Dear Doug: Let the Trout Thing Go

Unless you want to keep breaking down the Mark Kotsay signing, there isn’t a lot to write about when it comes to the Brewers now. With about two weeks left until the start of spring training, Tom Haudricourt dusts off the old “The Brewers Could Have Had Mike Trout” story.

Trout is the undisputed #1 prospect in baseball right now, even ahead of Bryce Harper. He was taken 25th overall in the 2009 draft, one pick ahead of the Brewers. That 25th pick was a compensation spot that the Brewers held after the Yankees signed CC Sabathia, but when the Yankees also signed Mark Teixeira, the Brewers’ compensation was bumped back to the second round because Teixeira was the highest-ranked Type A free agent that winter.

Doug Melvin feels like the compensation system hurt the Brewers that year, and for some reason, he still hasn’t quite let it go:

“(The compensation rules) hurt us that particular year,” said Brewers general manager Doug Melvin. “The only player we could lose that (first-round) pick on was Teixeira, and the Yankees signed him. We thought that was an unfair part of the system.”

When a new collective bargaining agreement is negotiated with the players union later this year, Melvin hopes the entire draft system will be revamped. There are many aspects of it that are broken, including the compensation system that worked against the Brewers in the Sabathia situation.

“I think they will make some changes in the new agreement,” said Melvin. “The draft is at the top of the list. The draft and the compensation system need to be looked at.”

The system is broken, and the Brewers did get unlucky that year. There’s no denying that. In addition to the Sabathia situation, they were also likely counting on netting two more compensation picks for Ben Sheets that winter, but Sheets hurt his elbow while trying to pitch the team into the playoffs. By the time he finally shut it down, the injury was so bad that he was forced to miss the entire 2009 season, meaning the Brewers got nothing for him.

I like Doug Melvin. He’s done a hell of a job turning this organization around, from top to bottom. But I don’t know if I can express just how much I want him to stop complaining — not just about this, but about other aspects of running a small-market team.

Yes, the compensation system probably hurts small clubs more than it helps. Yes, it’s hard to compete with the spending of teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, or even the Cubs. Yes, it’s harder to convince Latin players to sign on with an organization like Milwaukee. Yes, the margin of error is incredibly small.

We know all of this. But it can be done. We’ve seen it with our own eyes, both in Milwaukee and elsewhere around the league. The fact that Melvin is still finding ways to complain about the status quo after the winter he’s had is almost comical.

The Brewers farm system is definitely hurting, and it would look a hell of a lot better with Mike Trout sitting at the top of the rankings. But you can’t blame the thin system on the compensation rules hurting you that year. You had the next pick after Trout was selected, and you took Eric Arnett. For lack of a better word, Arnett’s been an utter disaster of a pick and isn’t much of a prospect anymore. As Tom Haudricourt points out in the article, the second round pick that the Brewers did get for Sabathia hasn’t fared well, either — Max Walla could power a small town with the wind power he’s generating with his whiffs at the plate, but the Brewers fell in love with his power in batting practice.

The broken system didn’t force Doug Melvin and Bruce Seid to make those picks. Seattle took shortstop Nick Franklin the pick after the Brewers took Arnett, and he’s a top 50 prospect in all of baseball after hitting 23 home runs in the Midwest League as a 19-year old last season. Brett Jackson, now one of the top prospects in the Cubs system, was there. If you want to look only at pitchers, the Brewers passed on Tyler Skaggs — the key piece the Diamondbacks got back for Danny Haren — twice in that draft before he was picked by the Angels.

I would hope that Melvin realizes that he has as much a hand in this as the draft system does. It doesn’t help that the solutions he would like to see — hard slotting, an international draft — would probably end up hurting the Brewers even more. Give us these comments when we get closer to the current CBA expiring. Until then, work with what you have. When you’ve built something that’s potentially special and you’re still complaining about the status quo, you’re only setting yourself up for criticism.

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