The Brewers are planning a healthy amount of competition once spring training opens up in a couple of months, and nowhere is that more clear than the starting rotation. With the signing of Tommy Milone, the Brewers have seven guys shooting for five rotation spots, and that's before you get to prospects like Josh Hader or Jorge Lopez who may still make an impact in 2017.
But even with Milone, the presence of left-handing pitching on the roster is a little lacking. Hader and Brent Suter are the only other lefties on the 40-man roster, and Hader likely won't be on the Opening Day roster. With virtually every rotation spot still up for grabs and an absence of southpaws, why not take a look at another lefty swingman -- Travis Wood?
Wood pitched in 77 games for the Cubs last season, and after starting for much of his career, he only racked up 61 innings in 2016, failing to make a start for the first time in his career. He wound up with a 2.95 ERA, but that was mostly the result of luck -- his FIP was 4.54, and he benefitted from an absurdly low .215 BABIP.
That BABIP is important, since Wood has never excelled at striking batters out -- his K/9 was just 6.93, his lowest rate since 2013. He's also an extreme flyball pitcher, with only 37.4% of balls put in play against him being hit on the ground, and that was actually a career high for him. The Cubs must have made sure to only pitch him with the wind blowing in at Wrigley.
Still, Wood may an interesting option for the Brewers. They already have Milone on a non-guaranteed deal, but Wood has a similar skillset with better stuff and a better pitch selection -- he throws a cutter and a slider on top of the curve and fastball Milone throws, and his fastball can actually crack the low 90's. Wood has also consistently posted better FIP numbers than Milone year-to-year.
He may prefer to be a starter when looking for his new team, but even if his starting days are over, he could be a valuable piece in the bullpen: effective enough against righties to get through a couple innings if needed while shutting down lefties. Last year, Wood held left-handed batters to a .128/.208/.239 line, allowing just seven extra-base hits in 120 opposing plate appearances.
Wood has reportedly talked to Toronto this winter, who's looking to replace Brett Cecil. The Cubs have also had some talks of bringing him back, even though they've quickly re-stocked their bullpen and pushed some quality arms into the middle innings. Earlier this month, Wood's agent was claiming seven National League teams were interested in his services.
He'd likely command more than the $1.25 million non-guaranteed Milone signed for, and the soon-to-be 30-year-old probably wouldn't settle for a one-year deal.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and Fangraphs