We are more than halfway through June and it terms of games played, the 2018 baseball season is rapidly approaching its mid-point. Naturally, that means the time has begun to start speculating about the various trade scenarios that could occur this summer. The Milwaukee Brewers find themselves in a familiar position - first place in their division to start June for the third time in the last five seasons, including last year following the franchise’s brief rebuilding period during 2015-16.
As I’m sure you’ll recall, 2017’s unexpected success led to an almost unending stream of rumors leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline. With the National League’s best record at 42-28 entering play today, we should expect more of the same headlines to surround the Cream City Nine this summer. Over the weekend, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and The Athletic took a moment to discuss how Milwaukee is expected to proceed over the next several weeks:
“Rival executives anticipate the Brewers will be aggressive pursuing a starting pitcher, but two up-the-middle positions - shortstop and catcher - remain unstable. The Brewers are unlikely to be a player for Manny Machado, but Orlando Arcia came into Spring Training out of shape in the opinion of some with the club, and remains an offensive liability. One alternative, Tyler Saladino, is out with a sprained left ankle. Another, Brad Miller, is playing shortstop again at AAA. At catcher, the Brewers are getting surprisingly good production from their new backup, Erik Kratz. Only problem is, Kratz is 38 years old.”
The Brewers have already been speculatively linked to one notable starter this weekend - Mets ace Jacob deGrom. An acquisition of that magnitude would obviously come at a high price, of course; Milwaukee would assuredly have to part with top prospect Keston Hiura in the deal along with two or three other noteworthy minor leaguers. Other, less expensive options the team could pursue include Cole Hamels, Tyson Ross, J.A. Happ, Dan Straily, Clayton Richard, Dylan Bundy, and Kevin Gausman. (Chris Archer was oft-linked to the club this past winter, but he’s had a subpar season and is currently on the disabled list, and may not be ready to return until after the All-Star break.)
In the meantime, the Brewers continue to get solid-enough production from their starting staff. Entering today’s action, Milwaukee ranked #13 in baseball with a collective 3.93 ERA from their initial out-getters, with Junior Guerra, Chase Anderson, Jhoulys Chacin, and Brent Suter taking the most regular turns throughout the season. Zach Davies has struggled and is currently on the shelf with a rotator cuff issue; along with him on the disabled list is veteran Wade Miley, recovering from a strained oblique. Both pitchers are scheduled to begin rehab assignments this week and could return to active duty in July. Freddy Peralta and Brandon Woodruff have both also made some starts for the big league team while shuttling back-and-forth to AAA; the team has Aaron Wilkerson and Alec Asher on the 40 man roster as well, and prospect Corbin Burnes is pitching in AAA.
At shortstop, the Brewers have received the worst offensive production of any team in the big leagues this season with a collective 44 wRC+. Orlando Arcia has already been sent down once this year and is only in the big leagues right now out of necessity; his replacement Tyler Saladino suffered a gruesome ankle injury less than a week after seizing the everyday job from Milwaukee’s former top prospect. Brad Miller was acquired last week and is re-acclimating himself at shortstop in AAA after spending the bulk of his time at first base with the Rays this season; he’s a defensive liability, but the 108 wRC+ he posted in 48 games with Tampa Bay prior to the trade is some 70% better than the offensive production that Arcia has provided this season. If Miller doesn’t prove to be a panacea, other possible trade targets could include Jordy Mercer, Freddy Galvis, or Jose Iglesias. According to Rosenthal, the Brewers are not expected to get involved in the frenzy for rental Manny Machado, whose price could be prohibitive considering he’ll provide only three months of production before reaching free agency.
Behind the plate, Milwaukee ranks 18th in baseball with a cumulative 74 wRC+ from their catching group. But a lot of that is thanks to the recent work of Erik Kratz, who has breathed some offensive life into the position since joining the club a few weeks ago. Kratz is a 38 year old journeyman who was in AAA before the Brewers traded for him, so it’s reasonable to question whether or not he’ll be able to keep up this pace at the plate. Regular catcher Manny Pina has only been able to muster a 64 wRC+ thus far, although his .233 BABIP and 37.1% hard contact rate could perhaps point to some positive regression on the horizon. J.T. Realmuto is the most attractive option who figures to change teams this summer, but he will also come with a premium price tag. Wilson Ramos, A.J. Ellis, Francisco Cervelli, and Jonathan Lucroy are other options expected to be on the market. The Brewers also have former big leaguer Christian Bethancourt tearing the cover off the ball down in AAA; he’s hit .311/.351/.484 with eight home runs in 205 plate appearances for the Sky Sox this year and is considered one of the top defensive backstops in all of baseball.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs