Brewers Should Start Dealing Relievers

April 18, 2010: Carlos Villanueva for the Milwaukee Brewers pitches in relief during a game against the hometown Washington Nationals at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. The Brewers beat the Nationals 11 - 7.

While most of the trade rumors involving the Brewers this year are about Prince Fielder, there was one that popped up yesterday that we definitely haven’t heard before.

Ed Price of AOL FanHouse’s Ed Price tweeted that while the Brewers haven’t decided whether they’re buying or selling this month, they have started listening on trade offers for Carlos Villanueva and Todd Coffey.

This is the type of thing that I like to hear.

Not that I want either of them gone as soon as possible, but it shows that Doug Melvin is at least willing to listen when teams are calling, even if the calls are about players he hasn’t considered trading to this point.  The Brewers have quite a few solid middle relief arms that could be valuable to teams in tight division races needing more security in the middle innings.

The Yankees have had no trouble closing out games once Mariano Rivera comes in, but getting the ball to Mo has been a problem — Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, and Chan Ho Park all have ERA’s over 5.  In Boston, Manny Delcarmen, Ramon Ramirez, and Hideki Okajima all have ERA’s over 4.50.  Detroit might need bullpen help after Joel Zumaya went down for the year.  The Mets could probably also use another arm in the bullpen, too.  As the division races stay tight, someone may get desperate and overpay for a middle reliever (why does that sound familiar? Oh, right).

Both relievers wouldn’t simply be rentals, either: Coffey is under team control through 2011, while Villanueva is under control for an additional year.

Trading either one (or both) wouldn’t necessarily mean the Brewers are starting a firesale, though.  Such a move would likely be equal parts dealing from a strength and a way to manage the roster — Doug Davis is coming back in the next week, while LaTroy Hawkins is also close to returning.  Roster spots will need to be cleared, and if no trades are made, the Brewers may have to risk losing some members of their pitching staff without compensation. 

Moving forward, there may not be much room for the likes of Coffey in the Brewers’ bullpen, anyway — he’s starting to be more expensive than he’s worth, and cheaper options will continue to become available.  John Axford and Zach Braddock are already in the majors, and we could see the likes of Brandon Kintzler before long.  I still think Villanueva can be a valuable member of his team, but his prolonged cold streaks have him falling out of favor with a lot of people.  It’s easy to see why he’s still potentially an interesting trade chip, though: he’s still young, he has some pretty good K numbers, he has the ability to go multiple days in a row or even stretch out for a spot start, and he’s under control through 2012.

Simply put, if Melvin can get something of value — a live arm that projects as another future reliever, a solid bat, etc. — he should pull the trigger.