After being outrighted by the Toronto Blue Jays, reliever Jeremy Jeffress has chosen to enter free agency rather than accept an assignment in Toronto's minor league system. According to Scott MacArthur of TSN Radio, the Brewers are among the teams interested in signing him.
Jeffress, of course, was originally drafted by the Brewers in the first round of the 2006 draft out of high school. He was a top-100 prospect in each of 2007, 2008 and 2009 according to Baseball America. Though he was originally a starting pitcher, Milwaukee moved him into the bullpen following some struggles in High-A and Double-A. He made it briefly to the majors in 2010 and looked pretty good with a 2.70 ERA over ten appearances.
After five seasons in the Brewers' system, Jeffress was among the pieces shipped off to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Yuniesky Betancourt. The Royals also threw Zack Greinke into that deal, those suckers. He managed to stick with the Royals for a couple of seasons, then was traded to the Blue Jays for cash prior to the 2013 campaign.
Jeffress, still just 26 years old, has made a total of 50 major league appearances since 2010, but has yet to pitch in more than 14 games in the big leagues in any given year. He hasn't had the best go of it, with a 3.94 ERA and 1.777 WHIP, but still has the talent if a team can fix rampant control issues that have plagued him his entire career: In 52⅓ innings he has allowed 38 walks for a whopping 6.5 BB/9. The good news is he has struck out 50 batters over the same period.
Of course, he's had the same issues in the minors. A 5.3 BB/9 and 9.9 K/9 are enough to make any team dream about what he could do if he can just find his spots a little more often. He looks even better when you consider those numbers are supported by an upper-90s fastball that can reach 100 at times.
Still, his time with the Brewers is probably not remembered best for his fastball or his stats, but rather for his three positive tests for marijuana. The first netted him a warning, the second a 50-game suspension, and the third a 100-game suspension. If he is caught again, he will receive a lifetime ban. It's important to note that Major League players are not tested for marijuana, however.
Since leaving Milwaukee, Jeffress was diagnosed with juvenile epilepsy. He had been suffering from seizures, anxiety and other health issues due to the epilepsy and, according to Jeffress, he has been self-medicating with marijuana.
The Brewers aren't the only team interested in Jeffress: The Cardinals and White Sox are also in the hunt. BCB favorite Jeff Passan says that he is expected to sign within 48 hours which, given his obvious talent, is not a huge surprise.
It's probably best if the Brewers just bite the bullet and sign Jeffress in an effort to keep St. Louis from signing him and all of a sudden turning him into Aroldis Chapman.
It seems unlikely that it would require a major league contract to ink Jeffress to a deal. If it does, the Brewers will likely either have to lose out to another team or lose Wei-Chung Wang. I can't imagine the team would want to keep both on the active roster when neither can be trusted to pitch any innings of import. Dropping to what would essentially be a five-man bullpen would not work.
If the Brewers wanted to send Wang to the minors, they would first have to offer him back to the Pirates as per Rule 5 draftee stipulations. It's hard to imagine the Pirates turning him down: After last night's game, he probably would be pretty valuable to the team as a batting practice pitcher.