MILWAUKEE -- The Brett Lawrie-for-Shaun Marcum trade, back in the spotlight this week as Lawrie visits Milwaukee with the Blue Jays, began over Thanksgiving dinner. Zack Minasian, now the Brewers' pro scouting director, asked his older brother, Perry, the Blue Jays' pro scouting director, if he thought Toronto might be interested. The Brewers needed a quality starter and the Blue Jays were arming themselves for the future, so it looked like a fit. But when the talks actually climbed up the organizational ladders to a formal offer in December, the Blue Jays turned it down. They wanted a second player in the deal. So the Brewers shopped Lawrie to another team, probably the Royals, with whom Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin eventually swung a blockbuster trade for Zack Greinke. When Toronto got wind, they accepted the one-for-one offer, and the Lawrie deal was done.
"Most trades are fun," Zack Minasian said. "That one was nerve-wracking." Nerve-wracking because the Brewers knew what kind of promise they were giving up in Lawrie, a five-tool talent who is still just 22 and already in his second Major League season. He made it to Miller Park on Monday and only cursorily talked about his time in the Brewers' system. In Spring Training, Lawrie spoke of feeling stifled by Brewers officials, who countered by pointing out they accepted Lawrie's desire to twice switch positions, from catcher to second base to third base. Asked whether any part of him remained a Brewer, Lawrie responded quickly, "No." "He wants to be known as a guy who plays his butt off, and he doesn't need everybody to like him," said Brewers infielder Taylor Green, a Double-A Huntsville teammate in 2010. "That doesn't come into the equation for him. He just wants to win games, and he plays the game unbelievably hard." Minasian was not concerned with the off-the-field drama. It was his job to evaluate the Brewers' options from a baseball perspective, and a Lawrie-for-Marcum swap made sense. Three different Brewers scouts had seen Marcum pitch that September including then-head pro scout Dick Groch. Lawrie went to Triple-A to prove he could handle third base and Marcum went to Milwaukee, where he was the best early-season starter on a club that would win 96 games and the National League Central crown. If given the opportunity, does Minasian believe the Brewers would make the same trade again? "If it meant giving up your best prospect to win a division, I think every GM in baseball would like to have the opportunity to do that," he said. "I think that's how Doug is -- he understands you have to give up something to get something."