If the Brewers’ emptying out their farm system to pick up Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum this winter didn’t convince you that the Brewers were going to do everything possible to try to win the NL Central and more in 2011, their willingness to trade much of anything for Francisco Rodriguez and to play Russian Roulette with his $17 million option (!) in 2012 should probably clinch it for you. There’s pretty much nothing Doug Melvin won’t do to put the Brewers over the top before Prince Fielder hits the free agent market.
In the long run, this will probably play well for the Pirates (what happens after Fielder leaves in 2012 and Greinke and Marcum go in 2013?) but I’m guessing that it’s going to make the division awfully tough for them to win in 2011. I already thought the Brewers were the best team in the division (I wrote most of this before the K-Rod trade last night; you can read it as analysis or as a reverse-jinx, if you’re a Pirate fan), but the difference may be simply that Melvin is willing to do things that Neal Huntington simply can’t be willing to do at this point. Even if the Pirates needed relief help and were willing to give up whatever the two prospects are that the Brewers just gave up, there’s no chance in hell they’d acquire a guy that will make $17 million in 2012 just for finishing 21 more games this year. If the Brewers need to unload more good prospects (say, from last year’s draft) to pick up a middling upgrade at shortstop, they’ll do it and the Pirates will probably balk. If they need to outbid the Pirates to do so, they will.
The Pirates have some flexibility and some fringe prospects to trade, but they won’t go further than that. Maybe things will be different in a few years as Andrew McCutchen faces down free agency, but the two teams just aren’t in the same position right now. At least in 2011, that’s probably going to work against the Pirates.