The dominoes have started to fall in baseball’s summer 2018 trade market. A handful of notable names have been dealt to this point, including relievers Jeurys Familia, Kelvin Herrera, and Zach Britton as well as shortstop/third baseman Manny Machado. With less than a week until the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline, there are still quite a few valuable trade chips out on the table and a number of deals are sure to be completed in the coming days. According to GM David Stearns, the Milwaukee Brewers will be one of the more active teams in the market looking for upgrades:
#Brewers GM David Stearns on trade market: "There are going to be a lot of players traded over next week. We’re going to be active on a number of them. I’m optimistic we’re going to pull something off but you never really know until you’re able to actually consummate the trade."— Tom (@Haudricourt) July 24, 2018
Stearns typically plays things close to the vest, but he’s been a little more open this summer when asked about the trade talks. Stearns discussed Milwaukee’s involvement in the bidding for Machado with reporters last week, and last night he said that the front office is “optimistic we’re going to pull something off” while adding the standard “ya never know til it actually happens” caveat. Milwaukee’s brain trust is known for doing their due diligence on just about every available player, but the franchise has been linked by various reports to a host of different types of upgrades in recent weeks.
Here is an exhaustive list of the players that the Brewers have been connected to so far this summer:
- Jacob deGrom
- Derek Dietrich
- Manny Machado
- Whit Merrifield
- Noah Syndergaard
- Brian Dozier
- Eduardo Escobar
- Nathan Eovaldi
- Asdrubal Cabrera
- Jonathan Schoop
- Zach Britton
- Kevin Gausman
- Mike Moustakas
- Matt Harvey
- Chris Archer
The Brewers have prioritized pitching help and middle infield upgrades, which are the two obvious areas of need for this team. The Brewers are 30th in baseball in offensive production from the shortstop position this season (46 wRC+) and 29th at second base (66 wRC+). Pitching hasn’t exactly been a problem for the Cream City Nine, as the club ranks fifth in the big leagues with a 3.61 ERA. But Stearns has said he’d be interested in adding a pitcher to “lead the rotation” that currently sits at t-8th in baseball with a 3.79 ERA, and any team could stand to add more arms to the bullpen, even if it’s the fifth-best unit (3.34 ERA) in the MLB.
Milwaukee’s strategy to accumulate and retain as much useful depth as possible before the season looks downright prescient now given how the year has played out. Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, and Ryan Braun have all spent time on the DL, and Domingo Santana and Braun have both under performed. Orlando Arcia has severely under performed, Hernan Perez and Brad Miller haven’t played well, and Jonathan Villar is now hurt. Eric Thames has had a couple stints on the disabled list and has moved to play mostly outfield with Jesus Aguilar’s breakout. Corey Knebel and Matt Albers have both been missed from the ‘pen for more than month-long chunks, as have Zach Davies and Wade Miley in the rotation. Now Brent Suter is out for the rest of the season and longer with a blown elbow.
Yet the Brewers keep chugging along, having pulled out of their seven game mini-swoon a bit by winning three of their last four contests to bring their record to 58-45. Milwaukee sits just 1.5 games back of the Cubs for first place in the NL Central, and they currently hold a 1.5 game cushion over the Atlanta for the top Wild Card spot.
Our own Brad Ford took stock of the assets that Milwaukee has to offer potential trade partners earlier this week. The top prizes in the farm system are thought to be right-handers Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta as well as second baseman Keston Hiura, although the belief is that Stearns and company aren’t very keen on the idea of dealing any of that trio. Burnes (high-leverage relief) and Peralta (rotation) look to have seized roles with the MLB club, while Hiura looks like a hitting savant who should be ready for the MLB level as soon as next season and plays at a position of organizational need. But the Brewers do have guys with MLB track records and team control like Arcia, Santana, Keon Broxton, and Brandon Woodruff to dangle out to suitors, as well as up-and-coming prospects Luis Ortiz, Brett Phillips, Corey Ray, and Tristen Lutz.
It’s also worth noting that the Brewers are looking at a bit of a roster logjam this coming winter when it comes to Rule 5 Draft-eligible prospects. Jim Goulart at Brewerfan.net has a list of 50+ names who would be eligible to be selected this winter unless they are added to the 40-man roster, including top-30 MLB Pipeline prospects Jake Gatewood (17), Kodi Medeiros (18), Ortiz (4), Cody Ponce (13), Troy Stokes (20), Trey Supak (21), and Carlos Herrera (30). Other notable unranked prospects in this category that one might recognize are Bowdien Derby, Quintin Torres-Costa, Nate Griep, John Olczak, Jon Perrin, Josh Uhen, Phil Bickford, Nathan Kirby, Tucker Neuhaus, Devin Williams, and Gilbert Lara.
The Brewers will be able to clear some space on the 40 man roster after the season, but they cannot protect all of these guys. That could be some added motivation for the front office to make sure that they are leveraging all these assets in the best way possible. Sometimes the “best way” might be to package up a couple of fringey prospects for a short-term rental or two in order to help boost the chances at near-term success.
It’s easy to get impatient with all the rumors and reports floating out there, but for what it’s worth the Brewers didn’t make their first move last summer until July 26th when they picked up Anthony Swarzak from the White Sox for Ryan Cordell. Jeremy Jeffress was a deadline addition on July 31st, and Neil Walker was added on August 12th during the waiver trade period. There is still plenty of time to make one or more additions to the roster in the coming days (and even weeks). And it sounds like if Slingin’ Stearns has his way, help for his contending team will be indeed be coming.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs