The Brewers have needed bullpen help from the day they learned Corey Knebel needed Tommy John surgery.
There was plenty of depth behind him to help cover for his absence, but when those guys wound up getting hurt (Bobby Wahl), were ineffective (Jacob Barnes, Taylor Williams) or some combination of those (Jeremy Jeffress), things started to go downhill -- especially in the past month when an overworked average bullpen became a below-average bullpen.
So it’s no surprise that the Brewers have consistently been brought up as a possible landing spot for Old Friend Will Smith ahead of this year’s trade deadline. Now it appears to be slightly more than rumor, with Robert Murray saying the two sides have gotten far enough along in trade talks to start scouting eachother:
#Brewers have identified #SFGiants’ Will Smith as a trade target, sources tell The Athletic. The two teams are talking and have begun scouting each other. https://t.co/vzZ3CeHUFJ— Robert Murray (@ByRobertMurray) July 15, 2019
From the article ($):
The Brewers are “engaged” in discussions with the Giants about left-handed reliever Will Smith, sources tell The Athletic Wisconsin. Both teams are scouting one another, sources said, with a Giants representative in Cincinnati for the Brewers’ most recent road trip.
No deal is believed to be imminent, but the search for bullpen help is evident.
Drew Olson says another source of familiarity could help a deal eventually get done:
Key guy in expediting this deal - Giants director of pro scouting Zack Minasian, who left Brewers front office last year. Knows Brewers system intimately and comes from Doug Melvin school of proposing realistic deals that help both clubs. https://t.co/bRSk6FQadh— Drew Olson (@DrewOlsonMKE) July 15, 2019
Smith earned his first career All-Star appearance this year, and has converted on 23 save opportunities, putting up a 2.17 ERA with a 2.00 FIP, striking out 54 batters in 37.1 innings. The problem with walks that occasionally plagued him with the Brewers, with a 3.8 BB/9 rate in his 3 years in Milwaukee, seems to have disappeared, as he’s only walked 8 batters this year.
He is a free agent at the end of the year, though, and now that he’s become a Proven Closer (TM), he likely won’t come as cheap as he did the first time around, and definitely won’t be cheap to retain beyond this season. What he would do, however, is no longer make the 9th inning solely Josh Hader’s responsibility, or at least provide a better second closing option than Junior Guerra or Jeffress.
As terribly frustrating as the past month has been, the Brewers are still somehow only 2.5 games out of first place in the NL Central and will likely be in the wildcard race well into August and September, thanks to the second wildcard spot. Adding someone like Smith wouldn’t fix all of the issues with the bullpen, but it would address one of the biggest ones -- and that could prove to be big in a crowded NL wildcard race.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference