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Brewers acquire Joseph Hernandez from Seattle Mariners in exchange for Justin Topa

Club clears a 40-man roster spot and adds an intriguing lower-minors arm

MLB: Miami Marlins at Milwaukee Brewers Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

The Brewers have traded reliever Justin Topa to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for pitching prospect Joseph Hernandez, both clubs announced on Saturday evening.

FanGraphs listed Hernandez as Seattle’s No. 13 prospect in their updated 2022 rankings. The 22-year-old spent the entire season in Single-A, posting a 3.39 ERA while striking out 143 in 116 23 innings. Hernandez led the California League in those two marks and was voted the league’s Pitcher of the Year.

Hernandez’s arsenal is headlined by a plus slider that some scouts believe could become an elite pitch. His breaking ball and deceptive sidearm delivery made him death on right-handed hitters, who batted just .156 against him in 2022.

Hernandez also features a tailing fastball in the low-90s that occasionally tops out at 96, and he throws a changeup. He worked almost exclusively as a starter last season, but he could shift to a relief role in the future. Hernandez has the potential to sit more consistently in the mid-90s in shorter outings, and he could be a valuable righty specialist due to his profile.

Topa’s power sinker and frisbee slider give him the makeup of a high-leverage arm, but elbow injuries have prevented him from realizing that potential.

He broke into the big leagues with the Brewers as a 29-year-old in 2020. A solid six-game showing positioned Topa to play a key role in the 2021 bullpen, but he suffered a flexor tendon strain in spring training that sidelined him for the entire first half. Four games into his return, Topa suffered a torn UCL that required Tommy John surgery. He did not resurface in the big leagues until September of last season.

Topa still has options remaining, but the addition of other hard-throwing bullpen candidates pushed him down on the depth chart. His departure from the 40-man roster clears a space for Wade Miley, who reportedly agreed to a one-year contract with the Brewers earlier this week.