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Brew Crew Ball Mailbag #8: Processing an unusual trade deadline

Answering this week’s questions for the weekly mailbag

Milwaukee Brewers v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Happy Friday, everyone, and welcome to this week’s edition of the Brew Crew Ball mailbag!

Perhaps it would be a happier Friday had the Brewers not suffered a crushing sweep at the hands of the Pirates. The Crew blew a lead in each game of the series, and with some still reeling from the trade of Josh Hader, it was not great timing for a poor stretch from the run-prevention unit.

Let’s dive into this week’s questions.

leche010 asks:

What was the point in including Lamet in the Hader trade if we’re just going to DFA him? And really what’s even the point of trading Hader now if he’s not a part of the value we returned?

That’s a great question. First, we need to establish that Lamet recently achieved five years of MLB service time, meaning the Brewers could not option him to the minor leagues without his consent. If they didn’t want him on the roster, they needed to designate him for assignment.

Next, let’s look at the reasoning David Stearns provided for the move.

The phrase “balance out the deal” stands out. Hader is making $11 million this year. Taylor Rogers, the other big-league piece to join the Brewers in the deal, is making $7.3 million. By taking on some of Lamet’s $4.76 million salary for this season, the Brewers made it closer to an even salary swap. The Padres likely demanded Lamet’s inclusion to prevent their payroll from exceeding the luxury tax threshold.

In other words, the Brewers acquired Lamet strictly for financial purposes to get the trade to the finish line. They may say they liked his stuff and just ran out of space for him, but if they genuinely liked him that much, they could have cut another middle reliever to make room. Maybe they had some hope that he would accept an assignment to AAA, but they did not envision him making an immediate impact with the team.

This is a disappointing revelation for a couple of reasons. When I first analyzed the Hader trade, I approved of it because it looked like a solid counter-building move. Not only did the Brewers get two prospects in return, but they also received two pieces to instantly plug into their bullpen and minimize the loss of their closer. While I still believe that the additions of Rogers, Matt Bush and Trevor Rosenthal will help the Brewers manage just fine without Hader, removing Lamet from that equation does make a difference. Of the four, he and Bush are the only two who are controllable beyond this season.

Furthermore, I think the Brewers could have turned Lamet into a formidable reliever. He still throws fairly hard and gets a ton of whiffs with his slider. Instead, they seemingly saw him as dead weight.

Finally, cutting Lamet also raises the question of whether or not the return for Hader made it worthwhile to trade him at this time. The Brewers like Esteury Ruiz and Robert Gasser, and so do I. Perhaps they believe the two will become impact players sooner than we think, in which case they could definitely benefit from the move. Still, was this the best package the Brewers were offered for Hader at any point? We may never know the answer.

There’s also the possibility that the front office saw something in Hader’s recent struggles that convinced them it was time to get out now and obtain new talent while they still could, so they settled for the Padres’ return. However, I find this unlikely because I believe Hader’s rough patch is control-based and not overly concerning.

Time will tell how this deal ages for the Brewers. In the meantime, fans have a reason to be skeptical of the trade now that it has proven to be a three-player return instead of four. I’ve gone from being firmly in favor of it to uncertain but willing to trust the front office.

gbp4ever asks:

Did Stearns go out on a binder this past weekend that he made stupid trade after stupid trade?

I wouldn’t describe any of the trades as stupid. While I’m not as comfortable with the Hader trade after the Lamet news, the Brewers could still come out ahead on that one when the dust settles. Even though the Brewers parted with some promising prospects, I like the deals for Matt Bush and Trevor Rosenthal quite a bit. You have to give up talent to get talent, and the organization under Stearns hasn’t really been burned by any prospects they traded away.

Mtcunning3 asks:

Help me understand giving up Tristan peters and whatever the 4.5m prorated contract of Trevor Rosenthal ends up being, for at best a month of a relief pitcher that hasn’t pitched in 2 years.

I think the Brewers are counting on having more than one month of Rosenthal. He may not be ready to go until September, but if they make a deep playoff run, they could get another month out of him.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Brewers envision Rosenthal being a leading character in this year’s postseason. Most of their relievers will have pitched between 50 and 70 games by the time the playoffs start, but Rosenthal may only have 10 games under his belt. In theory, he should be very fresh in October, and the Brewers may entrust him with a larger workload than any other member of their relief unit.

The next question, of course, is how effective the veteran will be. He hasn’t pitched since 2020 and underwent thoracic outlet surgery last year. Despite that, he still appears to have the electric rising fastball that has made him a strong high-leverage reliever in the past.

In 2020, Rosenthal’s fastball averaged 97.9 mph with a 2454 rpm spin rate, 93% spin efficiency (also known as active spin), and 10.5 inches of vertical movement. A peek into some bullpen sessions from this year indicates that he’s pretty close to that form.

First, here are some Rapsodo metrics he posted from a session in June:

Here’s a more recent example from last week that also includes some video.

It appears Rosenthal’s velocity is down a touch from his peak, but he still sits comfortably in the mid-to-upper 90s. His fastball still has the same spin and movement profile that made it a weapon in the past.

As for his contract, Spotrac has the Brewers on the hook for just $296,700. The trade may seem odd due to Rosenthal’s long layoff and the fact that the Brewers moved their 19th-ranked prospect to acquire him. However, it looks like he has the potential to become a game-changing weapon in October, which would make the move worth it in my book.

metalmilitia844 asks:

In your opinion, would you have traded Hader this season? I feel moves like these might mess with the mojo of the clubhouse in the middle of a playoff push. Judging by a few of the comments from Williams and Woodruff, they seemed a little more than surprised. How do you feel about it?

I expected that if Hader were to be traded, it would have happened last offseason after a career year with two seasons of control left. I also believe that the Brewers never actively shopped him and merely listened to offers in case one was worthwhile. It’s hard to comment on the timing without knowing what those other offers were.

Perhaps I’m in the minority, but I think that any bad vibes the trade may have created in the clubhouse will pass over. Craig Counsell is known for his excellent communication skills, particularly his ability to deliver bad news and help players process it.

I’m sure the Hader trade shocked the clubhouse, and the Brewers anticipated that would be the case. They’re putting Counsell’s leadership skills to the test, but if anyone can help the players work through this, it’s him. It will be okay in the end.

Lerch&Brouhard asks:

Are we going to be more underwhelm by the Hader trade than the Carlos Lee trade back in the day? Both trades were made with the idea of “not punting” on the current season but still getting value for a player that wasn’t going to resign with the Brewers.

The return in the Hader deal is younger with more upside. Taylor Rogers is a better reliever than his ERA this season indicates. Ruiz’s speed and newfound plate discipline could translate to some big-league success, and having solid command of three different pitches gives Gasser a strong foundation. I’m optimistic that the Brewers will get above-replacement-level performance from at least two of these players.

Mcmuuray5.15 asks:

Jack, in your opinion which young outfielder will be with the big league club come craigtember?

I’m going to have to say Esteury Ruiz. He’s the only one currently on the 40-man roster, and David Stearns indicated he could join the big-league team soon.

Sal Frelick has been climbing the minor-league ranks quickly, though. I wouldn’t bet on seeing him this year, but I won’t rule it out.

eddiematthews asks:

Looks like inquiring minds wanna much longer will David Stearns work for the Brewers?

Stearns is under contract through the 2023 season unless the Brewers win the National League pennant this year, in which case his option for next year doesn’t vest and he gets to search for a position with a new organization.

I think we’re in the final years of the Stearns era in Milwaukee. That shouldn’t bother anyone, though. Even if he leaves, the Brewers are unlikely to drift from the model he has employed while leading the franchise. Stearns may be a big name, but he’s one person. The overwhelming majority of his current baseball operations crew will remain intact. General Manager Matt Arnold, who has played a more prominent role in constructing recent rosters than he gets credit for, would take over as the head executive.

MrLeam asks:

Has anything interesting happened the last couple of days?

I went fishing on Wednesday. That was enjoyable.

Thanks for your questions this week! Hopefully, things will have calmed down by next week.