If the reports are true, the Milwaukee Brewers have been relatively active in their search for pitching upgrades this summer. It doesn’t appear that they are limiting their quest for arms to just starters, however. According to a report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the Brewers have their eyes on one of Miami’s bullpen pieces.
Nightengale says that the Marlins are “open for business” and are specifically looking to dump contracts like Dee Gordon, Martin Prado, and perhaps even Giancarlo Stanton. The player on their roster that is drawing the most interest, however, is veteran reliever David Phelps. Nightengale lists the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Rockies, Rangers, and our own Milwaukee Brewers as the teams showing the most interest.
Phelps, 30, has pitched parts of 6 seasons in the big leagues with the Yankees and Marlins. He has worked as both a starter and reliever during his career, but he made a career-low 5 starts last year and has made 0 starts so far this year. The full-time move to the bullpen has apparently paid dividends for Phelps’ career, though. Last season he worked 86.2 innings across 64 appearances, posting a 2.28 ERA/2.74 DRA with a 114:38 K/BB ratio and a 46% ground ball rate. This season, he’s compiled a 3.45 ERA/3.49 DRA with 51 strikeouts, 21 walks, and a 47% ground ball rate across 47.0 innings covering 44 relief appearances.
Phelps is owed the balance of a $4.6 mil salary this season and is eligible for arbitration one more time next season before becoming a free agent. He’s throwing harder than ever this year, with his average four-fastball clocking in at 95.0 MPH. He throws two other fastball variations - a sinker and cutter - along with a curveball as his main offspeed pitch. He’ll also flip a changeup up there from time-to-time, albeit rarely.
After some early struggles, Milwaukee’s relief corps has actually settled in to become one of the more decent units in the league. Their composite 4.08 ERA ranks 14th in baseball. But the addition of someone like Phelps would provide a significant boost over someone like, say, Rob Scahill or Tyler Webb, who are probably the last two arms currently in the bullpen.
It’s also worth noting that within the Nightengale’s article, he confirms the earlier report that the Brewers are in hot pursuit of Sonny Gray, saying that they “may be the most aggressive team pursuing” the Oakland right-hander. It sounds as though they may be competing with the Houston Astros for his services, though the Astros would reportedly prefer to land Michael Fulmer from Detroit.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus