Baseball can be a heartless business, and no team has been more heartless than the Milwaukee Brewers the past few years.
Even the most ruthless front offices typically like to throw their players a bone by executing the occasional popular move with a 100% approval rating. If a "go for it" trade doesn't work, at least a GM can hang his hat on boosting morale.
The Brew Crew? Despite being in and around the playoff race several years running, they took a sledgehammer to the locker room by trading All-Star closer Josh Hader at the 2022 deadline. At this week's All-Star Game, another shockwave-inducing old trade took center stage, as Brewers All-Star Devin Williams (and Hader) marveled at the rise of Braves shortstop Orlando Arcia, whose trade floored them both in 2021.
None of this is idle speculation. Two years running, the Brewers dumped well-liked players midstream while still contending in a weak NL Central/crowded Wild Card field. The reasoning behind an Arcia trade was more defensible; he was a former top prospect who'd been given years of runway and was regressing rather than improving. Even now, he's barely above-average offensively. The seeds of the Hader trade seem to have been sowed years prior; but trading both the also-ran and the All-Star seemed to have the same devastating effect on Milwaukee's morale.
Third time's the charm for Dodgers to devastate Brewers' locker room
A few weeks back, we theorized the Brewers would have to tail off significantly to consider dealing the Dodgers' ideal deadline candidate, Willy Adames (who's admittedly slumping quite a bit in 2023). Same with ace Corbin Burnes -- who oh, by the way, they infuriated during the arbitration process. If not for Scott Boras' presence, he might already be a Dodger.
Nobody hybrids like the Brewers, who could trade several key pieces and still have a solid shot at overtaking the scorching Reds for a division title. Remember, Adames' play has been quite poor -- who's to say the young guns can't improve upon his 93 OPS+ and .213 average?
But, after deadline shakeups, 2021's team sputtered to the finish line (14-12 in September, 0-3 in October, easily cleaned out by the Braves in the NLDS). 2022's Crew went 36-33 in the second half and flopped out of the playoff picture, thanks to Hader the Deflator.
If the Brewers had careened off course in the first half, the Dodgers' deadline chances would seem greater. But until Milwaukee passes this year's final whistle, a chemistry-crumbling deal can't be written off.
Who knows? Maybe Burnes is so infuriated behind the scenes that dealing him would actually improve chemistry this time around?