MILWAUKEE — There aren’t many general managers around baseball planning to spill their trade deadline plans to the media, for a variety of reasons.
If a general manager or manager comes out and goes into depth about where their team needs to improve and a deal doesn’t end up getting done to address that area, clubhouse morale becomes a concern.
Then there’s the obvious desire to not tip one’s hand.
With six days left until the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the Milwaukee Brewers have the best record in the National League and are undoubtedly in position to be buyers. But that doesn’t mean general manager Doug Melvin is motivated to swing a deal just for the sake of making a trade.
"If you can add, you add, but I like our team." Melvin said, "We had one bad stretch, and that came near the end of the (first half).
"It’s going to be a tough division; you’ve got four teams over .500. I think it’s the toughest division in baseball."
A four-game winning streak has pushed the Brewers back out in front of the National League Central by three games over St. Louis and Pittsburgh. On the other side of things, Cincinnati has lost six straight to fall to 51-50, but the Reds are still in the race at six games back.
While most divisions don’t have four teams in the hunt, the addition of the second wild-card spot in both leagues has certainly impacted the trade market. More teams are in the race which means less teams are apt to become sellers at the deadline.
If there was just one wild card in the American League this year, the Yankees and Blue Jays would be seven games behind the Angels for the final playoff spot. Instead, those two teams are tied for the additional postseason berth and five other teams are within five games of New York and Toronto.
The team impacted by the second wild card the most could be the Tampa Bay Rays. A 49-53 record would usually indicate a team is a seller, especially when it has the biggest prize on the market like the Rays have in David Price.
But Tampa Bay is just 4 1/2 games out of a playoff spot. More teams in the hunt means more general managers chasing fewer available players, driving up the cost.
"The wild card it makes it tougher," Melvin said. "All you need is to win 10 out of 11 and everybody is back in it. Those streaks can happen. That’s why teams don’t want to move players until they absolutely have to."
The Brewers appear they could use some help in the bullpen and possibly at first base. Milwaukee has struggled to find a consistent right-hander to work in the late innings, especially since Jim Henderson and Tyler Thornburg have gone down to injuries.
It doesn’t appear either Henderson or Thornburg are nearing a return, but the Brewers did recently call up the hard-throwing Jeremy Jeffress. Outside of closer Francisco Rodriguez , the right-handers in Milwaukee’s bullpen are Jeffress, Brandon Kintzler and long man Marco Estrada.
At first base, Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay have fallen into slumps in July. Reynolds had hit just one home run since June 2 before hitting a pair of homers Wednesday against Cincinnati.
Reynolds is hitting just .182 since the end of April, while Overbay is hitting .182 in July.
"Lyle has come up with some big hits," Melvin said. "He’s 6-for-12 pinch hitting and our defense has been a huge improvement. I know a lot’s been made about the first base situation, but in the end we’re scoring runs. It doesn’t matter how you do it or where it’s coming from."
There aren’t many trade options out there at first base, especially ones considered to be significant upgrades over Reynolds and Overbay. Colorado’s Justin Morneau might be the best potential target, but would the cost of acquiring him be worth the upgrade?
"Look at the trade deadline, and it’s no different than the offseason," Melvin said. "There’s a lot of acquisitions you can make in the offseason, and all it does is make you look better on paper. It doesn’t make you necessarily a better ballclub. You still have to play well as a team.
"That’s the way I look at the trade deadline. You can go out and acquire a relief pitcher, and he may pitch eight innings for the month."
Inside the clubhouse, players certainly are aware the deadline is rapidly approaching.
"There’s discussions going on and depending on your team and where you are and which way you’re looking, some guys don’t know if they’re going to be there in a few days," manager Ron Roenicke said. "On other teams, guys are hopeful that they’re going to get something big.
"So it’s a pick-me-up at times. Sometimes, you get somebody and they don’t really help you a whole lot."
Melvin has made his fair share of deadline moves as general manager of the Brewers, none bigger than acquiring C.C. Sabathia in early July of 2008. A small move at the time, Melvin’s trade for Jerry Hairston Jr. in 2011 ended up having an impact on the ballclub.
For every trade that ends up working like Sabathia did for the Brewers, there are a few deals every year that end up hurting a team in the long run and not helping in the short term. Melvin referenced a couple of teams who didn’t make the playoffs after swinging big deals, including when the Angels got Zack Greinke from the Brewers in 2012 and the Rangers traded for Matt Garza from the Cubs last season.
"We’re out there, we’re going to have our ears open and we’re open to anything that can improve our club," Melvin said. "But we still have to play well as a team, and not think that one acquisition makes a difference. Not many times does that acquisition make the difference without the team still continuing to play well."