MILWAUKEE—Not even the system's top prospects have been spared as the Brewers have strived to improve a beleaguered big league pitching staff coming off consecutive 15th- and 14th-place finishes among National League clubs in ERA.
Four times since the 2008 season Milwaukee has traded a current or former top prospect for top-flight pitching, the most recent example being the acquisition of Royals ace Zack Greinke in late December.
To get Greinke, the 2009 American League Cy Young Award winner who's under contract through '12, the Brewers sacrificed shortstop Alcides Escobar, center fielder Lorenzo Cain and righthanders Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi. The deal also yielded shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt for the Brewers.
The raid on No. 1 prospects began in July 2008 when Milwaukee dealt outfielder Matt LaPorta, a first-round pick just the year before, to the Indians in the C.C. Sabathia trade.
After LaPorta's departure, Escobar took over the top spot for the 2009-10 seasons. After one full year with the big league club, the talented shortstop is gone.
Slated to become No. 1 prospect for 2011, second baseman Brett Lawrie missed his chance when the '08 first-rounder headed to Toronto as bounty for Blue Jays righthander Shaun Marcum at the Winter Meetings.
That swap moved Odorizzi to the top spot, where he shared the same fate as LaPorta, Escobar and Lawrie when Milwaukee included him in the Greinke deal.
The series of moves prompted an official from another club to say the Milwaukee farm system had been gutted.
General manager Doug Melvin preferred to look at the series of moves in a different light, saying, "We gave up a lot of good, young players. This is a credit to our scouting and player-development people to have the kind of young players it takes to make a trade like this."
Still, righthander Mark Rogers, the latest No. 1 prospect, might want to avoid signing any long-term apartment leases.
• The Brewers released righthander Cody Adams, a second-round pick in 2008 who received a $653,000 bonus but missed all of last season with injuries. Adams served a 50-game suspension in 2009 for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
• The Brewers claimed Double-A righthander Roque Mercedes on waivers from the Diamondbacks, returning the 24-year-old to his original organization. Mercedes went 3-4, 4.36 with 45 strikeouts in 54 relief innings for Mobile last year.