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Milwaukee Brewers Free Agent & Trade Targets: Relief Pitching

The Brewers will return one of baseball’s best bullpens but could still look to add some depth

Texas Rangers v Minnesota Twins Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

The Brewers boasted one of baseball’s better bullpens in 2023. The group led all of baseball in win probability added (11.73) and finished second in ERA (3.40).

Andrew Chafin is the only free-agent departure from that mix after the Brewers declined his club option for 2024. With everyone else returning, the relief corps is already a strength that does not require much refinement.

That said, the Brewers typically sign at least one veteran reliever most offseasons to add middle-inning depth, and there are a few names who could fit the bill.

Free Agents

Dylan Floro

The Minnesota Twins released Floro near the end of the regular season, capping off a tough season that began with the Miami Marlins before a midseason trade.

In 56 23 innings, the 32-year-old finished with a 4.76 ERA and allowed 70 hits. However, the poor results stemmed more from poor luck than poor pitching. Floro’s .401 BABIP was the highest among qualified relievers and was especially undeserved because he limited hard contact well. His 2.9% barrel rate was elite, and his 54.7% ground ball rate was his best mark since 2020. He also set a career-high with a 23.4% strikeout rate.

Floro’s 2.96 FIP, 3.38 xERA, and 3.85 DRA were far better than his surface-level results and indicate that he is still a valuable middle reliever. He also features the four-pitch arsenal that the Brewers value (sinker, four-seamer, slider, changeup). The veteran is one of the better buy-low options on this year’s relief market, and it wouldn’t hurt for the Brewers to express interest in his services.

Joely Rodriguez

The Brewers could use another left-handed option to pair with Hoby Milner, and Rodriguez is a cheap option with some upside.

Rodriguez owns an unappealing 4.70 ERA in 157 career innings and had little success in an injury-plagued 2023 with the Boston Red Sox, but he has held lefties to a .683 OPS and features an interesting arsenal.

The 32-year-old’s changeup is his bread and butter. It has elite vertical movement according to Statcast, grades out as one of the best changeups among relievers by Stuff+ and has induced whiffs on nearly 40% of swings since 2021.

Rodriguez pairs the changeup with an above-average sinker. He lost a few ticks of velocity last year after returning from a shoulder injury but has gotten into the mid-90s when healthy. He also throws an occasional slider and four-seamer.

Rodriguez has induced ground balls at a 55.7% rate for his career, and his changeup gives him swing-and-miss potential. He could be available on a minor-league deal, but the Brewers could not option him to Triple-A if he cracked the MLB roster.

Jake Diekman

If the Brewers want a high-strikeout left-hander on a one-year deal, Diekman is perhaps the best bet on the open market.

The 36-year-old owns a career 28.8% strikeout rate, including a 26.3% mark in 2023. He once worked primarily with a fastball-slider combination but added a changeup to his arsenal last year. Diekman carries even platoon splits for his career, so he offers more flexibility than a strict specialist.

Control issues are the veteran’s greatest flaw and bear some responsibility for inconsistent year-to-year output. His career walk rate is 13.3%, and the Chicago White Sox released him early in the season after he walked 13 in 11 13 innings. Diekman’s control improved to a passable level after he signed with the Tampa Bay Rays, for whom he pitched to a 2.18 ERA and 3.21 FIP.

Trade Targets

Justin Lawrence

Lawrence made sense as a target at the trade deadline, and he still does a few months later. His 3.72 ERA in 2023 translated to a 136 ERA+ in the hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field. His sweeping slider is an elite breaking ball, and while the results against his sinker have been lackluster, it generates plenty of ground balls.

The 29-year-old is controlled through 2028. That means the Colorado Rockies, who have been hesitant to sell off pieces in recent seasons, may place a high price tag on Lawrence. The Brewers may not be willing to meet such demands for a reliever with a relatively unremarkable track record.