negative dFAWARP contributions. Zack Greinke is like if Napoleon Dynamite were the best pitcher in baseball, and my Vote for Pedro t-shirt cool again.
Back to the gnostic middle infield shuffling: If you didn't see it, Dan Szymborski, creator of the ZiPS projection system and author of the greatest transaction analyses on the internet and prime responder to Viva El Birdos's oddly specific Szymborski Signal, dropped by with some middle infield projections you're not going to want to look at. (These a day or two before the Cardinals' ZiPS projections are delivered.)
Player RC/27 BA OBP SLG Tyler Greene 4.17 .238 .301 .373 Ryan Theriot 3.93 .269 .327 .324 Pete Kozma 3.60 .236 .294 .336 Donovan Solano 3.56 .259 .295 .327
Including the Kozma projection—worryingly similar to Theriot's for a player with a career AA OPS of .656—must be some kind of cruel joke on his part, because I am not ready for any world in which Pete Kozma and Donovan Solano are plausible Spring Training contenders for anything except "prospect I've most overrated for age relative to league."
I've confirmed I'll be able to visit Brendan Ryan at that huge farm they took him to, where he gets to run around all day and do impressions with all his friends, so I'm speaking strictly from a baseball sense here: The crucial mistake of the Cardinals' offseason is that they identified the middle infield as a major flaw and then completely failed to do anything substantive about it.
The Brewers have eviscerated their farm system, but after identifying their fatal flaw they've distinguished themselves by executing a clear-headed plan to solve it.