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Orlando Arcia could be the Milwaukee Brewers’ best trade chip this winter

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His value may get the Brewers an ideal return.

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Orlando Arcia has long been lauded for his fantastic defensive skills, both as a one-time top prospect of the Milwaukee Brewers and now as the club’s starting shortstop. The 22-year-old Venezuelan native had a solid first full MLB season in 2017, showing some signs of life with the bat (15 HR, .731 OPS) while making thrilling plays in the field.

It would seem like Arcia is the perfect man for a rebuilding club that is looking to make strides into the near and long-term future. He’s cheap, under team control for half a decade, and appears to have plenty of potential to build toward.

Of course, all of those things also scream “high value,” and Brewers general manager David Stearns may decide to weigh cashing in on Arcia’s stock right now to bring in a proven, near-elite talent. Meanwhile, there may be some concern that Arcia’s value only drops from here. This is why GMs make the big bucks. They are required to always be two steps ahead.

In theory, dealing away Arcia would hurt the 2018 team’s chances of competing in a potentially weaker NL Central. But, depending on the players coming back to the Brewers, and who can fill in at short, the 2018 club would likely improve.

After speaking with the one scout, there are a few factors here that indicate the Brewers are interested in trade involving Arcia:

  1. The organization loves prospect Mauricio Dubon and they see him as potentially better in the field than Arcia at shortstop.
  2. Some believe Arcia’s offensive ceiling isn’t very high and improvement will be minimal, while there are thoughts that his defense is a touch overrated.
  3. Selling high from relative depth to acquire greater talent elsewhere is going to be a consistent strategy for Stearns as he tries to build a sustainable, successful franchise.

Starting with the defensive side of things, Arcia clearly displays the tools to be a fixture at short. His arm strength, athleticism, and body control are all as advertised, and he has flashed greatness on a relatively consistent basis. At the same time, he has also developed a penchant for clanking routine grounders and slinging the ball wildly on easy throws.

Yes, he’s young and this may improve over time, but it can be frustrating for a team to watch. Dubon is seen as the more consistent commodity who may not make as many great plays, but will be more reliable. Thus, Arcia becomes somewhat expendable, though Dubon isn’t ready yet.

So if Arcia is dealt, what happens at short in 2018? That’s where the Brewers’ love of versatility and liberal use of their bench both become keys.

Eric Sogard just signed a one-year deal to stay in Milwaukee, and while no one should expect him to post a .393 OBP next season, he can add value at the bottom of the order. Sogard puts together quality at-bats and may have found a resurgence offensively after last season, citing changes in his stance and swing.

The field is where Sogard proves his worth, however. It’s often hard to fairly value defensive stats - and they should really be looked at over three years - but Sogard had +2 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) at shortstop last season. Arcia, who played over 1,000 more innings at the position, only had +6 DRS. Defensive Runs Saved tries to assign an overall value to a player’s defense at a position over time. Arcia might bring the flash, but Sogard has long been known for his steady glove work, too.

Looking over the past two seasons, Arcia’s +5 DRS ranks 16th in MLB (minimum 500 innings). That’s not exactly top-of-the-line output. In fact, Arcia is tied with another surprising Brewers’ infielder in that statistic.

That is Jonathan Villar, who manned shortstop in 2016, and also owns a +5 DRS at that spot, despite playing in nearly 800 fewer innings. Sure, he had a down year offensively and he seems to make plenty of mistakes of his own in the field, but maybe he isn’t that much worse when looking objectively.

Another popular defensive stat, Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games (UZR/150), doesn’t view Arcia favorably, either. Like DRS, UZR/150 tries to give an overall value of that player - the higher the number, the better the defender. Arcia’s UZR/150 since 2016 is -5.4. That ranks 33rd out of 47 shortstops.

Perhaps Arcia’s defensive prowess is overstated, meaning the Brewers would be wise to take advantage of his reputation before it diminishes. And if the Crew isn’t comfortable with Sogard and Villar at the position, they can go the free agent route.

Zack Cozart would be high profile, aggressive, and expensive move if Stearns really wanted to push hard for the playoffs in the next season or two. Cozart was an All-Star in 2017 with 24 home runs and a .933 OPS. He has the 8th-highest fWAR (8.9) at short since 2015, and he ranks in the top-10 of DRS and UZR/150 in that time (minimum 500 innings). Milwaukee has depth and money to handle a risk for a few years.

New York Mets v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

But if the price or injury risk is too high there, veteran options are always there to help stem the tide, either in free agency or via trade. Personally, I think Sogard and another veteran would do just fine in 2018, more than capable of matching Arcia’s 2017 fWAR of 1.2 at the position in 2017.

On the flip side, the Brewers would need to find a suitable trade partner that nets them a return worth acquiring. It’s always terribly challenging to figure out what other teams want, value, and need - but we can try. In theory, the Brewers would want starting pitching back, although that shouldn’t be a requirement.

Below are few teams that could be a fit, along with the centerpiece Milwaukee should target. Keep in mind, these deals could include additional players from both squads.

Potential Trade Partners

Miami Marlins: While Miami doesn’t have a top arm the Brewers would covet, Christian Yelich should be the target. The 25-year-old is signed through 2021 on a club-friendly deal, with a team option in 2022.

He’s a solid center fielder (about average) who is really just entering his prime years. Since 2015, he ranks 4th among outfielders in OBP (.371), 11th in fWAR (11.4), and 12th in weighted runs created (122). Yelich is exactly the type of hitter and player the Brewers need in their lineup. He can play all three outfield spots, as well.

The Marlins don’t have many high-end prospects and their young shortstop, JT Riddle, hasn’t impressed the club. Rumors are they see him more as a utility guy now. And while it may seem strange for the Brewers to acquire another outfielder, this would make it much easier to trade Lewis Brinson for a high-end starting pitcher.

Kansas City Royals: With the Royals potentially losing a large chunk of talent, including shortstop Alcides Escobar, they may be ready for the youth movement once again. That could mean that southpaw starter Danny Duffy is available. Duffy turns 29 in December, but he doesn’t have the miles on his arm like most hurlers his age.

He is owed a handsome some of $60 million, but that keeps him under control through the 2021 season. Duffy has shown electric stuff, has posted an ERA+ of 117 and 123 the last two years, and ranks 28th in fWAR (5.8) among MLB starters since 2016, including a 3.68 ERA in that span (21st). The main concern is health, but that really applies to all pitchers.

Toronto Blue Jays: Yes, Troy Tulowitzki is still in Toronto, but between his continuous injuries and his struggles in Canada, there is a push for change. The obvious target for Milwaukee is starter Marcus Stroman. The 26-year-old is entering arbitration and can’t be a free agent until after the 2020 season.

Stroman is a fighter who has put up consistent peripheral numbers the past two years. In 2017, he finished 9th in ERA among MLB starters at 3.09 (149 ERA+) and posted a 3.4 fWAR, good for 18th in that group. He has also eclipsed 200 innings in each of the last couple of season, proving his reliability.

This could be contingent on the Jays moving Tulowitzki elsewhere. Or, maybe he becomes part of a larger deal in a blockbuster trade. Milwaukee has the payroll space to take on his remaining $54 million through 2020. Plus, Toronto might be happy to shed his contract as they may be close to rebuilding as well, with Jose Bautista likely gone this offseason and Josh Donaldson a free agent after the 2018 campaign.

Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference