The Milwaukee Brewers’ offensive ineptitude in the second half has been a bit stunning. After being a top-10 club at the plate in the first half of the year, they’ve scored the second-fewest runs per game since the All-Star break (3.33). Milwaukee has tallied more than three runs in a contest just once in its last nine games and only four times in the past 21 contests.
One of the big reasons the Brewers are scuffling is due to the black hole at second base. Brewers’ second-sackers own the worst wOBA in baseball in the second half - an abysmal .161 mark. They trail the next team’s second basemen, the San Francisco Giants, by a wide margin of .076 points. It’s been a complete disaster at the plate since July 14.
Milwaukee has mostly rotated Jonathan Villar and Eric Sogard at second, but both have been equally poor with the stick over the last three weeks. Villar has gone 10-for-52 (.192) with 21 strikeouts, one walk, and a .458 OPS. Meanwhile, Sogard is 2-for-30 (.067) since the break with no extra-base hits, a .125 OBP, and a microscopic .182 OPS.
Sogard had a terrific first half, sporting a .924 OPS and .403 wOBA, but since returning from an injury has not been able to find his swing. Truthfully, Sogard simply appears to be playing how most expected before his hot streak. Entering 2017, Sogard had a career .295 OBP and .609 OPS. To think he’ll put up big numbers again is probably a bit foolish.
Villar, on the other hand, has struggled since Opening Day. He had a breakout campaign a year ago with the Milwaukee Brewers, but many wondered if that was a one-year wonder type of season. After posting a .369 OBP and an .826 OPS in 2016, Villar has looked like a marginal player with a .276 OBP and .612 OPS. The most discouraging part is that he has never had the look of a guy ready to snap out of it.
Thus, with the Brewers just one-half game behind the Chicago Cubs entering August 6th, GM David Stearns and manager Craig Counsell recognize that a boost at second base could be huge. Though the non-waiver trade deadline has passed, there are a few potential players who could be dealt if they clear waivers. Here’s a look at three:
1 - Ian Kinsler (Detroit Tigers)
Veteran Ian Kinsler (35) was rumored to be on the block earlier this season, including in a possible package to Milwaukee. His numbers are down a bit from his career norms, but the Brewers would still be improved by his production and they’d only be looking for a couple of months of top-tier play.
Kinsler has a .709 OPS and .309 wOBA in 2017 and has always been an above-average defensive second baseman. Historically, Kinsler owns a .336 OBP in August and a .340 mark in September with a .785 OPS in each - solid marks the Brewers could use during the stretch run.
It would be a relatively low-risk, low-cost move as Kinsler has a $10 million team option for next season, with a $5 million buyout. Depending on their offseason moves, the Brewers would have options entering 2018. The one catch could be a no-trade clause, but it’s unknown if Milwaukee is on Kinsler’s list.
2 - Jed Lowrie (Oakland A’s)
A switch-hitting, versatile infielder like Jed Lowrie fits into the Brewers’ overall philosophy rather perfectly. While he’s never been a consistent force in his career, Lowrie is enjoying a strong 2017 with a .780 OPS and a .336 wOBA. Lowrie has also added 32 doubles this season, the second-most in his career.
While Kinsler would be an add based on his track record, Lowrie could be seen as the one-year wonder type who could be a key piece for six or seven weeks. The 33-year-old has the seventh-highest fWAR among MLB second basemen (2.2) and his 60 wRC also ranks sixth in baseball.
His production has fallen off a bit in the second half, but like former teammate Stephen Vogt, could benefit from a move to a pennant race in Milwaukee. Like Kinsler, Lowrie’s contract calls for a team option in 2018. However, he would make only $6 million of the Brewers accepted or could buy him out for just a $1 million.
3 - Josh Harrison (Pittsburgh Pirates)
Another versatile player, Josh Harrison could also be on the radar. He’s enjoying a career-best .356 OBP this season, and the Brewers would salivate over that at the top of their lineup. He also has 12 home runs this season, one off his career high.
Harrison was an All-Star in 2017, his second selection, and he is the type of guy who will do the little things to win a ballgame. At just 30 years old, Harrison brings additional athleticism and some upside yet. His 2.5 fWAR is an indication of his value, particularly playing multiple positions.
His contract is a bit costlier as he is guaranteed $10.5 million next season. He then has team options in 2019 ($10.5 million) and 2020 ($11.5 million) with a $1 million and $500,000 buyout in each respective season. There’s also the sometimes-complicated aspect of trading within the division, but the two clubs have done it before.
Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference through 8/6/2017