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Winter Meetings: Brewers trade candidates

Hey, the off season can get pretty boring. It doesn't matter if they're likely or not, let's talk about some trades!

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Winter Meetings start Monday the 8th and run through Thursday the 11th, at which point the Rule 5 Draft will be held. Traditionally the meetings are the most active 4 day period of the winter. All the 30 general managers, their most trusted advisers, most of the notable unsigned players and their agents, most reporters worth his or her salt, and Jon Heyman will all be in one building.

Almost as soon as the World Series ended the Brewers had more or less completed their roster by acquiring Adam Lind and picking up Yovani Gallardo and Aramis Ramirez's options. Since then it's been a pretty uneventful off season for Brewers fans. However, as Doug Melvin likes to say, the Brewers are always open to ways in which they can make their club better.

With that in mind I thought I'd identify and address some of the Brewers potential MLB trade candidates. I'm going to ignore the farm system because it's anyone's guess as to who is or isn't untouchable and who other teams might be interested in.

Yovani Gallardo

Why would someone want him?

It was a forgone conclusion the Brewers would exercise their modestly priced team option for Yovani Gallardo. He's fallen short of "ace" expectations but is still a solid and dependable mid-rotation starter. Depending on the cost to acquire him, I can't believe there is a single team that wouldn't be interested in having him in their rotation.

I won't hazard a guess as to what the Brewers could expect in return, but it could easily be a decent haul. He has a career 3.69 ERA, 3.71 FIP, 3.55 xFIP, and 3.70 SIERA. He can slot into the middle of all but the most elite rotations and could be a solid number 2 in others. His $13 million price tag shouldn't be considered an obstacle in 2015.

There's also the matter of the qualifying offer to consider. Gallardo would enter free agency after the 2015 at the age of 29 (30 on opening day). Right now he has 6 straight seasons of 30+ starts (only one of which could be considered poor). It'd likely be 7 if it weren't for a freak accident covering first base that sidelined him for most of 2008. He has no injury red flags. My point is, assuming a reasonably successful 2015 season, there is no way he'd accept a qualifying offer even in the range of $16 million. So the team that trades for him gets the potential draft pick compensation.

Why would the Brewers give him up?

The Brewers are in an enviable position of having 6 pretty solid options for 5 rotation spots. If they traded Gallardo they could try their luck with a rotation of Kyle Lohse - Wily Peralta - Matt Garza - Mike Fiers - Jimmy Nelson. It would also clear $13 million from the payroll. They could leave that money open for mid-season acquisitions or use it to find a replacement for Gallardo on the free agent market. Bringing in a guy like Brandon McCarthy or Francisco Liriano would provide the Brewers with a similar level of talent in their rotation and more long term security in said rotation, with either of those players presumably being signed for 3 or 4 years.

Why the Brewers wouldn't want to give him up.

Depth is an often overlooked and underappreciated aspect of team building. This goes double for the rotation as it's not uncommon for teams to use 7 or 8 (or more) starters throughout a season. Removing a starter from the rotation severely limits the Brewers currently solid depth. It moves Jimmy Nelson, a pitcher with limited MLB experience, from reserve to starter and slots Taylor Jungmann, a pitcher with limited AAA experience, into the number 6 spot. After him, as of right now, there isn't a clear 7th option. That's very risky. They'd have to add to depth either by finding a replacement starter (but wouldn't be guaranteed to find one as effective as Gallardo) or finding a long reliever capable of starting. The Brewers want to strengthen their 2015 roster, not potentially weaken it.

Kyle Lohse

Why would someone want him?

Most of what I said about Gallardo applies to Lohse. He wasn't terribly effective in his early career but at this point we can ignore that. He's a different pitcher now. He's proven to be a solid mid-rotation starter over the past 4 seasons. In fact, one can argue that he's been a better pitcher over the last 4 years than Gallardo. He has a marginally lower price tag at $11 million.

He does have 2 things that don't go in his favor. At age 36 Kyle Lohse will be rather old in 2015. This means two things. First off, that puts a bigger question mark on his durability and health. He has made 30+ starts in the each of the previous 4 seasons though, so that's not necessarily a huge concern. However, because of his age (and his last experience in free agency) it's exceedingly unlikely he'd turn down a qualifying offer. In other words, the team that trades for him can't fall back on getting the draft pick compensation.

Why would the Brewers give him up?

Again, for most of the same reasons they'd be willing to move Gallardo. I think the returns would be similar, but because of Lohse's two downsides, he might be worth somewhat less. Even so, the idea of trading him and securing a starter from free agency to strengthen the rotation now and over the next few years could be appealing to Milwaukee. Also, by trading Lohse and keep Gallardo they could be the ones to net a draft pick if/when he leaves via free agency.

Why the Brewers wouldn't want to give him up.

Again, same reasons as Gallardo. Also one could hope that Lohse regains some of the #2-nigh-ace potential he showed in his final two seasons with the Cardinals and, to a lesser degree, his first season with the Brewers. If that were to happen he'd very likely be the best performing starter in the rotation for the Brewers.

Gerardo Parra

Why would someone want him?

Gerardo Parra was a 4.6 win player as recently as 2013. He has good defense in center field and borderline elite defense in the corners, especially in right field where his plus arm is most useful. His bat is at best league average, but it's not crazy to think someone could view him as a starter. If that's the case, his potential $6-7 million price tag goes from "pricey for 4th outfielder" to  "bargain for a starter."

Why would the Brewers give him up?

Probably mostly for salary relief. As mentioned, he's bound to make $6+ million in his final year of arbitration. That is rather expensive for a 4th outfielder. If the Brewers think they can find comparable performance from a less costly player, it would make sense to open up money for other upgrades to the bench or bullpen.

Why the Brewers wouldn't want to give him up.

Khris Davis is still a relatively unknown commodity. Ryan Braun's thumb is still a concern. The in-house option is Logan Schafer and while he's a comparable defender to Parra, his putrid bat absolutely destroys any value he might have. It's not that easy to find even a league average left-handed bat that can play all 3 outfield positions, especially for cheap. It might not be possible at all. If the Brewers are stuck with Logan Schafer again, they'll probably have reduced their overall team effectiveness by over 1 WAR. It's hard to make that up elsewhere on the bench or in the bullpen.

Khris Davis

Why would someone want him?

Teams are always in need of power and Davis definitely has power. You'd have to go back to 136 plate appearances at AA in 2011 to find the only time he had an ISO below .200. In fact, Khris Davis had the 15th highest ISO in all of baseball in 2014.

Much as been made of his poor defense, but Fangraphs rated him the 7th best defender to play left field full time in 2014. He was 6th by both DRS and UZR. His throwing arm is pretty bad, but overall he's serviceable in left field.

The team that acquires him would retain control over him for 5 more seasons. Two of those seasons would be pre-arbitration and so Davis would make league minimum.

Why would the Brewers give him up?

In 2013 Mark Trumbo was involved in a trade that netted the Angels Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago. Several months ago Oakland traded Yoenis Cespedes (and their Comp B pick) for Jon Lester. These two players aren't perfect comparisons to Khris Davis. Cespedes is a better defender, but he also only had 1 year left on his contract at $10 million. Trumbo had a couple more years of experience, a little more power, and a little less defense. Khris Davis is a little less proven than those players were when traded, but also offers more years of team control.

They all have a similar bats though. Take a look at this (and let it be known I'm cheating a bit, but there's a method to my madness):


BB% K% ISO AVG OBP SLG wRC+
Trumbo (2011-2013) 6.3 24.9 221 251 300 473 113
Cespedes (2013-2014) 5.9 21.7 196 251 298 446 106
Davis (2014) 5.8 22.2 214 244 299 457 107

What I did was ignore Trumbo and Davis' partial seasons as well as Cespedes' first season in the majors (before pitching adjusted to him). I know, I know. It's not entirely fair. Arbitrary endpoints and all that. But it's pretty interesting how similar their bats are.

Just so you know I'm not skewing things in favor of Khris Davis here's the link to all their stats from 2011-2014. Obviously the plate appearances are different because they've been in the MLB for different periods.

Anyway, my point here is that Doug Melvin could make an argument that the only thing really separating these players in value is name recognition (okay yeah and Cespedes' better fielding ability but cut me some slack, will ya!).

Why the Brewers wouldn't want to give him up.

Well, for all the reasons I listed above. Sure, they could part with him and have Parra take over. They might even get 2 wins out of him which is pretty close to what one might expect to get out of Khris Davis. But then what? Parra is a free agent after this year. Khris Davis has the potential to be a solid 2 win player for the Brewers who is under team control for another five seasons.

While I believe it's possible to make an argument that Davis has similar value to Trumbo and Cespedes, it's likely they still couldn't get very much in a trade at this point in his career. If the Brewers couldn't get something they perceived as fair value they simply wouldn't do it.

My Take

The team is pretty well complete at the moment which I actually think gives the front office and Doug Melvin an advantage. They don't have to feel pressure to finalize a deal because they don't know what the future will hold. They don't have to worry about finding an alternative option in free agency. They know exactly what the team will look like if they don't do one trade or another. That makes cost/risks vs benefits analysis that much easier and accurate.

I wouldn't be shocked if the Brewers made some kind of trade at the winter meetings. At the same time, I fully expect them to stay more or less inactive. They need at least one reliever, but no more than two. They could benefit from upgrading a spot on the bench, but they have enough in-house options that it's not necessary. These are the sorts of moves that are relatively easy to accomplish in free agency. The payroll is such that they can spend a little bit more and don't at all have to worry about shedding salary.

I don't think they trade one of their starters. Depth is way too important and they already dinged that a bit by parting with Marco Estrada. Unless they feel confident in bringing in a comparable free agent I just don't see them taking the chance.

They aren't trading Khris Davis. End of.

If anything, I could see them trading Gerardo Parra for a reliever. Depending on the reliever I'd be a little sad as I really believe they'd come out a bit worse given the negative impact Logan Schafer would have. But it wouldn't be something that breaks the team. It could also give them more money to spend which might end up being meaningful.

Vote in the poll and let me know if there is anyone I didn't mention that you think stands a chance of being traded.

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs