The Milwaukee Brewers made one significant move during the Winter Meetings: acquiring Alex Claudio from the Texas Rangers for their Competitive Round A draft pick, 40th overall in the 2019 MLB First Year Player Draft. The trade brings Major League Baseball to rarely traveled territory by sending a big league player for a draft pick. So, what does the cost actually come out to?
Those who’ve followed my work on this website and social media know this trade was a downer for me. The draft is fun, I love to follow the minor leagues, and it takes a huge draft tool away from David Stearns and company in the form of a high pick and, perhaps more importantly, the bonus slot money that comes with it. So, I asked that I have the opportunity to break down the cost of the trade to see if my initial disappointment was correct, or if this is actually a deal to be excited about.
Claudio is a valuable, but unremarkable major league reliever. He has a career ERA of 3.20 in 230.2 IP. He’s not a strikeout specialist, whiffing just 6.2 per 9 innings. Meanwhile, he does control the ball well enough to limit walks, as shown by his 1.9 career BB/9. His career looked substantially better before a rough performance last season, but I’m always willing to give some flexibility in performance to young pitchers used inconsistently.
The benefits for Milwaukee go beyond Claudio’s potential performance. He’s a reliever who was regularly used in multi-inning appearances and has a player option remaining. This plays right into the way Craig Counsell uses his bullpen, with players bouncing between leagues as needed and going long stints when needed. AND Claudio is under team control for three more seasons.
The 40th overall pick holds some different value for Milwaukee. Last year, the #40 overall pick had a slotted bonus of nearly $1.8 million. The Brewers currently pick at #28 overall for their standard draft pick, which would give them around a $2.4 million bonus based on the previous year’s total. Milwaukee would have a 75% increase on their first round pick allotment with that total.
Looking historically at the success rate of the 40th overall pick, only 18 of the 54 players selected with that pick have played in the majors. Of those 18, only nine have a positive WAR according to Baseball Reference. So, just 17% of the players drafted in that round have had some value at the highest level. At a 5.2 career WAR, Claudio would be the sixth best player drafted at #40 overall.
While that’s important to note, it doesn’t necessarily explain the true value for the pick. Since Stearns has taken over at GM, the team has been exceptional at using excess draft money to sign players looking for a big payday in later rounds. Those players include Tristen Lutz, Chad McClanahan, Je’Von Ward, Max Lazar, and Nick Egnatuk. Only one is currently ranked as a substantial prospect in the org, but most of the players are young and can still develop into something special.
Although that pick would have given the Brewers more draft flexibility, the more I look into it, the Brewers don’t really need that cap space. They are good at getting value from the draft and still signing players to under-slot contracts that create the draft flexibility. Although there is a chance that Milwaukee could end up getting a substantially better player than Claudio, it’s incredibly unlikely.
If the Brewers wanted to sign a reliever like Claudio to the team, they’d likely be spending at least $5 million on the open market. Instead, they get three years of arbitration control, a non-guaranteed contract, flexibility to move him up and down from the majors to minors as they see fit, and youth. When you start looking at it, it was truly a no-brainer for the team, who had a need for another left-handed reliever to pair with Josh Hader.
While I always would rather have another prospect to analyze and, potentially, interview, Stearns made a great move, proving why I’m just some guy writing about his players and he’s the one running the show.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference