The one thing David Stearns has shown a penchant for doing at the trade deadline over the past couple of years is add to his bullpen. If he was looking to add the arguably best reliever available as well as the best fit for Milwaukee, it would be San Francisco Giants southpaw Will Smith.
Before heading to Cleveland, All-Star Will Smith earned his 23rd save of the season yesterday. He is 23-for-23 in save opportunities, hasn't allowed a run in 17 of his last 19 outings, posted a .96 ERA with 30 Ks and a .156 batting average against in that time. #SFGiants pic.twitter.com/VHsQt9gcp4— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) July 8, 2019
Last season it could be argued the bullpen was the Brewers’ greatest weapon down the stretch with Josh Hader, Corey Knebel, and Jeremy Jeffress. Hader is still one of the best, if not the best, relievers in baseball. Knebel had Tommy John surgery, eliminating him from the equation. Jeffress started the season with his shoulder and velocity issues. While his fastball velocity is back to 94.3 mph, he is still 2 mph less than where his fastball sat in 2018. As a result, he has not been as effective as he was last season (3.82 ERA, 3.57 FIP in 2019 vs. 1.29 ERA, 2.78 FIP in 2018).
So beyond Hader’s greatness, things are currently a mixed bag. Adrian Houser had been dominant prior to going into the starting rotation. He may be back in the bullpen once Gio Gonzalez returns from injury, but that remains to be seen. While Matt Albers (3.65 ERA, 3.61 FIP) has been pretty good, especially of late. Alex Claudio struggled for a bit, but has been pretty good of late (4.34 ERA, 5.26 FIP). Junior Guerra (4.18 ERA, 4.81 FIP) was strong early, but he had a tough time leading up to the All-Star break. Corbin Burnes was almost as good as the three “Electric Dudes” down the stretch in 2018. After a disappointing stint in the starting rotation, he returned to the bullpen. Sometimes he has been great and other times not so much. Others have participated in relief: Freddy Peralta, Chase Anderson, Jacob Barnes, and many others. This bullpen has been decent, but not great. Bringing in a reliever the caliber of Will Smith makes this bullpen very good with Smith and Hader shutting things down virtually every time they pitch.
Outside of Hader, Will Smith might be as good as any reliever in the game this year. Going into the All-Star Break, Smith has 23 saves with a 1.98 ERA and a 2.02 FIP. While Hader is #2 in MLB with an fWAR of 1.8 in 2019, Smith is not far behind with 1.3 fWAR (tied for #8 in MLB). Smith’s strike out percentage is in the 99th percentile. He is striking out 13.13 per 9. He is in the 93rd percentile in xBA (expected batting average against), 98th percentile in xSLG (expected slugging percentage against), and 99th percentile xwOBA (expected weighted on-base average against). Will Smith would be an impact arm for a team that desperately needs one.
Plus there is the fact that Smith already knows his way around Milwaukee. While with the Brewers, he became a fan favorite, and we should not forget his BFF is Jeremy Jeffress. Just think of how many awesome lip sync battles could be had over this run to the postseason! In all seriousness, fit is an important consideration. The likelihood is that Will Smith would fit right in. Plus he liked it in Milwaukee.
Recent history suggests the Brewers will pick up an established reliever at the Trade Deadline. Here's one potential target who won't require a lot of research: https://t.co/2YBCid02lZ— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) June 15, 2019
So what would it take to get the Giants closer? Smith is a rental, so the price to get him wouldn’t be cost prohibitive, but it would still hurt. Relievers that were not pitching as well as Smith is pitching currently went for decent prospects. For example, the Yankees traded for Zach Britton. In return, Baltimore got Cody Carroll, Dillon Tate, and Josh Rogers. At the time, Tate became the #6 prospect in Baltimore’s system, and Carroll came the #17 prospect in their system. Britton has the bigger brand, but Smith is pitching better than Britton at the time. Maybe a similar trade package as Britton could do it. A couple top-20 rated prospects, add in a talented lottery ticket, international bonus pool slot money, or both, does a deal get done?
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Savant