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Milwaukee Brewers listed as possible match for a Jacob deGrom trade

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He’s a legitimate ace, but will come at a high price.

Chicago Cubs v New York Mets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

After a hot start to the season, the New York Mets have fallen out of contention over the last several weeks. They are just 1-9 over their last 10 games, have seen their record plummet to 28-38, and are 10.5 games back in their division and 9.0 games back of a Wild Card spot. They’ve dealt with injuries, under performance, and an offense that has seemingly evaporated. With all that as a backdrop, the conversation nationally has turned towards a possible fire sale in Queens.

The most valuable player that New York has to sell right now is Jacob deGrom, who has established himself as a legitimate ace since debuting in the big leagues back in 2014. He owns a 2.81 ERA across 768.0 innings and 124 starts with the Mets, striking out an average of 9.9 batters per nine innings while doling out only 2.33 BB/9 and 0.82 HR/9. Stats like FIP- (73) and DRA- (62.7) support his incredible results over the last five seasons, and he’s been valued in the range of 20 wins above replacement no matter which site’s WAR calculation you prefer.

deGrom has taken his game to new heights so far this season and there’s an argument to be made that he’s the top pitcher in baseball right now. Through his first 87.1 innings, no qualified pitcher in either league has a lower ERA than his insane 1.55 mark; his 1.99 FIP ranks 2nd in the game and his 2.09 DRA ranks fourth. He striking out a career-high 11.65 batters per nine and inducing his best ever mark of 15.1% swinging strike rate, and his 2.37 BB/9 is right in line with his career average. Only four batters have taken him deep in 2018. deGrom’s always been a hard thrower, but his 96.2 MPH averaging four-seam velocity is the highest it’s ever been during his time in the big leagues.

deGrom turns 30 next week and is earning $7.4 mil in his second year of arbitration after qualifying as a Super Two player. He has two more seasons of club control after this one before hitting free agency following the completion of the 2020 campaign. The combination of his inexpensive control and outstanding skill set would create a significant amount of interest around the league if the Mets do indeed make deGrom available, and recently Fangraphs author Craig Edwards posited that it would take a similar package to the Sale and Quintana deals in order to land him.

Yesterday, former GM Jim Duquette took it upon himself to find some possible trade destinations for deGrom in a column for MLB.com. He lists six franchises who he believes have the need and the ammunition to get such a deal done - the Braves, Dodgers, Phillies, Yankees, Rockies, and our own Milwaukee Brewers. Here’s what he had to say about what it might take for Milwaukee to land the Mets’ ace:

The Brewers are currently leading their division and have the best record in the NL, but they still need a top-of-the-rotation starter to break into the ranks of baseball’s elite teams, especially given Jimmy Nelson’s uncertain return date from shoulder surgery. A prospect package of second baseman Keston Hiura (Brewers’ No. 1 prospect) and righty Corbin Burnes (No. 2) would have to headline any trade for deGrom, with two out of outfielder Corey Ray, righty Freddy Peralta (No. 9) and first baseman Jake Gatewood (No. 17) rounding out the deal.

In terms of what it would take for the Brewers to get this deal done, the proposed package of Hiura, Burnes, and two of Peralta, Gatewood, or Corey Ray probably isn’t far off from reality. The Brewers have a deep farm system of potential MLB contributors, but after the Christian Yelich deal last winter they are lacking for premium prospects.

I think an argument could also be made for Corbin Burnes as an “elite” prospect, but either way that gives the Brewers only one or two of those types of players within their organization. Trading for a star player requires elite talent to go the other way, so if one is advocating for a possible deGrom deal, or J.T. Realmuto, or Manny Machado, or any other All-Star caliber addition, that person also needs to understand that none of those trade scenarios get completed without trading Hiura (and probably Burnes, too).

It’s also arguable whether or not that level of splashy move is what the Brewers need right now. Of course any team would benefit from adding an All-Star to the fold, but when looking at the overall construction of Milwaukee’s roster it’s easy to see spots where even marginal upgrades could make a huge difference. Orlando Arcia has been one of the worst hitters in baseball this season while playing shortstop on a near-everyday basis in the Cream City. The Brewers could replace his 35 wRC+ in the lineup with Manny Machado and give up a boatload of prospects, sure, but even a roughly league-average hitter - like Jordy Mercer or Jose Iglesias - would be a 60%+ upgrade over what Arcia has brought to the plate with his bat this year. Slingin’ David Stearns could go out and give up the farm for deGrom and add a true ace to the rotation to help his team get over the top, but with the way the roster is built and how Craig Counsell has deployed his starters, a rental of Tyson Ross or JA Happ could make a positive impact at a significantly lower price.

The purpose of this post is not to advocate one way or another about the direction that the Brewers should go on the trade market this summer. They have the best record in the National League right now so they are in the cat bird seat; Stearns would probably be justified in making a major addition, but a few smaller moves could also have a significant impact on the team, too. The Milwaukee Brewers probably have the ammunition at their disposal to make one major trade before the deadline, but if that’s something one is going to champion, one also needs to realize the price that it’s going to cost.

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus