Trade season began for the Milwaukee Brewers with last week’s exchange of Aaron Hill to the Red Sox for two prospects. However if Chris Cotillo is to be believed (and there’s no reason not to trust our own SB Nation baseball insider), Slingin’ Stearns was close to beginning this year’s wheeling and dealing quite a bit earlier.
Source: Marlins heavily pursued Brewers closer Jeremy Jeffress before acquiring Fernando Rodney. Jeffress is very much available.— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) July 11, 2016
The Marlins wound up acquiring 39 year old Fernando Rodney from the Padres on June 30th, giving up right hander Chris Paddack in return. Rodney is having a stellar season with a 1.04 ERA in 34.2 innings, though his advanced age likely served to limit his trade value a bit. The fact that the Padres were still able to demand Paddack, a 20 year old former 8th round pick with a 92-94 MPH fastball, in return should bode well for Milwaukee as they look to move some of their relievers before the deadline. Paddack now ranks as San Diego’s 11th best prospect according to MLB Pipeline and has posted a 1.11 ERA and 54:2 K/BB ratio across 32.1 innings in A-ball (7 starts).
It stands to reason that the Brewers would have a higher asking price on Jeffress, who is having a strong season in his own right. In 38.1 innings while serving as Milwaukee’s closer, Jeremy has posted a 2.35 ERA, 57.4% ground ball rate, and 23 saves in 24 chances. The 28 year old is averaging 95.6 MPH on his fastball and has a 10.3% swinging strike rate this season, although the fact that he’s only actually struck out a shade below 17% of opposing batters means his FIP is a tad bloated at 3.41. Jeffress is in his final pre-arbitration contract year and is not eligible for free agency until after the 2019 season. Any acquiring team would be able to bring him in as a multi-year asset, and one who has the track record of a 2.40 ERA, 3.14 FIP, 120:38 K/BB rate and a 58.6% ground ball rate in 135.0 innings since re-joining the Brewers on a minor league contract back in 2014.
Look for #Brewers relievers Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress to attract a crowd after All-Star break. Lots of scouts bearing down on them.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) July 11, 2016
Jeffress won’t be the only Brewers’ reliever that figures to be in demand at the trade deadline, of course. As reported by Jerry Crasnick above, LHP Will Smith has also obviously started to generate some interest. He owns a 2.12 ERA in 17.0 innings since returning from his early season knee injury, though his strikeout rate of 7.94 K/9 isn’t yet near the dominant totals that we’ve seen from him in the last two years. He’s also controllable through 2019 via arbitration.
Beyond those two, righties Tyler Thornburg (2.57 ERA, 12.34 K/9 in 35.0 IP, under contract through 2019) and Jhan Marinez (3.38 ERA, 10.55 K/9 in 21.1 IP, under contract through 2021) stand out as hard-throwing, controllable relievers who could draw interest on the trade market this summer. In the pure rental market, veteran right handers Carlos Torres (3.07 ERA, 9.0 K/9 in 44 IP) and Blaine Boyer (3.72 ERA, 3.49 K/9 in 38.2 IP) have thrown well enough to become potential trade candidates.
Here’s a bit of insight on what the Brewers were reportedly seeking from Miami in exchange for Jeremy Jeffress:
The high cost of bullpen help:Miami gave Chris Paddack for Fernando Rodney. The price tag on Jeremy Jeffress was Paddack, 2 more prospects— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) July 11, 2016
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs