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Trade Analysis: Brewers part with Peter Strzelecki to get needed left-handed reliever in Andrew Chafin

The Brewers dip into the deeper part of their bullpen to fill a need in a deal between contending teams

Pittsburgh Pirates v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

In a seller-friendly market, the Brewers linked up with a fellow contender in the Arizona Diamondbacks to check a needed bullpen piece off their trade deadline shopping list. Milwaukee acquired left-hander Andrew Chafin from Arizona in exchange for Peter Strzelecki in the final hours before the trade deadline on Tuesday.

Left-handed relief returned to the Brewers’ checklist as quickly as they crossed it off last week. Justin Wilson returned from Tommy John surgery on July 28 but suffered a lat strain while warming up in the bullpen later that night. He returned to the injured list the following day.

Matt Arnold acted quickly to replace Wilson, who is facing another extended absence. Chafin is a 10-year veteran with a strong track record out of the bullpen. In 435 career innings, he owns a 3.31 ERA, 3.16 FIP and 25.8% strikeout rate.

While the southpaw has been used in a specialist role at times, he is not limited to a situational role. Chafin has excelled against hitters from both sides of the plate. Left-handers have hit .228/.309/.312 against him for his career, and right-handers have slashed a similar .227/.305/.349.

After posting an excellent 2.29 ERA across his 2021 and 2022 seasons, Chafin’s run prevention has taken a noticeable step back this year. In 34 13 innings with the Diamondbacks, he pitched to a 4.19 ERA.

However, multiple facets of Chafin’s underlying performance are strong as ever, indicating that better results lie ahead. His strikeout rate this season is a career-best 32.7%, and his 14.7% swinging strike rate is his best mark since 2019. Chafin’s sinker is averaging 92.2 mph this year, an increase from 2022, and he is inducing chases out of the strike zone at one of the best rates of his career.

An abnormally high .350 BABIP has bloated Chafin’s ERA. He is allowing line drives at a career-worst 30.5% rate that figures to trend closer to his career average as the season progresses.

Chafin’s walk rate has risen to a career-worst 12%, but his other plate discipline metrics and 3.13 FIP indicate that he has thrown the ball better than his bottom-line outcomes indicate. The Brewers saw an opportunity to scoop up a proven reliever due for positive regression when the acquisition cost was lower than it may have otherwise been.

That cost was Peter Strzelecki. Like Chafin, Strzelecki is a talented reliever whose stock fell in his bullpen due to recent struggles.

The 28-year-old possesses four-above average pitches and began the year in a setup role. A tough month of June, combined with the rise of Joel Payamps and Elvis Peguero at the back end of the bullpen, relegated Strzelecki to a lower-leverage role and eventually to Triple-A Nashville by the end of the month.

Strzelecki still has plenty of upside but had fallen on the organizational depth chart. In that sense, the Chafin trade follows a process similar to Arnold’s acquisition of Matt Canha for pitching prospect Justin Jarvis. The Brewers parted with a talented but expendable piece to fill a more pressing need.

Both Chafin and Strzelecki have more straightforward paths to critical innings with their new clubs, making the deal a potential win-win for both sides. While Chafin does not come with the years of control that Strzelecki does, the Brewers could keep him through 2024 via a club option. However, the Brewers are unlikely to pick up the option’s $7.25 million price tag and figure to take a $725,000 buyout instead.

Even if Chafin proves to be a rental, the Brewers will be content with losing Strzelecki if their new reliever proves valuable in high-leverage situations down the stretch and lightens the workload of fellow left-hander Hoby Milner. The success of Payamps, Peguero, and Bryse Wilson speaks to the Brewers’ ability to turn overlooked right-handed pitchers into reliable relievers, a strength that allows them to withstand subtracting Strzelecki from the relief mix. Improving the roster by dealing from a position of strength was a theme for Arnold at the deadline, and the Chafin trade fits that mold.