Rangers GM Jon Daniels called Melvin on Monday to talk about Gagne after talks broke down with the Mets and Yankees. The Brewers had a proposal on the table late Monday night, but Melvin had a hunch that Boston, a team stocked with several other players represented by Gagne's agent, Scott Boras, were the frontrunner.
Gagne reportedly was compensated for approving the trade to Boston. The Rangers could have traded him to Milwaukee without Gagne's consent.
That Melvin spent his final pre-deadline moments looking to bolster the bullpen came as no surprise. Entering the start of a six-game homestand on Tuesday, Brewers relievers were 2-7 with a 6.02 ERA and a .266 opponents' average in 18 games since All-Star week. Before the break, they were 13-12 with a 3.50 ERA and a .233 opponents' average.
The two usually reliable options at the back end of the bullpen have particularly struggled in the second half, promoting worries of overwork. Opponents are hitting .344 off closer Francisco Cordero since the break, and he has two blown saves and a 5.63 ERA. Setup man Derrick Turnbow, who suffered the loss on Monday in St. Louis, has an 8.59 ERA in 10 appearances since the break, and opponents are hitting him at a .367 clip.
Melvin moved last week to shore up that area when he acquired right-hander Scott Linebrink from the San Diego Padres. The deal cost the Brewers three pitching prospects, including 20-year-old right-hander Will Inman, who entered the year rated the organization's third-best prospect behind current big leaguers Yovani Gallardo and Ryan Braun.
Melvin would have had to part with a mixture of Major League and Minor League players to get Gagne, but said he was prepared to do so despite having already parted with some youth in the Linebrink deal.
"I don't think that played into it," Melvin said. "They didn't come back and ask for more, which gave me the indication that [Gagne] was headed to Boston. If it came down to it, they could have come back and asked for more, but they didn't. ... If I thought that we could have done it by upping the offer, I would have done that."
Gagne would have given the Brewers a formidable bullpen, its recent struggles notwithstanding. Gagne, Cordero and Turnbow all have made All-Star teams, and left-hander Brian Shouse and right-handers Matt Wise, Carlos Villanueva and Chris Spurling all are in the middle of solid seasons.
"There probably would have been more disappointment if we hadn't got Scott earlier on," Melvin said of missing out on Gagne.
Linebrink is a free agent at season's end, and there is no guarantee that he will amount to more than a two-month rental for the Brewers. Dealing for him, and subsequently showing interest in Gagne, indicates that Brewers officials believe they are a team built for its first postseason appearance in 25 years.
The division-leading Brewers and the second-place Chicago Cubs were idle Tuesday, but the four other National League Central teams all made trades.
"Things just didn't work out," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "You want to find ways to improve your club a little bit, but not for the sake of giving away some of our really special young prospects. I think that's really, really important that we don't do that.
"I think we're fine. I like our team. I like the kids we've got in here. We're ready to roll."
Teams can still make trades in August, but the players involved must clear waivers before they can be dealt.