Brewers Need A First Baseman, Phillies Have Two


Could Darin Ruf end up a Brewer? Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Brewers lost their starting first baseman for the season over the weekend. And in the process, an opportunity may have been created for the Phillies.

In a heartbreaking turn of events for the Brewers, Mat Gamel tore the ACL in his right knee for the second time in less than a year, and will miss the entire 2013 season after being out for almost all of 2012. Gamel re-injured the knee during the Brewers’ first full-squad workout on Saturday.

So the Brewers now have no real first baseman for 2013. Even their back-up, Corey Hart, is injured.

The Phillies, meanwhile, have their $125 million man at first in Ryan Howard and a young potential back-up in Darin Ruf.

You may have heard of him.

Ruf is working to become the Phils’ starting left fielder, but his best position is first base. In fact, Jonathan Mayo at ranked Ruf as the fifth-best first base prospect in the minors.

So, the Phillies have two first basemen. The Brewers have none.

Is a phone call between these two teams in order?

Milwaukee does have a quality first baseman in their minor league system named Hunter Morris (ranked as the organization’s 4th best prospect by Baseball Prospectus), who was the organization’s player of the year last year after hitting .303 with 28 HRs and 113 RBI and winning the Southern League MVP award for the Huntsville Stars in AA. However, he has never played above AA, and would likely benefit from at least a portion of the year in AAA.

If the Brewers think he’s ready to make the leap straight to the Majors, then there is no need for a trade.

However, if they feel Morris isn’t ready, then they are going to have to find a first baseman somewhere.

But is there a match with the Phillies? Or would a third team have to be involved?

Among all things, the Phils need outfielders, either players already on a Major League roster or a minor league player that is somewhat close to the big leagues.

Right now, with Corey Hart likely out until the end of April, the Brewers’ starting outfield consists of Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez and Norichika Aoki.

Ryan Howard’s not going anywhere. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

(Ah yes, I can just hear the Ruf/Howard-for-Braun “packages” being put together by WIP callers right now.)

For anyone harboring dreams of a Ryan Howard trade, there are two big reasons why that won’t ever go down.

First, Howard’s contract is one of the five worst in the sport. He’s still owed $95 million over the next four years and is coming off a catastrophic injury.

Second, as contradictory as it sounds, the Phils need Howard’s power bat in the lineup. Unless a trade of Howard could net them a power-hitting outfielder, he is the only player capable of hitting more than 30 home runs in the lineup, unless Ruf wins the left field job and picks up where he left off in AA last year, something not even the wildest optimists expect to happen.

Any trade speculation regarding the Phils and Brewers would likely have to revolve around Ruf.

If the Brewers think they can get by with Alex Gonzalezat first base (coaches were considering giving him some reps there even before Gamel’s injury) until Hart returns from his knee surgery, then they probably don’t need to make a move.

But if Milwaukee feels desperate enough, and a third team can get involved, perhaps a deal that centers around Ruf might net the Phils some much-needed outfield help.

Admittedly, there are some tricky dots to connect here. But one team has a need and the other has a surplus.

When that happens, sometimes people find a way to get something done.