When the Brewers come out of the All-Star Break, they will be on the verge of getting their rotation all back and healthy. Coming out of the break, Mike Fiers, Jimmy Nelson, and Taylor Jungmann will pitch against Pittsburgh, with Matt Garza and Kyle Lohse expected for the Cleveland series. In addition, Wily Peralta is making his second rehab start today, this time with Double-A Biloxi. If all goes well, he will be back after one or two more rehab starts following this one. When Peralta returns, it creates a bit of a dilemma for the Brewers. Tyler Cravy will likely be optioned when Garza returns, but the roster move for Wily Peralta will not be as easy. The Brewers will have six pitchers for the rotation, and only five spots. What will the Brewers do at this point? While we don't have an indication yet, they do have plenty of options to consider.
For reference, here is the stats for the starting pitchers over the last 30 days (from FanGraphs):
* - Stats include one relief appearance.
Option #1: Send Taylor Jungmann (or another pitcher) to Colorado Springs.
The easiest option would be to simply option Taylor Jungmann back to Colorado Springs. There's no waivers to worry about, no roster space to clear, it's a simple roster move. However, it would be a tough move to take. Jungmann has been the best pitcher in the rotation since his callup, posting a 2.15 ERA and 3.27 FIP, along with a 1.8 bWAR and 0.9 fWAR. In addition, he had struggled at Colorado Springs before that with a 6.37 ERA, though a 3.87 FIP suggests the ERA is inflated due to bad luck. As a result, sending him down wouldn't necessarily be what's best for him. Of course, it doesn't have to be Jungmann that gets sent down. Wily Peralta and Jimmy Nelson also have options available and could go down instead. I doubt that would happen, though. Both have little to gain from a demotion, and working in the majors is more important for their development at this point.
Option #2: Trade one of the current pitchers in the rotation.
It's no secret that the Brewers have wanted to trade a rotation pitcher and try to reclaim some value. However, they haven't had much luck finding anyone interested yet. That's the biggest hurdle here; a trading partner is needed if the Brewers want to make a trade. Despite their rough seasons, Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza are still potential trade candidates, though their rough seasons may not yield anything. Mike Fiers has also been mentioned in a rumor or two, and that could be a possibility, especially considering his age. However, with four years of team control remaining, the Brewers would be less motivated to trade him and would need to get something good back to consider it.
Option #3: Place a starting pitcher in the bullpen.
This would allow the Brewers to keep all of the starters by putting one in the bullpen for now. They could take the long relief role, or a more important role if necessary. However, that would then bring up the question of who in the bullpen to send down. Everyone has been pitching well, so there's no obvious answer here either. This could be alleviated if a bullpen pitcher is traded, which is a more likely possibility as the Brewers have a few trade chips there. The problem here is that, if the pitcher is put into the long relief role, it defeats his purpose there a little. For the young pitchers, just getting some garbage time isn't ideal for their development. It would be better to have them keep starting. Putting a veteran in the bullpen would be better, but the team has been less inclined to do that in the past. It could happen with Lohse, but is tough to see happening with Garza.
Option #4: Release a starting pitcher.
This option is realistic for only one member of the current rotation: Kyle Lohse. Since he has not been pitching well this season, and his contract is up at the end of the season, his value is low right now and he may not be worth anything in a trade. With draft pick compensation unlikely as well, it wouldn't be a stretch to simply release Kyle Lohse and give him a chance to catch on with another team for a possible postseason run. However, the Brewers will try to get any little value out of Lohse that they can, so an outright release seems unlikely.
Option #5: Go with a six-man rotation for the immediate future.
This is the most intriguing option of the ones above. Extending to a six-man rotation gives each starter a little more rest, and it avoids having to replace a rotation pitcher for now. It will allow all of the young guys to keep getting work and keep space for the veterans to maintain their spots. However, it will cause problems somewhere else on the team. They will have to choose to either go with a six-man bullpen, or a four-man bench. That's basically choosing between Shane Peterson and Corey Knebel. Sending either down won't hurt the team directly, but the shorter bench or bullpen would mean less options in late-game situations.
Despite the possible issues, I think this is the best option for the immediate future. If a trade of a starting pitcher is on the horizon (even after the non-waiver trading deadline passes), they won't remain in a six-man rotation for long. Even if they do not make a trade, getting all six pitchers in the rotation for now would be good. It gets the young guys work and keeps their arms fresh, while keeping the veterans in their normal roles.
What do you think? Should the Brewers go to a six-man rotation, or clear a roster spot with one of the other options?