Sunday, July 29, 2012

2012 Packers Training Camp, Volume 2: Offensive Line

March 23, 2012.  This date may not stick out to most but to the die-hard Packer fans who have been around a while, it should.  It’s the day that Jeff Saturday signed his 2 year deal with the team and put on a different uniform for the first time in his 13 year career.  The significance of this is that this was the first big-name free agent the team had signed since Charles Woodson back in 2006.  Many will recall that it was customary for the team to dip into free agency and bring in the occasional big name.  We all remember the Reggie White signing.  Keith Jackson, Andre Rison, Desmond Howard, Seth Joyner.  The list could go on but it seemed to come to a screeching halt after the Woodson signing.  Not to say the team didn’t dip into free agency, but I’m not talking about undrafted free agents or castoffs from other teams training camp.  I’m talking about “marquis, big name guys”.  General Manager Ted Thompson seemed to want nothing to do with bringing in a seasoned and high-priced vet to infuse talent into his roster.  Thompson’s philosophy was, and still very much is, “win now and prepare for the future”.  In order to do that, it’s necessary to keep the team young and develop the cream of that young crop to become the nucleus.

The Packers hope the addition of Pro Bowl Center Jeff Saturday will infuse
some new life into an O line stocked with youth and that will keep Rodgers
& Co. on the move on Sundays (Photo credit: Bleacher Report via Facebook)
Thompson did just that over the course of 5 years, sometimes to the dismay of Packer fans who swore that if he would just sign that one guy, it would be the answer to all of the team’s woes.  Thompson stayed the course and the team eventually won a Super Bowl ring after the 2010 season.  But after seeing the team falter in the playoffs this past winter, he quickly realized that some change was in order.  The defense needed some fixing and that meant some pieces elsewhere may be on the move.  One such piece was center Scott Wells, who signed a free agent deal with the St. Louis Rams worth $24 million over 4 years and with $13 million guaranteed.  Thompson clearly didn’t want to tie up that kind of money on a player who may have already reached the peak of his playing ability and heading into his 30’s.  So he went to work looking for another option.  The O line struggled at times last year, in part due to injury and shuffling of the piece to mitigate the losses.  Heading into this season, a solid solution at center was necessary.  Enter Jeff Saturday, who chose the Packers over other suitors as the place where he would continue his career.  In Saturday, the Packers have a solid veteran signal caller on the line and a virtual player/coach that can help bring some of the young lineman along.  He surely isn’t a long-term solution, but in keeping with the “win now” portion of his philosophy, Thompson showed he means what he says.  Given the importance of the passing game and protecting their biggest prize in QB Aaron Rodgers, no unit is more crucial than the O line and the addition of Saturday is proof that the team agrees.  Behind Saturday is 2nd year OC Sampson Genus.  Genus was acquired as an undrafted free agent last summer.  Having played both center and defensive tackle in college, he has a good idea of what opposing D tackles are likely to do.  Given time to understudy Saturday and increased reps in the team’s offense, Genus could very well be the next center of the future in Green Bay.

Heading into this season, one of the big storylines was the competition at the left tackle position and who would replace the recently departed Chad Clifton, the Pro Bowl left tackle for the past decade.  Clifton was released in mid April largely due to an ailing back that was not going to allow him to be as effective as he had been in recent years.  The 2000 2nd round pick was a steady force for the Pack, appearing in 3 Pro Bowls during his tenure with the team.  Replacing him will be no easy task, to say the least.  The front runners for the starting role appeared to be Marshall Newhouse, who filled in most of last season when Clifton wend down, and 2011 1st round selection Derek Sherrod.  As players reported for camp on July 25th, it became apparent that Sherrod would not pass his physical due to his still-recovering broken right leg.  You may recall Sherrod suffered the injury during last season’s lone regular season loss at Kansas City.  The leg was actually broken in multiple spots so the team knew the recovery process would not be a quick one.  It’s unclear when or if Sherrod may be ready to participate in any training camp activities.  There is the possibility that Sherrod may be placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.  During preseason, a player that is placed on PUP can be activated at any time and resume practicing with the team.  If Sherrod is not ready to play by the end of camp, he will then move onto the regular season PUP list, which means he would miss at least the first 6 games of the regular season.  If that happens, expect Newhouse to remain at left tackle.  The team drafted Andrew Datko in the 7th this year round to help create some depth at the tackle position.  His size and frame are ideal as an NFL tackle goes, but he does have some injury concerns.  He has had nagging shoulder problems and missed some games the past 2 years.  He’s an athletic and strong player who seems more suited to the RT spot than left.  Unless someone emerges, Datko will likely be looked at to provide depth on both sides of the line.


Sitton and Lang have formed a solid tandem at offensive guard for the first
time sinceMarco Rivera and Mike Wahle. (ESPNMilwaukee.com)
The offensive guard spots are both locked in with incumbent starters Josh Sitton and TJ Lang.  The 2 have drawn comparisons to another great pair of guards in that of Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle.  It was during that time that former Packers’ running back Ahman Green posted nearly 1,900 yards rushing in 2003.  With the Pack’s current offensive system, we aren’t likely to see a performance like that from a running back anytime soon, but it does provide peace of mind that the inside of the line is as solid as they come.  Lang took over as starter last year after Daryn Colledge signed with the Arizona Cardinals as a free agent.  Prior to that, Lang had spent some time at both guard and tackle and struggled with his consistency.  He also had some injury issues but has moved past that and proved to be reliable in 2011.  Sitton continued to be as dominant at the right guard position as most any other in the league.  He was voted as an alternate in this past year’s Pro Bowl and has been deemed by many to be the Pack’s best O lineman.  His gritty style on the field and humorous demeanor off helps keep the entire unit relaxed and cohesive.  Behind Lang and Sitton are two youngsters in that of Even Dietrich-Smith and Ray Dominguez.  You may recall it was ED-S who was the victim of the now infamous “stomp” incident involving Ndamukong Suh last season.  He was previously with the team heading into the 2010 season and was let go at the end of training camp.  He re-signed with the team nearly halfway through last season and remains a viable backup at either guard position.  Dominguez was on last year’s practice squad after being signed as an undrafted free agent in July 2011.  He was later activated to the team’s active roster in October and in place of Nick Collins.  Dominguez is young (24) and has the frame to succeed at the NFL level with some increased practice time in the offensive system. 

Overall, the O line seems pretty well set with the exception of Sherrod’s health status.  The unit will need to continue to perform well in order to give QB Aaron Rodgers time to work his magic.  If the Packers have intentions of returning to another Super Bowl, the line will have to be among the league’s best in 2012.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-Jason Perone (@WSB_Jason)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @WSB_Andrew @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @WSB_Mike @WSB_Harrison @WSB_Jason. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Brewers Trade George Kottaras to the A's

Good morning everyone. Yesterday we saw from multiple sources on Twitter that the Brewers were close to making a deal with Oakland that would send George Kottaras to the A's, but who we got in return remained unknown. Well, San Francisco Chronicle writer Susan Slusser has reported that the deal between the A's and Brewers is final, according to two sources. The Brewers get RHP Fautino De Los Santos return for Kottaras.

Here is what she wrote about the deal:

“The A’s have made a move to acquire Milwaukee backup catcher George Kottaras, two major-league sources confirmed, but the deal has not been announced.

According to multiple sources, the Brewers will receive right-handed reliever Fautino De Los Santos, who had a 4.21 ERA in 40 appearances with Oakland in 2011-12 and a 7.25 ERA with Triple-A Sacramento this year.

Kottaras, 29, was designated for assignment Thursday, but it’s unlikely he’d be able to join the club until Monday, one possible reason the news is not yet official.

It is unclear what the A’s plans are for Kottaras and the current catching duo of Kurt Suzuki and rookie Derek Norris, although initial indications were that Suzuki is not heading elsewhere before Tuesday’s trade deadline. That would point toward a possible demotion for Norris, giving Oakland two experienced catchers for the stretch run.

Norris has been starting two games to every one for Suzuki, roughly, but he did endure an 0-for-30 streak recently. He is 4-for-14 since then.

Kottaras is batting .209 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 58 games.”

Here's a little bit of info on Santos to get to know him:

 De Los Santos began his career in the Chicago White Sox organization as a starting pitcher. He played in the Dominican Summer League in 2006. In 2007, he split time between Single-A Kannapolis and Advanced-A Winston-Salem. In January 2008, he was traded along with Ryan Sweeney and Gio Gonzalez to the Athletics for Nick Swisher. During that 2008-2009 season between the A's minors and A's Arizona Fall League, Santos required Tommy John's surgery, and missed all of the 2009 season. After recovering well, he quickly rose through the rankings of the A's system. On May 20th, 2011 he was called up to the A's roster. And, on June 4th, 2011 he made his Major League debut against the Boston Red Sox, striking out Jed Lowrie who was the only batter he faced.

Statistically, this guy is everything you look for when rebuilding a bullpen. He won't hit arbitration until 2015, and won't be a free agent until 2018. He's 26 years of age, and he has a great set of pitches, including a nasty slider. He is a high strikeout pitcher, with career numbers of 11.4 strikeouts per 9 innings, which is outstanding for only being in the Bigs for 2 years. To go along with that, he has a 2.30 strikeout per walk ratio, also very good. His ERA is high, which will cause concern for Brewers fans. Need not be afraid my friends. This is nothing but a low risk high reward situation for Milwaukee. Melvin made a great move here.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-
Andrew Vrchota (@WSB_Andrew)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @WSB_Andrew @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @WSB_Mike @WSB_Harrison @WSB_Jason. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Brewers Trade Zack Greinke to the Angels

Well, that didn't take long. Just a little over 48 hours after Doug Melvin announced the Brewers were going into full sell mode, they were able to move one of the hottest names on the trade market. Zack Greinke leaves Milwaukee with a perfect 15-0 record and 2.93 ERA at Miller Park and in return the Brewers have acquired SS Jean Segura, RHP John Hellweg and RHP Ariel Pena. Let's get to know our newest Brewers a little better.

Jean Segura

Jean Segura is 22 years old our of San Juan, Dominican Republic. He made his Major League debut just a few days ago for the Angels on July 24th, 2012. Segura (left) appeared in the Futures Game this year in Kansas City during the All Star Game weekend. Segura plays mostly shortstop, but can also play second base. Jean bats right and throws right, and is speedy on the base path. Prior to the trade, Segura was ranked #2 on the Angels prospects list.

At the age of 17, Segura batted .324 in 252 plate appearances with 2 HR, 31 RBI, 39 R, and 22 SB. Over six seasons in the minors, Segura is a career .310 hitter with 26 HR, 203 RBI, 257 R, and 135 SB. He does have a very high strikeout to walk ratio of 1.6 (206 SO vs. 122 BB), but with a little time in the minors for the Brewers he will learn that discipline. In his best season, statistically, he batted .313 with 10 HR, 79 RBI, 89 R, and 50 SB for Single A Cedar Rapids in 2010. Finally, this season for Double AA Arkansas, he batted .294, 7 HR, 40 RBI, 50 R, and 33 SB. All in all, very promising numbers with the bat. Lets take a look at the glove.

In 362 games, Jean Segura has 56 errors in 1,686 chances which translates to a .967 fielding percentage. However, 18 of those errors have come this year in Double AA Arkansas. He carries a very impressive range factor per game (assists + putouts per game) is a 4.50. Now, many have said that Segura won't prove to be a good short stop, and will most likely convert into a second baseman. As of now, though, Doug Melvin has said that Segura will be a short stop for the Brewers organization. I am very thrilled to have this guy in our system and I look forward to his call up to the Brewers. Here is a video of Jean doing an agility drill in 2011. 

John Helwegg

John Helwegg was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the 46th round of the 2007 MLB June Amateur Draft from St. Dominic HS in O'Fallon, Montana and later selected by the Los Angeles Angels in the 16th round (499th overall) of the June 2008 First-Year Player Draft out of Florida Community College in Jacksonville, Fla. John stands at an impressive 6' 9", which is very intimidating on the mound for any batter. John is 23 years old out of Ann Arbor, Michigan. He bats right and throws right, but does not shop at Walmart. (Joke for my die hard followers.)

Through 5 seasons in the minors, he has a 16-19 record. That record seems shaky, but John didn't become a starter until last season. He was a relief pitcher for his first three season minus a start here and there. He holds a 3.66 ERA over that 5 year span. Other numbers for him, he has 305.1 inning pitched with 324 strike outs, which averages out to 9.6 strikeout per 9 innings. Very impressive. Also, he has a pretty decent strike out to walk ratio of 1.6. It's no Justin Verlander of 4.05, but it's not bad for a minor leaguer. His WHIP needs to come down a bit. It's at a 1.379 this year and 1.493 for his minor league career. Finally, over his 5 years of pitching, he has only given up 18 long balls, which transfers to a 0.6 home runs per 9 innings. That to me says a lot about his style of pitching, contrary to what I'm already hearing from people regarding his control etc. But hey, what are the minor leagues for? Correct, improvement. Give him a few years in our minors and he'll be just fine for a spot in our starting rotation. 

Ariel Pena 

Ariel Pena was born in Los Jovillos, Dominican Republic and is 23 years old. He was signed by the Los Angeles Angels as a non-drafted free agent on February 17, 2007. He is 6' 3". He bats right and throws right. Let's take a look at his numbers. 

Pena has been a starter since he came into the league. He holds a 45-27 record, which translates to a .625 winning percentage over 6 seasons. He has a 3.37 ERA over that time frame, with 601 strike outs and 273 walks, which is a 8.9 strike outs per 9 innings and a 2.20 strike out per walk ratio. Over those 6 seasons, he has given up 34 home runs in 609 inning pitched, which is a 0.5 home runs per 9 innings. Coaches trust his pitching, as he only has pitched one intentional walk over his time on the mound. He could see the Brewers main roster sooner then most guys we have in our system now.

Overall I really like this trade a lot. Did we get the best players the Angels had to offer? Maybe. Did we get players that the Brewers had gaping holes in that needed to be fixed? Absolutely. It's a step in the right direction for what the Brewers have given up over the years to acquire guys like C.C. Sabathia, Zack Greinke, and Shaun Marcum. And, the Brewers are done yet. There are still less then 72 hours left before the trade deadline is over with and the Brewer have a lot of work to do. Don't be surprised if there is another big name move during the night or tomorrow morning, especially with Corey Hart and Aramis Ramirez putting up great numbers as of late. Until then, we sit and wait.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-
Andrew Vrchota (@WSB_Andrew)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @WSB_Andrew @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @WSB_Mike @WSB_Harrison @WSB_Jason. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

2012 Packers Training Camp, Volume 1: Safety

As the Packers open camp, they will begin the process of putting each player through a medical exam to ensure that they are healthy and ready to prepare for the upcoming season.   This is also the time when players reconnect and catch up on what they have been doing during the offseason.   One face that will be visibly absent for the first time in 8 years is Nick Collins.  The Pro Bowl safety was hurt in week 2 of the 2011 season and never returned after surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck.  The team monitored the surgery and healing process closely during the offseason and were faced with the difficult decision to release Collins when it became apparent that continuing to play presented too much risk.  The Packers also have just released Charlie Peprah, likely due to his slow recovery from offseason knee surgery.  This leaves the safety position seemingly thin entering this season, but not so fast.  With a few new faces, and a few very familiar, Coach McCarthy and staff have the fortunate problem of having to decide which young talent will don the Green & Gold.  Below is a breakdown of those who will be vying for a safety spot on this year’s roster with, perhaps, a surprise or two. . .

MORGAN BURNETT

Burnett’s 2011 season was, for all intents and purposes, his rookie year.  After being drafted with the 7th pick in the 3rd round of the 2010 draft, Burnett tore his ACL 4 games into the 2010 season, thus ending his year.  General Manager Ted Thompson traded up to grab the ball-hawking Burnett in the hopes that he could unseat the incumbent and oft-injured Atari Bigby.  Until his knee injury, Burnett had started all 4 games and was performing adequately under the tutelage of Nick Collins.  He posted 1 INT and was good in run support.  After rehabbing the injury, Morgan showed up at 2011’s training camp ready to go and quickly reclaimed his starting spot in the base defense.  He posted over 100 tackles, 78 of them solo as he learned on the fly.  Burnett suffered a broken hand during a mid October practice and appeared headed back to the inactive list for the second time in as many years.  In a display of his toughness and determination to play, Morgan was back on the field the following week with his broken hand in a club cast.  Obviously, the use of the hand is very important to a defensive back and the fact that the team was comfortable playing him with virtually one hand speaks volumes as to how highly regarded he was and is.  Burnett added a sack to last year’s stats and was fairly solid in run support, one of the reasons the Packers were so high on the Georgia Tech standout.  Barring injury, Burnett will be on the field when the Pack’s defense plays their first snap this year.  Now with a full year and another offseason under his belt, he should continue to improve his level of play and hopefully replace some of what was lost with Collins’ departure.

JERRON McMILLIAN



Jerron McMillian is already drawing comparison to a former Packer safety great in that of Nick Collins.  Like Collins, McMillian was a little-known safety from a small school (Maine) and was drafted earlier than many projected.   Clearly Ted Thompson is hoping for similar results.  The scouting report on McMillian is that he has good closing speed on the ball.  He provides good run support and has even been deemed “NFL-ready” when it comes to run support.  This can also be a weakness at times as he has had a tendency to bite on play action, which he will see plenty of at the next level.  He has the speed to stay with the deep route and seems to have a good football IQ.  With Peprah’s release, McMillian immediately moves up the depth chart and almost certainly will see some time on the field this year.  He could also emerge as a top candidate to start opposite Morgan Burnett when the 2012 season beings and when the team is not in its base defense (more on that later).  As is the case with most rookies, Coach McCarthy will likely use McMillian on his special teams units, specifically on kickoff coverage.  It is becoming more evident that he was drafted to, and will play a big role in the team’s 2012 plans

M.D. JENNINGS

Jennings was an undrafted rookie last year and his quiet-but-steady style of play caused quite a buzz during last year’s training camp.  He clearly caught the coaching staff’s eye as he earned a roster spot after the final cut-down.  He played mostly on special teams in 2011, seeing very spotty time on the field in mop up duty and for a decent stretch during the team’s final game vs. the Detroit Lions in week 17.  That experience will almost certainly earn him a spot on this year’s team, but Jennings has his sights set higher.  It’s his work ethic and patience that have him positioned to make a run at one of the starting safety spots on this year’s defensive unit.  With Peprah sidelined during May’s OTA’s, Jennings took most of the reps with the 1st defense.  He made a spectacular play, intercepting a low Aaron Rodgers’ pass during one of the practice sessions, a play that had all in attendance in awe of his athleticism.  While it’s nearly certain both Jennings and McMillian will crack the roster, when it comes to playing time at safety it will likely come down to Jennings’ experience in the defense and on special teams versus McMillian’s potential and performance in camp.  I’d give Jennings a slight edge with McMillian never having played in any sort of NFL game situation.

ANTHONY LEVINE

 Levine was signed as an undrafted free agent in May, 2010 after a stellar tryout.  He spent the 2010 season on the team’s practice squad and was released after the final roster cut-down in August, 2011.  In mid October, Levine was signed back to the Packers’ practice squad where he spent the remainder of the 2011 season.  Levine did not participate in the NFL Combine in 2010, but did attend a Pro Day workout on campus and was brilliant.  According to Gil Brandt, long-time and highly respected former NFL Scout, Levine put up better numbers than any safety that did attend the Combine.  Levine wasn’t drafted, so was available to any team interested.  Credit goes to Reggie McKenzie, former Director of Football Operations, for spotting Levine and locking him up.  Levine will likely have a tough time cracking the team’s roster and because practice squad players can only remain on a team’s practice squad for 2 years, the team will likely face a tough decision.  He is a strong player (19 reps of 225 lbs) and with some experience in the system already under his belt, he would become a viable option if an injury or circumstance presented itself.

CHARLES WOODSON

Yes, you are seeing correctly and no, you have not inadvertently wandered into my breakdown on the Corners (coming soon!)  Now, let me preface this by saying that Charles Woodson will be on the 2012 roster so this is not to say he is in the mix to “fight” for a spot at safety.  But I also told you there would be a surprise or two!  The big question coming into this season and with Nick Collins retiring was, “Is Charles Woodson finally moving to safety to make way for a developing and, frankly, faster corner?”  The answer is yes. . and no.  Dom Capers’ defense calls for many variations and looks.   Often times last year and in recent years past, Woodson has lined up on the opponent’s slot receiver.  This is what Capers refers to as the “All Corner Okie” and Woodson is lined up as a “safety” in this set.  If you ask Capers and Coach McCarthy, they will both tell you that defining the position as corner versus safety is sometimes meaningless because of the many responsibilities and sets that exist.  On one play, he’s more of a nickel back and on the next, he’s covering a tight end or blitzing off the edge.  This comes in handy when you’re a team in the situation that the Pack are in.  Having a solid and savvy vet at one or both safety positions is often key to a team’s success on defense.  See the 2 most recent Super Bowl championship Packer teams that featured LeRoy Butler & Eugene Robinson (’96) and Nick Collins (’10).  Having “Wood” out there in any capacity with a stock of youth at DB serves the Pack well as long as he has the will to play.  Over the past few years, he has displayed how his knowledge of the game and smarts can make up for any loss of speed, ability, etc.  Call him what you will.   At the end of the day, Wood will be wherever he’s needed most on the field.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-
Jason Perone (@WSB_Jason)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @WSB_Andrew @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @WSB_Mike @WSB_Harrison @WSB_Jason. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Top 10 Brewers on Trading Block

After these past few games of utter disappointment, the trade rumors are at a boiling point for the Brewers organization. Teams have already started calling Doug Melvin and Co. about multiple players, which I will list and talk about below. Please note that these are all either rumors and/or my speculations. None of this is set in stone.

10. Shaun Marcum - Marcum would be much higher on my list if he were not on the disabled list. Pre-DL, talks of us moving Marcum were just about as popular as moving Greinke. I don't really see any team wanting Marcum at this point. So, unless Marcum has a great outing before the trade deadline, it's pretty safe to say he'll stay on the Brewers. Still, worth noting that teams were/are interested.

Teams interested: Toronto, Baltimore
 
Ideally, retaining Marcum (if healthy) would be the Brewers best bet if we can't move him at the trade deadline.

9. Nyjer Morgan - Kind of the same deal with Marcum. Had Nyjer had a season like his last in 2011, he probably would be higher on this list. But, he just hasn't put up the numbers as he did last year. His starts are down, in favor of Carlos Gomez and Norichika Aoki. He has struck out a lot more, bringing his batting average down from last year. If he could have out performed his stats last season, we might have seen Morgan take the trip to the Yankees, rather Ichiro going there.

Teams interested: Washington, Boston, Cincinnati

8. Randy Wolf - Any team looking for a veteran pitcher for the postseason should give Randy Wolf a legitimate look. His first innings are usually rough, but after that he has been pretty good. He works batters into hitting a lot of ground outs and fly outs. On occasion, he even strikes a few out. Our bullpen has misconstrued Randy's win total, blowing 11 leads for Wolf this season, and it's only July.

Teams interested:  Washington, L.A. Dodgers

7. Kameron Loe - I know what you're thinking. "Who the hell would want him?" Well, we've already received a call or two on him, to much of our surprise. Realistically, it makes sense for a team that just needs depth for their bullpen would want a guy like Loe. He wouldn't be their main reliever. As long as he doesn't hang pitches like he does for us, he's a good pick up for a contending team.

Teams interested: Cleveland, Toronto, L.A. Angels

6. Travis Ishikawa - He would strictly go to a team looking for a big left handed bat off the bench to pinch hit, possibly DH or play 1st base or outfield. He's very versatile. We wouldn't get much for him, but no one expects to get a top prospect for a guy like Travis, who is very inconsistent as a pinch hitter.

Teams interested: Baltimore, San Fransisco, L.A. Dodgers

5. Corey Hart -Unlikely we trade him, unless he goes with a Greinke trade to tempt teams to send top prospects. Hart is a very valuable component to our team, and it would sting a bit to see him go, especially now since we've seen him emerge as a very valuable 1st baseman. His bat has always been streaky, and any team going after him know this. Any team looking for an extra bat in their line-up will be calling.

Teams interested: San Fransisco, L.A. Dodgers, Texas

Note: (Updated 7/27) The rumors have begun to swirl. As I'll explain more below in Zack Greinke's section, Corey Hart is rumored to be involved in talks that would send him in a package deal to Texas with Zack and minor league pitcher Martin Perez for Elvis Andrus and a second player, according to @BrewerNation.

The sting would linger for a while losing Hart, especially since his emergence at 1st base has been gold glove worthy.

4. Carlos Gomez - Up until these past few games, Gomez really doesn't even make this list. However, hitting home runs off of Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay changes people's perspectives. With guys like Logan Schafer in our minors, you've got to assume management would be okay with a guy like Gomez or Morgan (see above) on their way out.

Teams interested: Arizona, Boston, St. Louis

3. George Kottaras -With the way Maldonado has been playing so well, and Lucroy on his way back very soon, it's hard to imagine that we wouldn't try to move Kottaras. A lot of teams have lost their catchers this year, or are just in need of a decent back-up. He can provide an offense a little pop in the 7, 8, or 9th spot. He could also DH in the American League.

Teams interested: Texas, Detroit, Washington, Atlanta

Note: (Updated 7/26) George Kottaras has been DFA'd, which gives the Brewers 10 days to either trade him, send him back to the 40 man roster, or release him. I'd say a trade is in the works. In retrospect, Toronto just lost J.P. Arensibia for 4-6 weeks with a broken hand. Toronto has a few relief pitchers that Milwaukee could be interested in. Toronto seems to me a lead candidate for George in my eyes.

2. Fransisco Rodriguez -The 30 pitches of terror needs to go. I'm sorry to those who like him, but he's not the same pitcher as last season. Any team looking for an arm in the bullpen to be their closer for the remainder of the season would want him, except they don't want his contract. His control has been off as well this season. He'd only go to a contender, but we'll be lucky to trade him to anyone. Some teams are that desperate, though.

Teams interested: San Fransisco, N.Y. Mets, Detroit, Pittsburgh

1. Zack Greinke (Traded to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on 7/27 for SS Jean Segura, RHP John Hellwig, and RHP Ariel Pena)

Have we witnessed the last start of Zack Greinke's Brewers tenure?

Guys that didn't make this list, but could very well be moved include Cody Ransom, Cesar Izturis, John Axford, and Manny Parra. First off, I don't think we will move Axford, but I know we will receive calls on him. It's very possible we would look to move Izturis or Ransom to a team who is looking for middle infield depth. As for Parra, ignoring his past two appearances, he has been very dominant as of late. He's a decent lefty that could be a key puzzle piece to a contending bullpen. Nonetheless, no matter what happens between now and July 31st, it's going to be a fun, eventful ride. Enjoy, Brewer Nation.

Note: (Updated 7/25) I realize that I didn't include Aramis Ramirez, as many of you have brought it to my attention on Twitter. I know I didn't include him, and I have reasons. I simply don't see us trading him. Market is kind of low for 3rd base, unless you look at the Dodgers (acquired Hanley Ramirez last night from Marlins) or Giants. Now, if Giants offer Brandon Belt for Ramirez, the Brewers better dot the i's and cross the t's on that trade. That would be a steal. But again, I just don't see it happening.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-
Andrew Vrchota (@WSB_Andrew)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @WSB_Andrew @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @WSB_Mike @WSB_Harrison @WSB_Jason. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

First Glance: NFC North Preview

The 2011 NFL season provided us with nothing short of an action-packed season.  Following the lengthy lockout and speculation that the on-field product would suffer from lost practice time, teams promptly took the field and put on a show week in and week out.  The year culminated with a Super Bowl XLII rematch that ended with the Giants once again defeating the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.  The NFC North certainly offered its share of fireworks and high-quality output.  The Packers set out to defend their Super Bowl XLV crown and put up a repeat performance.  Their season commenced with that entertaining Thursday night showdown at Lambeau Field against the New Orleans Saints.  There was the rematch between the Packers and Bears, following the NFC Championship game earlier that year.  The Bears were looking to prove that 2010 wasn’t a fluke and continue to be a top contender in the conference.  Until Jay Cutler went down with a thumb injury late in the season, they were on track to do just that.  There was the storyline about Donovan McNabb and whether he would be able to bring the Vikings back into the conversation as division contenders.  And it seemed that every week brought something newsworthy out of Detroit via the Lions, led by tumultuous Head Coach Jim Schwartz.  They made their first playoff appearance in 12 seasons. 
With only a few days before training camps begin, let’s take a look at each NFC North squad and some of the questions heading into their 2012 season.

Green Bay Packers (15-2) NFC North Division Champion

Training Camp:  St. Norbert College, De Pere, WI on July 25

     (REUTERS/Mike Blake)

It goes without saying that the Green Bay Packers 2011 season ended disappointingly and abruptly at Lambeau Field after a Divisional round loss to the New York Giants.  A heavily favored Packer team was simply outplayed and made too many mistakes to overcome and advance to another conference championship game.  Many theories arose as to how a team that found a way to win week after week in the regular season was beaten so handily at home.  The popular and likeliest reason was that the team’s defensive unit was exposed for the weaknesses that had plagued them at times during the regular season.  They ranked 32nd, or dead least, in total defense last season.  This stat is simply based on total yards surrendered which does not always tell the whole story.  Despite giving up big chunks of yards, the defense remained opportunistic and finished the year +24 in takeaways and led the NFL in interceptions with 31.  Only San Francisco had a better give/take ratio at +28.  That gritty style of play surely helped keep the Pack in a position to win games that otherwise seemed out of reach.  The ability of Packer defensive backs to take the ball away coupled with a lackluster pass rush caused Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers to use a lot of defensive sets that had 5+ pass defenders on the field.  But as they say, “You live by the sword, you die by the sword”.  At one point in the playoff game vs. the Giants, Clay Matthews was seen rushing off the left side.  He was one of 2 whose responsibility on the play was to chase the passer.  The defense was in nickel coverage.  With only 2 pass rushers to account for, Matthews was triple teamed and never sniffed Eli Manning who had plenty of time to set up and wait for one of his wide receivers to get open.  He completed on the play for long yardage.  The pressure on the passer that had been so prevalent in 2010 just was not there in 2011 and it ended up a big factor to an early exit in the postseason.   The loss of Nick Collins in the defensive backfield along with the backs having to hold coverage on receives longer than usual was another glaring defect.  This offseason, it was clear that Ted Thompson recognized this drop off in production from their defensive unit and used 6 of his 8 picks in the 2012 draft to address the need areas.  Starting with the pass rush, Thompson selected Nick Perry, DE, USC.  Perry played defensive end at USC but the Pack plan to use him opposite Clay Matthews as an OLB.  There has also been talk that they will move Matthews to the right side in order to get the bulkier Perry in position to provide run support as most teams tend to rush to their right more often.  It remains to be seen if Perry will win a starting role but this will certainly be one of the big story lines heading into training camp.  So far and through OTA’s, Perry could be seen nearly attached at the hip to Matthews, soaking up as much as he could to prepare to make an impact right away in 2012.  Jerel Worthy (DE, Michigan State) and Mike Daniels (DT, Iowa) were brought in to bolster a defensive line that will likely see a few incumbents depart and that lacked enough depth to keep starters fresh last season.  Added to the defensive backfield were Casey Hayward (CB, Vanderbilt) and Jerron McMillian (S, Maine).  The defense-heavy draft clearly indicates a sense of urgency on the team’s part to correct what went wrong in 2011 and take a step back towards a conference championship and another Super Bowl title.  McMillian’s selection conjured up memories of a safety that was little-known who the Packers drafted in 2005 from Bethune Cookman, another smaller school.  Nick Collins went on to forge a solid career as a starting safety and played a large role in the success of the Super Bowl championship team in 2010.  The team is hoping McMillian can develop into a similar type player and become one of the hidden gems of the 2012 draft.  Inside linebacker proved to be another area where some questions emerged after the final play of the 2011 season.  Current starters AJ Hawk and Desmond Bishop both suffered injuries that caused them to miss time this past season.  Filling in for them were Robert Francois and DJ Smith, who both proved effective and contributed to the Pack’s success in the regular season.  The Pack added Terrell Manning in the 2012 draft and will have their eyes on this position throughout the preseason.  It would be no surprise to see Hawk and Bishop maintain their starting positions but will certainly be pushed throughout camp to raise their level of play.  Hawk continues to receive some criticism for what some perceive to be lackluster play last season and as a 5th overall pick in the 2006 draft.  Theories have emerged as to his responsibilities on the field and as the defensive signal caller in the huddle.  While not flashy, Hawk has proven to be a stable and steady force who rarely misses time.  He will surely be ready to quiet these whisperings when camp opens.

One thing that is not a question mark for this Packer team is who their play-makers will be on the offensive side of the ball.   Aaron Rodgers comes off an MVP season in which he threw for over 4,600 yards, 45 touchdowns and a record passer rating of 122.5 (Peyton Manning, 121.1 in 2004).  He shows no signs of holding back and will likely continue to add to those lofty passing numbers this season.  His arsenal remains largely unchanged heading into training camp with Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Donald Driver, Jermichael Finley and James Jones set to return.   Added to the fray in camp will be Tori Gurley, who has spent the past 2 seasons on the team’s practice squad.  Gurley received an offer last year to join the Vikings’ active roster but declined that opportunity in order to bide his time for a chance to crack the Green & Gold’s roster in 2012.  His performance during last year’s training camp and throughout the season has many talking about not if he will be on this year’s roster but how.  Let’s not forget about Diondre Borel and Shaky Smithson who also had standout training camps last season.  Head Coach Mike McCarthy will have the fortunate problem of deciding which of these stellar performers will line up each week to haul in Rodgers’ offerings.  Finley re-signed with the Packers this offseason, inking a 2 year, $15 million deal.  His return last season from a knee injury in 2010 produced mixed results.  He hauled in 55 catches and 8 touchdowns during the regular season, highlighted by a TD game at Chicago in week 3.  On the flip side, Finley struggled to haul in some of those Rodgers passes as he posted 14 drops, many at crucial points in games.  It’s always hard to point to one play that may have led to a loss, but it goes without saying, a dropped ball is always costly to a team’s success on the NFL gridiron.  Finley will need to rebound in 2012 to prove that he is an elite Tight End in the NFL and have his named mentioned with Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Gates and Vernon Davis as tops at his craft.  James Starks, John Kuhn and Brandon Saine return at the running back position along with 2011 3rd round draft pick Alex Green who had his rookie season cut short with a torn ACL and slightly torn MCL October 23rd at Minnesota.  He stated late last year that his rehab was ahead of schedule and he is optimistic for a full recovery and return in 2012.  With a pass-heavy offense, it is unclear how the running back position will unfold as training camp goes on so this will be one area to watch.  And despite the level of talent at the skill positions, the offense’s full potential cannot be reached without solid play from the offensive line.  Last year, this unit suffered several setbacks.  Injuries to long-time stalwart Chad Clifton, Bryan Bulaga and 2011 first round pick Derek Sherrod left the offensive line shuffling for answers to keep Rodgers on his feet and effective.  Marshall Newhouse filled in at left tackle and was effective enough to help the team win 15 games, but visibly struggled at times with his consistency.  Derek Sherrod appears to be on track to be ready to compete with Newhouse for the starting left tackle position when training camp opens later this week.  The Packers also drafted Andrew Datko (OT, Florida State) with their 7th pick in the 2012 draft, the first offensive player the Packers selected.  He performed well in OTA’s and is expected to make a strong case to crack the 53-man roster.  The Packers raised a few eyebrows when they took a rare dive into free agency and acquired long-time Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday, formerly of the Indianapolis Colts, to replace the departed Scott Wells.  Saturday brings his many years of savvy to Titletown and is expected to start at center when the Packers open the 2012 season.  Add in TJ Lang at left guard, Josh Sitton at right guard and Bulaga’s return at right tackle and the Pack appear poised to improve and return to the same form that netted them a championship in 2010.

Last but not least is the coaching staff.  Head Coach Mike McCarthy returns as head man along with largely the same staff from 2011.  The key departure was former Offensive Coordinator Joe Philbin who took the Head Coaching position with the Miami Dolphins.  Tom Clements replaces Philbin as Offensive Coordinator of the Packers with Ben Macadoo assuming Clements’ old role as Quarterbacks Coach.  Dom Capers returns as Defensive Coordinator with his staff highlighted by Assistant Head Coach and Inside Linebacker’s coach Winston Moss and Outside Linebacker’s coach Kevin Greene.  Shawn Slocum returns as Special Teams Coach.  McCarthy’s unit takes a no-nonsense approach to preparing for each game and are only one year removed from coaching in a Super Bowl and this year’s Pro Bowl.  This is especially true in the case of Aaron Rodgers and Coach McCarthy.  They have developed a strong rapport over the past 6 seasons.  The big question will be how the staff gets the players motivated and ready to get back to glory after a disappointing end to 2011.

Detroit Lions (10-6) NFC Wild Card

Training Camp:  Lions Training Facility, Allen Park, MI on July 26

     (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)

The Lions enter the 2012 season having faced a busy offseason.  Unfortunately most of that has been for the wrong reasons.  A few stats to sum up the team’s offseason:  5 of their current or former players have combined for 7 arrests this year.  No other NFL team has more than 3 total.  In fact, the Lions account for 20% of the NFL’s total arrest count during that same span.  3 of the team’s 2011 draft picks were arrested for drug/alcohol related issues.  2nd round pick Mikel Leshoure was arrested for marijuana possession and suspended 2 games.  He missed all of the 2011 season due to injury and has yet to don the Lions uniform.  1st round pick Nick Fairley was cited for marijuana possession as well as DUI and certainly will face sanctions.  Offensive tackle Johnny Culbreath was also cited for marijuana possession.  Another, DB Aaron Berry, was arrested twice this offseason for weapons possession and DUI offenses.  He was just released on July 23rd.  Then there was the Titus Young incident at OTA’s this past May where he sucker-punched safety Delmas Young and was banned from participating in team activities.  Throw in last year’s infamous Ndamukong Suh “stomp” incident on Thanksgiving Day versus the Packers and Head Coach Jim Schwartz’s run in with San Francisco Head Coach Jim Harbaugh and one can safely question this team’s use of good judgment.  What is most disappointing about all of these issues is the fact that they come on the heels of one of the best seasons the Lions have had in over a decade.  The team won 9 games in 2011 and made their first playoff appearance since 1999, facing the New Orleans Saints.  They were not able to overcome the hot hand of Drew Brees & Co. and were bounced in the Wild Card round, but they showed that they are a force and have the talent to contend in years to come.  Quarterback Matt Stafford put together his most complete season since entering the league in 2009, starting all 16 regular season games and amassing over 5,000 passing yards.  He threw 41 touchdown passes.  His durability was under fire entering last year after appearing in only 3 games in 2010 and missing 6 games in 2009, his rookie campaign.  Stafford put together one of the best seasons by a quarterback in Lions history and is the unquestioned leader of the team.  Wide receiver Calvin Johnson had his best season as a Lion and one of the best in all the NFL, hauling in 96 passes for over 1,600 yards and 16 touchdown catches.  Johnson earned All-Pro honors.  This duo expects to be back in action in 2012 and Johnson remains a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.  Titus Young and Brandon Pettigrew return as top targets in the Lions passing game as well as Ryan Broyles (WR, Oklahoma) who was added in round 2 of this year’s draft.  At running back remain 2 big question marks as last year’s starter Jahvid Best is still not fully cleared to return to full action after suffering another concussion early in the 2011 sesaon.  Mikel Leshoure’s journey to his first pro game was derailed by the previously mentioned drug possession charge and 2 game suspension.  A respectable running game was key to opening up opportunities for Stafford and this could be an area of concern as they work to get their starters back.  The Lions took Riley Reiff (OT, Iowa) with their first pick in this year’s draft and traded for Seattle OG Rob Sims to further solidify an already-solid offensive line and keep Stafford protected for years to come.  Having struggled defensively at times in 2011, the Lions took a similar approach to this year’s draft as their divisional foes, the Green Bay Packers.  6 of their 8 draft picks were defensive players, clearly making an effort to shore up a defensive unit that ranked 23rd in total defense last year.  In a division that features 2 marquis quarterbacks, a solid defensive backfield and pass rush are key to contending.  Delmas Young leads the defensive backfield and is the team’s top pass defender.  With Aaron Berry’s release, cornerback thins out and will be a position to watch in Detroit as their training camp unfolds.  The Lions will be looking for some of their younger guys to emerge as starters and take on the daunting task of covering some of the top passing attacks in the North in the Packers and Bears.  At defensive line, much will be expected of third year star Ndamukong Suh and long-time veteran DE Kyle Van den Bosch.  With DT Nick Fairley likely to face disciplinary action and Cliff Avril’s likely training camp holdout after not agreeing to a long-term deal with the team, Suh and Van den Bosch will start the season as the anchors to disrupting the passing attack of NFC North foes in 2012.  The team certainly has its hands full and will have to wait on what Commissioner Roger Goodell will hand down in terms of missed time for several of the team’s key players.

On the coaching front, the team returns Head Coach Jim Schwartz who has established himself as a colorful character on the Detroit sideline.  He has faced criticism, mostly warranted, for his hot temper and seemingly loose grip on the Lions’ locker room (see this past offseason).  Probably the most notable incident was last year following a loss to the San Francisco 49ers when, during the post game handshake, Schwartz perceived a pat on the back by the equally animated 9ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh as a show of poor sportsmanship.  Schwartz chased Harbaugh down as he left the field and gave him an earful about his take on the exchange.  Some would say this showed a lack of discipline and this appeared to carry over to the team.  In the playoff loss to the Saints, the Lions were penalized 11 times for 109 yards.  Last season, they were flagged 119 times for 982 yards, good for 5th most in the NFL (Redskins, Cardinals, Packers, Raiders) so clearly there is some room for improvement in that area and that largely starts with the coaching staff and holding players accountable for their actions.  The most memorable (or forgettable if you’re a Lions fan) gaffe last year came on Thanksgiving Day when Ndamukong Suh was ejected from the game early in the 2nd half after he intentionally stomped on the arm of Packer guard Evan Dietrich-Smith following a play.  Suh’s lack of remorse after this play was further evidence that the Lions are in need of an attitude adjustment if they want to take the next step.  Schwartz seemingly picked up where he left off last season when he addressed a reporter’s question about whether the Lions would follow suit of some of their divisional rivals in taking time out for team outings.  He tossed a subtle barb at the Packers who had  recently taken some time out of their practice schedule to bond over some skeet shooting.  Schwartz indicated that his team had no time for such activities and were hard at work to prepare for the upcoming season.  One thing is certain:  the Lions have a lot of work to do in preparing for the 2012 season as they enter this year with more questions than answers.  The Lions open camp this Thursday.

Chicago Bears (8-8)

Training Camp:  Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais, IL on July 25


     (Scott Boehm/Getty Images North America)

The Chicago Bears seemed to be on a roll and set to push the Packers for the North Division Crown as the 2011 season unfolded.  They were 6-3 heading into a matchup against the San Diego Chargers at Solider Field when their fortunes turned.  Bears QB Jay Cutler suffered an injury to the thumb on his throwing hand in that contest.  The Bears went on to win that game, but lost 5 of their last 6 and finished with an 8-8 record.  They missed the post season just one year removed from a division championship and having hosted the NFC Conference Championship game.  During the downslide, the Bears were forced to turn to rookie Caleb Haine at quarterback.  He struggled and by season’s end, the Bears had turned to journeyman QB Josh McCown, who at the time was coaching high school football and out of the NFL.  Needless to say it was a disappointing season filled with unfortunate setbacks after their strong run in 2010. 

The Bears enter 2012 with some new faces on offense and some of their stalwarts returning on defense.  The Bears got busy early on in their offseason, as they have in past years, acquiring wide receiver Brandon Marshall in a trade with the Miami Dolphins for a pair of 3rd round picks.  Marshall had previously teamed with Jay Cutler when both were with the Denver Broncos from 2006 - 2008.  Marshall is a 3-time Pro Bowl wide receiver and 2009 All Pro selection.  If the Bears want to catch up to their foes to the North, the Green Bay Packers, the acquisition of Marshall is a step in the right direction.  In 2 games versus the Pack, Marshall has amassed 13 catches and over 200 yards receiving.  He was a critical piece to helping his former team, the Miami Dolphins, to victory over the Packers in October of 2010 at Lambeau Field.  Marshall brings speed and a big frame, something the Bears have lacked for the past several seasons.  The team used their 2nd round draft pick to add wideout Alshon Jeffery (WR, South Carolina) giving Jay Cutler 2 deep threats at wideout to work with.  This was an important area for the Bears to address as the return of Johnny Knox remains a question and as of last month, it is seeming more and more that he will start this season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.  The team also signed free agent running back Michael Bush, formerly of the Oakland Raiders, to a 4 year, $14 million deal.  Bush was brought in to pair with current Bear RB Matt Forte, who recently signed a long-term extension with the team and avoided a possible training camp holdout.  This will help the Bears keep a balanced attack and could keep some good opportunities for Forte as a receiver, where he caught 52 passes for 3 TD’s last year before he was lost to injury.  One would be remiss if they didn’t consider the threat that is the Bears kick return game which has featured return man Devin Hester for the past 6 seasons.  Despite the acquisition of Eric Weems in free agency (Atlanta Falcons), the Bears maintain that Hester is still their #1 return guy and both will handle kickoff duties this season.  Not to be forgotten is a fairly offensive line which will get 2011 top pick Gabe Carimi back at right tackle.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Bears recognize that some of their stars are aging and they addressed this in this year’s draft.  4 of their 6 picks were on the defensive side of the ball, led by 1st round selection Shea McClellin (DE, Boise State).  McClellin is expected to give the Bears another pass-rushing threat on the edge opposite Julius Peppers.  There are some questions about whether the rookie was battle tested enough at Boise State but he did have the 2nd best 40 time (4.63) of any DE at the combine.  The Bears also bolstered their secondary, adding draft selections Brandon Hardin (S, Oregon St), Isaiah Frey (CB, Nevada) and Greg McCoy (CB, TCU).  They will join the likes of current starters Charles “Peanut” Tillman, Tim Jennings and Major Wright.  Like the Lions and Packers, the Bears realize the need to keep up with the heavy passing attacks that lurk in the NFC North.  The Bears will return savvy veterans Julius Peppers, Tillman, Lance Briggs and long-time captain Brian Urlacher to their defensive unit.  Despite the added years, the quartet has defied the effects of time and have continued to play at a high level.  Urlacher, Briggs and Tillman were all named to this past Pro Bowl.  All  are expected to start this year and be big contributors to a defense that ranked 17th overall and 5th versus the run in 2011.  Urlacher will be ready when the Bears open training camp after suffering MCL and PCL injuries to his knee in week 17 of last season’s win at Minnesota.  There has been some talk about his future in Chicago and whether he might consider playing elsewhere if he is not offered a new deal.  He hasn’t stated his official position on the matter but it will be an interesting story to follow.  It seems surreal just putting the thought of him playing in another uniform on paper but (and as Packer fans know) anything can happen in today’s NFL. 

On the coaching side, Lovie Smith returns for his 9th season as Head Coach.  Former Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz resigned at season’s end citing philosophical differences with Smith.  Also departed was QB Coach Shane Day who was replaced by Jeremy Bates.  Bates previously served as Offensive Coordinator in Seattle under Pete Carroll.  Bates had also previously worked with both Cutler and Marshall in Denver as an Assistant Coach under Mike Shanahan.  The staff remains largely intact and will have the tall task of getting all of the new pieces to gel and get this team back on track after a setback in 2011.  Overall, the Bears appear poised to surprise some who have already seemingly awarded another division title to the reigning champion Packers.  With Detroit’s woes, it’s very conceivable that if not a division winner, the Bears could push for a Wild Card spot before all is said and done in 2012.  The health of their vets will be the big key to success.

Minnesota Vikings (3-13)

Training Camp:  Minnesota State University, Mankato, MN on July 27


     (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images North America)

December 24th, 2011.  Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson had vowed to play for the sake of his fantasy owners.  The Vikings were suffering one of their worst seasons and had won only 2 games to that point.  There was no postseason coming up and it was very common for top players to sit out meaningless games at the end of the season and risk injury.  Peterson suited up and played that day against a Washington Redskins team who had won only 5 games all year.  This game was more about pride (or realistically, draft position) than anything else.  Vikings fans had seen their team, just 2 years removed from being a single play from a Super Bowl appearance, fall all the way to the bottom of just about every stat category kept.  Following a hard-fought NFC championship loss to the eventual champion Saints, the Vikes hopes were dashed in 2010 when QB Brett Favre was unable to repeat the magic he had in 2009.  He was eventually injured and forced to miss his first start and game in 18 seasons.  Shortly after that, the Metrodome rooftop collapsed under heavy snowfall.  When it rains (or snows), it pours, as they say.  Little did anyone know this would be an omen not only for 2010, but also for the following season.  Favre retired and the Vikes enlisted the services of Donovan McNabb at QB.  McNabb promptly proved ineffective and gave way to rookie Christian Ponder.  Ponder injected some youth and excitement into the team, but his inexperience was too much to overcome and the team was able to muster just 2 wins leading to that Christmas Eve game.  Back to that contest when Ponder handed off to Peterson on a routine dive left.  Peterson was upended by a defender and fell to the ground, writhing in pain.  It was a torn ACL and he had to be carried off the field.  Up to that point, all Viking fans had was hope for the future and now even that was in jeopardy.  On the very next play, Christian Ponder was sacked and forced to leave the game as well.  Fortunately that grip on the #2 overall pick seemed all but certain at that point.  The Vikings went on to win that game and were able to work a trade with those same Redskins for the #2 overall pick in this year’s draft that netted them some additional picks. 

As the Vikings are in rebuilding mode and will likely rely on many of their rookies to contribute in 2012, let’s start our focus on this year’s draft and rookie class.  Overall, the team made some very wise selections and appear poised to improve on the past 2 seasons and get back into contention in the North.  The Vikes clearly had their eye on specific programs as they drafted 3 sets of players from the same school.  Despite moving down in round 1, they were still able to select Matt Kalil (OT, USC) with the 5th overall selection and hopefully solidify the left side of the offensive line for the next 10 years or so.  Following the success of his Dad, Frank Kalil (NFL’s Buffalo Bills and USFL’s Arizona Wranglers and Houston Gamblers) and brother, Ryan Kalil (All-Pro OT for Carolina Panthers), he comes in with high expectations to be an every-down contributor to this year’s team.  They were also able to maneuver back into the 1st round after a draft-day trade with the Baltimore Ravens.  With that 2nd pick, they selected safety Harrison Smith from Notre Dame, 1 of 2 Fighting Irish selected by the Vikes in the draft.  Smith’s draft stock improved with some stellar postseason workouts coupled with his high football IQ.  There were several projections that had Green Bay possibly moving up to select Smith in order to replace the recently departed Nick Collins.  If there was any truth to that, the Vikes spoiled those intentions and now will have Smith defending their foes in Green & Gold for years to come.  In a zone-heavy defense, Smith has the tools to be very effective.  With safety one of the weakest positions on Minnesota’s roster, look for him to push hard for a starting spot.  Another DB taken was 3rd round pick Josh Robinson (CB, Central Florida).  He started 3 seasons in college and the book on him is short: prototypical CB, good ball skills and athletic.  With Antoine Winfield aging, this is a smart pick by the Vikings, at least on paper.  Robinson should get some reps at the nickel back and be ready to step in, if he develops well, late in the season or next year.  Next up is Jarius Wright (WR, Arkansas).  He is a smaller WR with good speed (4.4, 40).  His value could jump as a return man in the NFL.  He is seemingly some good insurance in the slot should Percy Harvin miss time (migraines) or bolt when his rookie deal is up.  This is another solid choice by the Vikes.  4th round selection and Kalil teammate Rhett Ellison (FB/TE, USC) was a value choice.  He is a Jim Kliensasser-type with hard work ethic.  A lunchpail, grind it out guy who can offer some added protection in the backfield as a block and sure-handed check down when needed.  He’s a bit small as a TE so likely spends more time out of the backfield.  Next up was Greg Childs (WR, Arkansas).  Childs is a tall, bulky wideout who struggled in 2011 trying to bounce back from a patella tendon tear the year prior.  The Vikes are hoping he can return to form before he was injured.  Robert Blanton (CB, Notre Dame) was a field mate of Smith’s at ND.  Originally projected to be a 3rd round pick, he fell to the Vikes in the 5th and they likely took him as best player on the board at 139th overall.  He lacks some athleticism so will need to learn some savvy to be an every down player at the next level.  Possible nickel back.  The Vikes needed a replacement for Ryan Longwell who they did not re-sign after the 2011 season.  They selected Blair Walsh (K, Georgia) who was known for his strong leg and decent accuracy.  As the market on PK is virtually dry at the moment, Walsh is seemingly penciled in at the Vikes’ K of the future.  Audie Cole (LB, North Carolina State) is a stout LB with run-stopping ability.  He plays best near the line of scrimmage and could be groomed to take over when EJ Henderson moves on.  Lastly is Trevor Guyton (DE, Cal).  He is your average DE coming out in round 7.  He is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get type player who isn’t very flashy and doesn’t appear to be an every-down guy.  He could provide some depth on the line and be a situational pass rusher.

The nucleus of Ponder, Peterson, Jared Allen, Chad Greenway and Percy Harvin all return to try and better the 3-13 mark they posted in 2011.  Allen nearly set the NFL single-season sack record last year (Michael Strahan, 22.5) and did set a new Minnesota Viking franchise mark of 22.  He has stated that he remains motivated to break the all-time mark and has been working out hard in anticipation of this upcoming season.   Peterson, the team’s lone player voted to this year’s Pro Bowl, looks to return from his ACL injury and will need to contribute this year, as the Vikes do not seemingly have the depth around him to sustain a run without his production.  Harvin heads into his 3rd season amid rumors that he recently requested to be traded.  It was later proclaimed (via his Twitter account) that he and management had a “misunderstanding” and weren’t on the same page.  Harvin has battled migraine issues in the past that have caused him to miss games in both of his first 2 seasons.  He is currently the team’s best WR and they will also be looking to get some production from Michael Jenkins and Wright in the passing game.  Leslie Frazier enters his 2nd year as full-time Head Coach.  While it’s understandable that a turnaround will take some time in Minnesota, Frazier is likely to be the subject of Head Coaching watchdogs this season.  An improvement should be all but certain given the talent that this team has and with a full offseason to continue to gel.  It may take a near .500 performance for Frazier to stay off the chopping block.  That could require a little bit of good fortune and fast healing.  The Vikings open camp this Friday.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-
Jason Perone (@WSB_Jason)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @WSB_Andrew @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @WSB_Mike @WSB_Harrison @WSB_Jason. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Numbers: Comparing Zack Greinke and C.C. Sabathia as Brewers

So this past night at work, while I was staring aimlessly towards my machine something hit me. Why haven't I seen any comparisons between Zack Greinke and C.C. Sabatia? So I searched around a little bit and started to compare the stats between the two's time with the Brewers. After finally using some of those ridiculous formulas most of us forgotten from algebra, I started to notice some standout similarities and differences.

C.C. Sabathia and Zack Greinke have both led Milwaukee to playoff births during their tenure with the Brewers.

Records: To start, in Greinke's 48 starts with the Brewers over the past season and a half, he is currently sitting at 25 wins and 9 losses. C.C. in his 17 starts with the Crew in half a season, finished his short tenure with 11 wins and 2 losses, as well as 7 complete games. Unfortunately the same can not be said for Greinke who has 0 complete games. That still hasn't hurt Zack in posting a .520 win percentage and you could say it's possibly higher than that due to some great starts in which he got slapped with 14 no decisions, which averages out to just over 29% of all starts (note: all stats are as of 7/21/12). C.C. posted a very respectable .647 win percentage winding up with only 4 no decisions, 23% of all starts , or 3.5x less than Greinke, in 1/3 of the number of starts. Two stats that C.C. dominated in were ERA and home runs per innings pitched. With an era of 1.65 he beats Greinke's two season average of 3.7 by over 2 full points. He also averaged 1 home run every 21.7 innings as opposed to Greinke who comes in at just over 1 HR per every 11 innings.

Stats of other importance include but are not limited to; WHIP: Greinke 1.225 averaged out over 2 seasons, C.C. 1.00 in the 17 starts. Opponents batting average: Greinke .253 average, C.C's ended at .222. Strikeouts per inning pitched: Greinke .9 k/inning, C.C. .98 k/inning. Innings pitched, innings per start: Greinke in 287 2/3 in 48 starts comes to 6 (technically 5.99, but who's counting) innings per start, C.C. In 17 starts pitched 130 2/3 innings which comes out to 7 2/3 innings a start.

So after doing my "homework", it's pretty clear that the two differ but not greatly. Yes C.C. owns the match-up of the stats, but in Greinke's defense he has been a Brewer nearly 3 times as long. So I'll throw it out there and say that Zack Greinke has done just as much for the Brewers organization as Sabathia did. And like C.C., it could be over soon as it started with Greinke. With struggling performance's as of late and the news breaking of Greinke turning down an offer in the neighborhood of 5 years, $112 million, it would not be a surprise if he gets dealt before the deadline. As well as the last faint glimmer of hope of signing him long-term fading away it won't be long until we have to say so long. So enjoy Greinke while still in a Brewers uniform, because sooner or later, as with C.C., Zack will move on to greener pastures.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-Brandon Krueger (@WSB_Brandon)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @WSB_Andrew @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @WSB_Mike @WSB_Harrison. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Brewers Season Recap Games 41-85

This is about a week late and a dollar short, but here it is! The All-Star break has come and gone as the trade deadline approaches. The Brewers have again played at a very lack luster rate with lots of disappointing times. There are a few shining moments, which I will get into. Without any further ado, here's the good, the bad, and the ugly. (And everything in between.)

Good

The Obvious: Ryan Braun - Since we talked last, Ryan Braun has continued to put up productive numbers. Since May 21st, he's hit 12 HR, 37 RBI and batting .302 in June and July. He is sitting at 998 career hits heading into the series against Cincinnati. I'm going to say that if he's healthy, he's going to have more than 2 hits in that series. He's sitting at 26 HR, 65 RBI, and batting .309 and is well on his way to a second MVP Award.

Ryan Braun is currently on pace to hit 47 HR and 116 RBI, which would make him a serious candidate for an MVP.

Corey Hart's Gold Glove Transition to 1st Base - Who would have thought that Corey Hart would have played this much at first base at the start of our season? Well, because of injury, he has taken over the helm of the corner and has done a tremendous job at that. He is currently errorless over at first base since playing there full time (knock on wood). And, his bat hasn't slowed down one bit. His average is at an acceptable but improvable .262, but has 17 HR, 44 RBI and is currently on a 12 game hitting streak. His production needs to stay this way if the Brewers want anything to do with the postseason in October.

The Spark of Norichika Aoki's Bat - Aoki has clearly found his groove and transitioned nicely to American ball. Earlier in late June and early July, Aoki had a 14 game hitting streak, batting almost .400 during that stretch with a considerable amount of runs scored and stolen bases. Aoki has also taken the role as the Brewers regular lead off hitter, with the exception of Carlos Gomez in there once in a while. He is batting .288 with 5 HR, 20 RBI, 30 R, 24 BB and only striking out 30 times this year. With this guy on base the way he has been, it's got to make hitters like Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez happy to show off their production value.

Manny Parra's Dominance - I'll keep this short and sweet, because that's what I do. In his last 10 appearances, Parra has put up ridiculous numbers. His stats read 8 IP, 13 K, 1.13 ERA, giving up only 3 hits, 3 walks, and 1 earned run with a batting average against of .167. That is all. Thank you.

Bad

The Lack of Depth for Pinch Hitting - It's tough to call this bad, just because of the personnel that assumes this role for Milwaukee. Travis Ishikawa and George Kottaras are our strong points that we generally go to, and both have struggled tremendously when called to the plate late in game. Kottaras usually swings at 3 pitches and strikes out, while Ishikawa will swing at the first pitch and either pop it up or ground it out. Other guys off the bench like Morgan, Izturis/Ransom, and Bianchi are really high risk, low reward hitters, so generally they are Plan B and C pinch hitters to begin with. If we don't become sellers later this month, this will be something management will have to address. It really makes you appreciate how great Kotsay, Hairston Jr., etc. were for us last year.

Ugly

The Struggles of the Ax-Man - This is one I really didn't expect to put in ugly after my first review of the season back in early June. I honestly have no explanation for what has happened to John. But here's what I can say to defend him the best I can. Everyone struggles. Everyone has slumps. It's how baseball works. And it goes for both sides of the ball. The best hitters struggle at times (See 2012 Albert Pujols). The best pitchers struggle at times (See 2012 Tim Lincecum). It just happens.

With KRod in as the Brewers closer for the time being, John Axford will work out of the bullpen to find his groove again.

Now, a lot of you reading this have made the collation that John Axford is the next Derrick Turnbow. Now, it is obvious why you make that connection. It seems fair. But, it's not. I had a conversation with @BrewerNation at the game against the Cardinals, which was the first game in which Axford had been removed from the closer role and we had a lengthy conversation about this "relation". The difference between the two is that Axford only struggles when he can't control his curveball. Turnbow couldn't control any of his pitches, but most importantly his fast ball. Axford's general pitch selection is fastball wherever, curveball for a strike, fastball high. If Axford isn't feeling that curveball for a strike, he's forced to throw too many fastballs. Turnbow would serve up his fastball down the middle more often than not, leading to his removal.

Now, I will say that I don't like the fact that Axford goes to Twitter after his bad games and interacts with nobodies who talk meaningless things in his direction and than retweets them etc. I personally don't think those people deserve the time of day to even be mentioned by Axford. Bottomline, Axford's excuses need to go. He needs to get comfortable again. I like the fact that after Axford had a day off to clear his head, manager Ron Roenicke used him in a situation that tested his will power. Axford came in to relieve Tyler Thornburg with a man on base with 2 outs. It was a situation where he needed to throw strikes, and he delivered. Axford also went on to throw a scoreless 6th inning as well. Progress people, progress. We haven't seen the last of Axford as Milwaukee's closer.

Honorable Mentions - Aramis Ramirez and Rickie Weeks both started out the season with miserable slumps, Weeks being far worse as we all know. You'll notice I highlighted the "k's" and "e's" in Rickie's name. That's because the only things he needs to still improve on are his errors (E4s) in the field and his strikeouts (Ks) at the plate. However, in the past month, both have really become hot hitters for the Brewers. Since June 1st, they have combined for 9 HR, 46 RBI. They need to continue hitting the ball well to help turn things around for Milwaukee. The Bullpen has continued to disappoint, especially Kameron Loe. I can't continue with this blog without mentioning how awesome Martin Maldonado has been in the absence of injured catcher Jonathon Lucroy. He is batting .273 with 5 HR and 18 RBI since being called to duty on May 29th. Oh, and his defense behind the plate has been superb. Unless a trade occurs that sends Kottaras somewhere, it's going to pinch when we have to send Maldonado back down to Nashville.

Wrapping this up, I couldn't really think of a spot to place our starting pitching. They really haven't been good, but they haven't been bad either. And certantly not ugly. Mike Fiers has been insanely good for us. Wolf has been good as of late, except the bullpen hasn't supported him whatsoever. Gallardo and Marco Estrada have been strikeout machines as of late. And Greinke, although his July has been awful, has still done a good job for the most part. Rank the rotation where you must.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota (@WSB_Andrew)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @WSB_Andrew @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @WSB_Mike @WSB_Harrison. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)



Thursday, July 5, 2012

Rundown of the Zack Greinke Trade Rumors

First off, Happy Independence Day everyone! I hope everyone had an outstanding day celebrating our country's birthday. The blasts of the fireworks and the foams of the brews, plus great family atmospheres and baseball make this a very special holiday every Fourth of July.

The time has come where the rumors are swirling about who is going where after the All-Star break and into the coming days of the approaching trade deadline. One of the most prized possessions during the break will be Zack Greinke of the Milwaukee Brewers. That is, if the Brewers decide to become sellers. These next two weeks will be the deciding factor on whether or not Milwaukee wheel and deals, or if they look to upgrade to try for the postseason.

Zack Greinke pitching at Great American Ballpark as Rangers and Yankees scouts look on in attendance.

Before I get into the who, what, where, when, and why's, here's my honest opinion on what I feel needs to happen at this point. The Brewers have a great opportunity to move up in the division in the next few days. They finish up the series with the Marlins tomorrow. They then head to Houston for three games before the All-Star break. After the break, the play the Pirates in a three game series at home and the Reds in a three game series on the road. The organization itself, as well as the fans will know if we will start making some moves or not.

So, I'm sure you want me to answer the million dollar question at this point. "Will the Brewers trade Zack and do you think it's the right move?" Yes, and yes. Now, let me emphasize. I do believe the Brewers will trade Zack Greinke, if the offer is right. So, I guess the second part of the question relies a lot on the first part. If the offer isn't what Mark A and Doug see as what Greinke is worth, then I don't see a deal happening. Will the Brewers make other moves besides Zack? Yes, almost guaranteed. But, Doug will be getting the most calls about Zack before anyone else.

(Zack Greinke's 2012 stats as of 7/4/12: 9-2, 3.08 ERA, 106 SO, 2.6 WAR, 1.176 WHIP)

Oh, and he's not an All-Star.

So, what is the right price for a guy like Zack Greinke? I think a deal similar to what we sent Kansas City is more then fair for Zack. Basically, Zack is worth about two to three major league ready players and one to two prospects. I do believe Doug will take a cut from what I think he's worth. I see us acquiring more prospects then major league ready guys. I will take a look at the Top 5 teams that have been linked to the Zack trade rumors, in order of relevance I see of possible places he could go.

5. New York Yankees

Why they want him - C.C. Sabathia on the 15 Day DL (groin), Andy Pettitte on the 60 Day DL (broken ankle), Michael Penada on 60 Day DL (anterior labral tear - out for the year)

Many sources are indicating that the Yankees are least likely to grab him, only because they would more then likely use Greinke in a non-starter role, due to their concern over how he would adjust to New York. The Yankees, who have most of their more talented prospects in the lower minors, would line up well with the Cubs, who have an eye toward the future, rather then the Brewers who are looking for prospects a bit higher then that level that are near ready if not fully ready for the majors. The Yankees have sent scouts to watch Zack, but that doesn't mean much. Simply put, it wouldn't be a trade deadline without the Yankees getting their name in there. Also, Zack wants to be a starter, plain and simple.

Yankees Top 5 Prospects

1.) Gary Sanchez, C, Grade B+
2.) Manny Banuelos, LHP, Grade B
3.) Dellin Betances, RHP, Grade B
4.) Mason Williams, OF, Grade B
5.) Dante Bichette, Jr., 3B, Grade B

Minus the relief pitchers, the Yankees really don't have much to offer Milwaukee. And, anyone on their main roster would be totally out of the question because of the contracts they all have. Yankees, to me at least, will be out of these talks before they ever really get involved.

4. Toronto Blue Jays

Why they want him - Kyle Drabek on the 60 Day DL (Tommy John's surgery - out for the year), Drew Hutchinson on the 60 Day DL (sprained right elbow), Brandon Morrow on the 15 Day DL (left oblique strain),  Jesse Litsch on the 60 Day DL (torn bicep - out for the year), Dustin McGowan on the 15 Day DL (right shoulder inflammation)

The Blue Jays are in some trouble for their starting rotation for the remainder of the season. One good thing about this idea of Zack going to Toronto is that the Brewers have already sent scouts to watch a few of their minor leaguers and also, 1B Adam Lind. Again, doesn't mean much but we have interest. If Milwaukee is forced to trade their ace, they will most likely be looking for a package of players including a pitching prospect, but more importantly, a shortstop. The Blue Jays are unlikely to part with their current shortstop, Yunel Escobar, and their current Triple-A shortstop, Adeiny Hechavarria, might be too valuable a bargaining chip for Alex Anthopolous to part with.

Blue Jays Top 5 Prospects

1.) Travis D'Arnaud, C, Grade B+
2.) Jake Marisnick, OF, Grade B+
3.) Noah Syndergaard, RHP, Grade B+
4.) Justin Nicolino, LHP, Grade B+
5.) Daniel Norris, LHP, Grade B+

Again, the Brewers would love the pitching, but they are also looking for a corner infielder with a bat. If you are wondering where Hechavarria is, he is No. 17 on their prospect list, which shows he's far from being ready for the Bigs. His glove is there, his bat is no where near. Still, I would love to have Adeiny in our organization.

3. Atlanta Braves

Why they need him - Brandon Beachy on the 60 Day DL (Tommy John's surgery - out for the year)

Now, you may say, "That isn't that bad, it's only one guy." Well, yes, it's one guy. The one guy who had the lowest ERA (1.99) in all of baseball before his season ended. The current starting rotation has a combined ERA of 4.69. So there is reason to believe the Braves would be looking to add onto their rotation with a guy like Zack. Mike Minor has the highest ERA of 6.20 ERA, and he would likely be the odd man out if Zack were to arrive in Atlanta. It's also worth noting that the Braves might back out of these trade talks if their newly signed "blast from the Brewers' past" Ben Sheets can show signs of life in the Braves minor league system. The Braves sit in the middle of the pack in the National League East divisional race. Zack could put them over the edge to get them above the Nationals and Mets.

Braves Top 5 Prospects

1.) Julio Teheran, RHP, Grade A
2.) Arodys Vizcaino, RHP, Grade A-
3.) Randall Delgado, RHP, Grade B+
4.) Andrelton Simmons, SS, Grade B+
5.) Sean Gilmartin, LHP, Grade B

One word decribes that Top 5...yummy. I doubt the Braves would give up Teheran, but stranger things have been known to happen. So you move down to the No. 2 thru No. 4 spots. Vizcaino is in the Braves bullpen(on 15 Day DL currently), Delgado is currently in the Braves rotation, and Simmons is currently starting at SS for the Braves. Losing Simmons would hurt Atlanta a lot, but they do have veteran Jack Wilson and Tyler Pastornicky in the minors. That doesn;t say much. Young, but major league ready is written all over the Braves. I think if the Brewers are going to deal Zack, they will be staring at the phone hoping Atlanta rings.

2. St. Louis Cardinals

Why they need him - Chris Carpenter on the 60 Day DL (thoracic outlet syndrome - out for the year), Jaime Garcia on the 15 Day DL (left shoulder impingement)

The combination of losing Carpenter for the year, and Adam Wainwright not pitching up to par, it's expected that St. Louis will be looking for help. According to Ken Rosenthal, St. Louis could become front runners to be a player for Zack Greinke. Though he remains unsure as to whether the Brewers would be willing to trade Greinke within the division, Rosenthal believes that returning to the state of Missouri, where he started his career with the Kansas City Royals, would be “particularly intriguing." Here's what Rosenthal said:

"Greinke, who began his career in Kansas City, would be particularly intriguing — he likely would welcome a trade to St. Louis and a chance to sign with the Cardinals long term. It is not known whether the Brewers would be willing to trade Greinke within the division, but they should be if the deal would work to their benefit." - Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports

Cardinals Top 5 Prospects

1.) Shelby Miller, RHP, Grade A
2.) Carlos Martinez, RHP, Grade A-
3.) Tyrell Jenkins, RHP, Grade A-
4.) Kolten Wong, 2B, Grade B+
5.) Oscar Taveras, OF, Grade B+

With the possibility of having an entire new rotation new season, the Brewers not only have to look at relief pitching, but replenishing starters as well. Miller, Martinez, and Jenkins would do that for Milwaukee. These three gentlemen are a few years out of pitching in the Bigs, if not ready for 2013. Then you move to Wong, who has somewhat of a cult following in St. Louis, much like how Scooter Gennett is developing here in Milwaukee. Now, with the struggles we are seeing with Weeks, it may not be a bad idea to have a back up plan set in stone. You could honestly run down the Cardinals Top 20 list of prospects and get decent guys, well enough for a Greinke trade.

1. Texas Rangers

Why they need him - Neftali Feliz on the 60 Day DL (sprained ligament in right elbow), Derek Holland on the 15 Day DL (left shoulder, elbow fatigue), Colby Lewis on the 15 Day DL (right forearm tendinitis), Alexi Ogando on the 15 Day DL (groin strain).

What makes me confident that IF a deal happens for Zack, it will be with Texas because they are scouting Zack AND we are scouting their minors. We have been to their Double-A affiliate on more then one occasion. They have watched Greinke's last two starts. Not to mention, Darvish and Harrison are the only two starters in the rotation that were there for opening day. Combine that with losing C.J Wilson in the offseason to free agency, they have holes to fill at the moment to stay ahead of the Angels, who are slowly creeping up.

Rangers Top 5 Prospects

1.) Jurickson Profar, SS, Grade A
2.) Martin Perez, LHP, Grade B+
3.) Leonys Martin, OF, Grade B+
4.) Mike Olt, 3B, Grade B+
5.) Rougned Odor, 2B, Grade B

Much like the Cardinals, the Rangers are LOADED with prospects. I know, I know...Jurickson Profar's name is sticking out like a sore thumb. Let me break it to you guys; it's going to be next to impossible for the Rangers to give up Profar. Yes, they have 23 year old Elvis Andrus who is signed until 2014. Maybe they trade Andrus? Who knows. I guy to look at is Mike Olt, who is a monster hitter and corner infielder. down the list of prospects for the Rangers, about half are pitchers, too. I see the Rangers having the most ingredients to offer Milwaukee for this potential blockbuster trade.

Other teams that will be calling the Milwaukee Brewers:

Arizona Diamondbacks - They lost Daniel Hudson for the year, so they may be looking to upgrade their rotation if they think they can catch the Giants and Dodgers. Their prospects aren't the best, but not the worst. They would probably have to send some main roster guys to Milwaukee.

Washington Nationals - They can taste it, and it's only the All-Star break. However, they will be shutting down Stephen Strasburg down at some point this year. Now, if they make the postseason, they might activate him. Who knows. But, with that and the combination of Wang being on the DL, the Nationals may be looking to go all out. They have decent prospects to offer Milwaukee.


Boston Red Sox - Why not? Real simple here: They are injured, they need help, but they have as many decent prospects as the Expos do. Only way they would get Zack from us is if a third team were involved.

To finish up, teams like Orioles, Angels, and Dodgers will be calling as well, but I see them all trying to low ball the Brewers. Bottomline, I want the Brewers to trade Greinke if the deal is right. I don't want to feel sick when I read the names of people we potentially will acquire.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota (@WSB_Andrew)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @WSB_Andrew @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @WSB_Mike @WSB_Harrison. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)