The Milwaukee Brewers have not played well lately. Though they won on Sunday, thereby avoiding a sweep at the hands of the Chicago Cubs, they entered the week with a 7-11 mark so far in August. What's more is the Brewers have lost four of their six August series, including sets against the aforementioned Cubs, as well as the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds -- or the National League Central foes they're supposed to beat. Add it all together, and the Brewers have seen their two-game lead in the division turn into a five-game deficit over the course of three weeks.
There are several reasonable explanations for the Brewers' slide -- for example, they're 3-5 in one-run games in August -- but one offered over the weekend by left-hander Eric Lauer concerned the clubhouse's reaction to the Josh Hader trade.
"It didn't send us the right message from the upstairs people trying to say, like, 'We're doing this and we're trying to put you guys in the best position and we're trying to win right now with you guys,'" Lauer told MLB.com. "It seemed more of a, 'We're trying to develop for the future.'"
At the trade deadline, the Brewers sent Hader to the San Diego Padres in return for four players: reliever Taylor Rogers, outfielder Esteury Ruiz, and pitching prospect Robert Gasser. Righty Dinelson Lamet was also part of the trade, but the Brewers designated him for assignment and lost him on waivers before he ever suited up with the organization.
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Regardless of the trade's merit -- and it should be noted that Hader has struggled with the Padres, leading to his removal from the closer position -- it's easy to understand why Lauer and others in the clubhouse would find the deal puzzling. First-place teams seldom trade away their closers, and it's even more rare that they deal him within their league, and to a potential playoff opponent.
It doesn't help matters that Lauer noted the lack of communication from the front office -- something that was pushed back on by other members of the organization -- as well as the perception that the Brewers never keep their players for long, reducing the ability for the current group to buy-in to the front office's long-term vision. Lauer directly referenced president of baseball operations David Stearns' go-to-explanation about how the Brewers' best chance of winning the World Series is to make the playoffs as frequently as possible, or to get as many bites of the apple as they can.
"I personally wasn't a huge fan of the way they described it to the public," Lauer also told MLB.com. "I'm not trying to just get a bunch of bites of the apple. Especially if things are going the way they are, the way the Brewers have historically traded [before] paying guys. I don't know how many bites of the apple we can take in the next few years. We're not going to be able to afford a lot of guys in this room."
It's fair to wonder if Lauer and his teammates would feel better about their current situation if they had the same record but Hader was still on the roster. At minimum, his frustration speaks to the difficulties of trying to thread the needle for the present and the future: a trade may make sense on paper, and it may end up benefiting the organization over the long haul, but there's a human element that must be accounted for when it comes to how any particular deal will be received within the clubhouse.
Lauer and the Brewers will attempt to get back on the rails beginning Monday night as part of a three-game set in Los Angeles against the Dodgers.