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Crew can deal from rich system to fill gaps

Brewers have top prospects to swap to address lackluster offensive production from infield
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- The best first half in Brewers history ended with six straight losses, and it doesn't get easier after the All-Star break.

The Brewers return to action Friday at Miller Park against the Dodgers and Manny Machado, who will make his L.A. debut against a Milwaukee team that reportedly finished as runner-up in trade talks with the Orioles. Next on the homestand are the Nationals, followed by an eight-game West Coast trip against the Giants and Dodgers. That carries the Brewers past the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline and into an August schedule that includes a critical three-city trip with games against the NL East-leading Braves, NL Central-leading Cubs and then the Cardinals.

MILWAUKEE -- The best first half in Brewers history ended with six straight losses, and it doesn't get easier after the All-Star break.

The Brewers return to action Friday at Miller Park against the Dodgers and Manny Machado, who will make his L.A. debut against a Milwaukee team that reportedly finished as runner-up in trade talks with the Orioles. Next on the homestand are the Nationals, followed by an eight-game West Coast trip against the Giants and Dodgers. That carries the Brewers past the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline and into an August schedule that includes a critical three-city trip with games against the NL East-leading Braves, NL Central-leading Cubs and then the Cardinals.

"We have to find a way to get it done in the field," said Lorenzo Cain. "We open with the Dodgers and play them a few times. The schedule definitely doesn't get any easier. We have to find a way to pull together and compete."

Reinforcements could help, and with Machado off the board, Brewers GM David Stearns will have to look elsewhere. The injury-battered Brewers finished the first half with outfielder Ryan Braun, first baseman Eric Thames, catcher Manny Pina, infielder Jonathan Villar, reliever Matt Albers and starter Zach Davies on the 10-day disabled list -- plus ace right-hander Jimmy Nelson still on the 60-day DL and facing an uncertain timeline coming back from shoulder surgery. Pina is expected back Friday.

Here's a look at where the Brewers stand with the Trade Deadline looming:

Current status: Buyer
The Brewers' aggressive pursuit of Machado, a free agent at season's end, cemented that club officials believe they have a postseason contender. Even after losing seven of eight games on a brutal road trip to close the first half, the Brewers set a franchise record for victories before the All-Star break (55) and tied the Cubs for the most victories in the NL. That, despite a long list of personnel losses that extended to poor performances from players like shortstop Orlando Arcia and right fielder Domingo Santana who were expected to contribute. Both players are beginning the second half at Triple-A Colorado Springs.

Video: Craig Counsell on Orlando Arcia being sent down

What they are seeking
Statistically, it appears the Brewers' chief need is offense. They finished the first half seventh in the Major Leagues with a 3.65 ERA -- and yes, that was fueled by a fantastic bullpen, but Milwaukee's starters ranked a respectable 10th of 30 teams at 3.87, one spot ahead of the starter-rich Cubs. Meanwhile, Milwaukee's hitters were 17th at 4.35 runs per game, with particular need at shortstop (tied for last in MLB at 48 wRC+) and second base (27th, 69 wRC+). Thus, the interest in Machado.

What they have to offer
The Brewers have a rich farm system, even after sending four premium prospects including then-top prospect Lewis Brinson to the Marlins in January for Christian Yelich. It starts with hitting phenom Keston Hiura, No. 1 on MLB Pipeline's Brewers Top 30 Prospects list and No. 30 on MLB Pipeline's overall Top 100 list. He would be tough to trade, but he's not off-limits in the way players like Prince Fielder and Braun were in years past. The Brewers would prefer to deal from two areas of relative strength: Pitching and outfielders. Their Nos. 2 and 4 prospects are pitchers -- Corbin Burnes and Luis Ortiz -- and there's also No. 9 Freddy Peralta. Burnes and Peralta are in the Major Leagues currently, and particularly prized. If the Brewers find a trade partner in need of outfielders, there's a match to be had. Santana, Brett Phillips, Corey Ray, Trent Grisham and quick-rising Tristen Lutz are all age 25 or younger.

Video: MIL@MIA: Burnes goes 2 scoreless in debut to get save

Possible scenario
MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported the Brewers have been in touch with the Twins about pending free-agent infielders Eduardo Escobar and Brian Dozier, neither of whom is the caliber of All-Star starter Machado, but would nonetheless represent an upgrade. Escobar has the versatility the Brewers like, including experience at shortstop, and an .834 OPS this season. The Twins' top center-field prospect, per MLB Pipeline, is 10th-ranked Akil Baddoo; the two outfielders above him on Minnesota's list, including All-Star Futures Game participant Alex Kirilloff, profile to the corners or first base. Grisham, the Brewers' No. 7 prospect, is having a tough year at Double-A Biloxi but remains a well-regarded prospect.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

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