The Milwaukee Brewers announced a curious roster move this afternoon, shaking things up with their relief corps by optioning Jacob Barnes to Colorado Springs and selecting the contract of Alec Asher:
Barnes, 28, has been a fixture in Milwaukee’s bullpen for the better part of the last two years and by all accounts, has been an above-average reliever. He worked to a 4.00 ERA/87 FIP-/83 DRA- in 72.0 innings during his first full year in the big leagues in 2017, and was off to an even more effective start so far in 2018. In 17 appearances covering 19.0 innings, Barnes had compiled a 2.84 ERA/78 FIP-/58 DRA- with 19 strikeouts against nine walks, and with just one home run allowed. His overall numbers may have looked even better had he not been the victim of a seemingly hard-luck .379 BABIP, nearly 80 points higher than his career average.
But the knock against Barnes has been inconsistency, and he’s coughed up at least one earned run in three of his last four outings. That includes last night, when he allowed two of Brandon Woodruff’s runners and two of his own to score after being called upon in the fourth inning of the wild 11-10 victory. After Barnes threw 29 pitches, Taylor Williams and Dan Jennings both worked longer than an inning, Jeremy Jeffress found action in his third game in four days, and Josh Hader and Boone Logan both tossed scoreless innings while helping bridge the Brewers to victory. A fresh arm was needed in the bullpen before tonight’s contest and unfortunately for Barnes, he came into this season with two minor league option years remaining and wasn’t going to be available after his lengthy outing yesterday. The team apparently preferred to keep Taylor Williams (who began the year on optional assignment in the minors) up with the big club for now instead of Barnes.
It’s quite plausible that the assignment to Colorado Springs doesn’t last very long for Barnes, as we’ve seen how frequently Slingin’ David Stearns shuttles players who have minor league options back and forth from the farm as a way of preserving depth. He needs to be down for a minimum of 10 days, but if he spends less than 20 days in the minors during the course of the year, his option year is preserved. Being in Colorado helps the Brewers here, too, as it’s a short trip from their AAA affiliate in Colorado Springs to meet the big club in Denver.
So now Alec Asher will get his shot and help provide some length in the bullpen, if it’s needed. With Woodruff and Brent Suter now in the rotation, the club was without a designated long-man in case another outing like yesterday happens. The Brewers claimed the 26 year old off waivers from the Dodgers last month and outrighted him to the minor leagues shortly thereafter, and he’d been pitching in the Sky Sox rotation ever since. In three starts and 14 innings for Colorado Springs, Asher compiled a 1.93 ERA with 10 strikeouts versus four walks. He owns a 5.55 ERA in 116.2 MLB innings across parts of three seasons with the Phillies and Orioles. Asher also has a minor league option and can be shuttled back and forth to the minors for as long as Milwaukee keeps him on the 40 man roster.
To make room for Asher to rejoin the 40 man, Wade Miley was transferred to the 60-day disabled list. He hurt his oblique 19 pitches into his second start with Milwaukee, and now won’t be eligible to return to action until at least July.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus