Doug Melvin appears to be the heavy favorite to become the new general manager of the New York Mets, meaning he would return to the big chair he occupied with the Brewers from 2002-15.
Melvin, 66, has been a consultant in the front office since David Stearns took over as Milwaukee general manager in 2015. But Melvin is the architect behind the Brewers’ return to relevancy, with playoff berths in 2008 and 2011, and he was at the wheel for a number of moves that set up the 2018 team to thrive.
Here are the ways Melvin’s fingerprints were on the 2018 team that advanced to the seventh game of the National League Championship Series:
He was at the helm for the Carlos Gomez blockbuster — a deal that required some last-second gymnastics
The July 30, 2015, deal involving Carlos Gomez going to the Houston Astros was notable for a number of reasons, not the least of which was bringing flame-throwing lefty Josh Hader into the organization.
Hader was, at the time, arguably the fourth most highly regarded of four prospects Melvin received in exchange for Gomez and starter Mike Fiers. The deal also fetched Domingo Santana, Brett Phillips and Adrian Houser. Santana started all through 2017 and bounced back from a 2018 season spent largely at Class AAA to deliver some big moments late in the year. Phillips was part of the package sent to Kansas City for Mike Moustakas, and Houser also saw time with the Brewers this year.
Hader, of course, became the centerpiece. The dominant reliever broke the MLB record for most strikeouts by a left-handed reliever and followed that up with more excellence in the playoffs. He was recently named the Brewers’ Pitcher of the Year by the local chapter of baseball writers.
Gomez went on to struggle in Houston, and though Fiers threw a no-hitter later that season, it wasn’t a deal that proved costly to Milwaukee.
The other memorable aspect of the trade was that Melvin appeared to have a deal in place one day earlier to send Gomez to the Mets for Wilmer Flores and Zack Wheeler, a deal the Mets nixed at the 11th hour. Melvin felt he needed to act quickly to find another suitor, lest concerns over Gomez’s health (raised by the Mets) or the now-evident motivation Milwaukee had to trade Gomez poisoned any potential return. The return the Brewers got instead from Houston appears to be much, much better than what they would have gotten from the Mets.
He traded for Corey Knebel at the beginning of the ‘rebuild’
If you want to pinpoint the moment the Brewers “rebuild” began, it may have been January 19, 2015, when Melvin parted with the organization’s most steady pitcher the previous few years – Yovani Gallardo – in exchange for Marcos Diplan, Luis Sardinas and Corey Knebel from the Texas Rangers.
Knebel had some big-league experience under his belt, but he took a huge leap forward and became the Brewers closer in 2017. In 2018, he suffered a hamstring injury and bouts of ineffectiveness, but he became one of the hammers in a bullpen that took center stage during Milwaukee’s postseason run.
Sardinas was eventually traded to Seattle, but Diplan remains in the organization and is a longshot candidate to make the 2019 team. He spent 2018 in Advanced Class A and Class AA and is rated the No. 12 prospect in the organization by MLB.com.
He signed Hernan Perez off waivers
Perez may not be a player thought of among Milwaukee’s “core,” but he’s been a versatile asset since he was claimed off waivers from the Tigers on June 2, 2015.
He acquired Zach Davies for a rental
The Brewers surrendered minor leaguer Mitch Haniger to get Gerardo Parra from the Diamondbacks one year earlier, and that deal doesn’t look so great after Haniger went on to have an all-star season with the Mariners this year (though, granted, Arizona also traded Haniger to Seattle). But Milwaukee also got value in exchange when it, in turn, sent Parra elsewhere, part of a trade with the Baltimore Orioles for Zach Davies straight up on July 31, 2015.
Davies battled injury in 2018 but had some strong final outings for the Brewers in his third year as part of the Brewers rotation. Parra moved on from Baltimore quickly and signed a three-year deal with the Rockies, and he’s been serviceable in Colorado the past three seasons.
He re-signed Jeremy Jeffress (the first time)
Melvin and Stearns can both take credit for bringing back Jeremy Jeffress.
Jeffress was part of the package sent in 2011 to the Royals for Zack Greinke, but after struggling with the Royals and Blue Jays, Melvin re-signed Jeffress in 2014, where he was excellent in 2014, 2015 and most of 2016. At that point, Stearns included Jeffress in a package with Jonathan Lucroy to acquire Lewis Brinson, Luis Ortiz and Ryan Cordell.
Jeffress again struggled with the Rangers, and Milwaukee brought him back into the fold in 2017, with Stearns now at the helm. Jeffress went on to become the team’s closer and part of its dominant bullpen in 2018.