Over the weekend, ESPN's Buster Olney had a behind-the-paywall article that contained an interesting little snippet pertaining to the Brewers. In the article, he discusses how set the current roster is and how the only real need for the team is finding bullpen help. These are things we know and have discussed.
Olney then goes on to say that the Brewers find themselves in a unique spot where they could trade away from an apparent surplus:
"Milwaukee is in a similar position that the Reds are in now, carrying starting pitchers who will be eligible for free agency next fall: 28-year-old Yovani Gallardo, who has seemingly been around forever but was drafted in the same year as Homer Bailey, and 36-year-old Kyle Lohse, who had a 3.54 ERA in 198 1/3 innings last season. The Brewers have some rotation surplus, with Jimmy Nelson groomed to move into the rotation, so Milwaukee will listen to offers for Gallardo and Lohse."
The emphasis there is mine, and is the notable part of this article. Gallardo and Lohse do appear set to leave Milwaukee following 2015, when their contracts run out. The Brewers would likely see better value in a trade now than they would mid-season. For one thing, teams might be more willing to part with pieces for a full season rather than a half season of a pitcher. For another, trading for one of the pitchers now would allow a team to make a qualifying offer post-2015, something they would not be able to do if they acquired Gallardo or Lohse around the trade deadline.
And the Brewers do have a surplus, on the surface. Gallardo, Lohse, Wily Peralta and Matt Garza are all assured spots in the rotation. It looks like Jimmy Nelson will be the odd man out with Mike Fiers getting the fifth spot, but either way the Brewers will have a talented player on the outside looking in. Neither Fiers nor Nelson have anything left to prove in the minors -- both deserve to be in the majors at this point.
That said, rotation depth is a fickle thing. Even when it seems a team has starting pitchers, they could just as easily be scraping the bottom of the barrel mid-season. One injury moves Nelson into the starting rotation with Taylor Jungmann the next in line. If the Brewers trade away another pitcher, Jungmann becomes the sixth-starter. After Jungmann there isn't much.
The Brewers were lucky last year with injuries, but they still had seven starting pitchers make at least 10 starts. If that holds true again this year, that would mean Jungmann and ... uhm ... Tyler Cravy(?) would be making important outings for Milwaukee. It doesn't even have to be due to injury: The Brewers were set with their rotation last year, too, until Marco Estrada earned his aeronautics degree. If Nelson were to struggle, the Brewers have no other reliable fifth starter.
Which is to say, it makes sense for the Brewers to be listening, because teams should always be listening on every player. The Angels should be listening on Mike Trout, the Dodgers on Clayton Kershaw, the Nationals on Bryce Harper, etc. etc. No player is off the market provided a team can get a good enough deal. Some players have a much heftier price tag, but that doesn't mean there isn't a price.
The price for Gallardo or Lohse likely wouldn't be so extravagant that it would be impossible to pry them away, but it's also hard to see the Brewers parting with either in a season where they are meant to contend without being blown away by an offer. The Brewers may be listening, but it's doubtful they're shopping.
Gallardo and Lohse both figure to be Brewers for at least part of 2015. It's possible they won't be, and it seems the Brewers aren't opposed to a deal. Odds are, though, the team will elect to keep their starting pitching depth as they hope for another playoff push.