Category Archives: Trade Analysis

Who are the Brewers getting in Travis Shaw, Josh Pennington and Mauricio Dubon?

Milwaukee Brewers general manager David Stearns — or The Wizard, as I like to call him — wasted no time making headlines in the Winter Meetings. In just the second day, the Brewers traded away their best reliever (Tyler Thornburg) for an everyday player (Travis Shaw) and two prospects (Mauricio Dubon and Josh Pennington) and PTBNL or cash considerations.

Now, I’m not going to dive deep into what exactly the Brewers gave up in Thornburg, but just know that he ranked 15th in adjusted ERA and 18th in adjusted FIP among qualified relievers last season. Thornburg is good. Really good, actually. But there were some warning signs that the Brewers were aware of. For example, Thornburg has quite an extensive injury history, so who knows when/if he’ll break down again, and 2016 was really his only season of note. Milwaukee traded him at the most opportune time and got a good haul in return.

Let’s talk about that haul.

Travis Shaw is the known player in this deal and will be the everyday third baseman for the Brewers in 2017. That means Jonathan Villar (3.0 WAR in ’16) will move to second base — where he’ll likely have more success than he did at third — and Scooter Gennett (0.1 WAR) will be forced to battle for playing time, unless he’s ultimately traded.

Shaw is a better defender than he is a hitter, but at 26 years old, there’s still some untapped potential in his bat. Last year, Shaw posted an 87 wRC+ (13 percent below league average), a .310 wOBA and a .306 OBP. His stats were definitely down from his rookie campaign in 2015, but he still managed to post the same WAR (1.5), thanks to improved defense at the hot corner. Shaw is an immediate upgrade over Hernan Perez, although Perez still figures to see at bats versus lefties, as Shaw accumulated a measly 51 wRC+ in limited time against southpaws a year ago. Still, Stearns said Shaw will have the opportunity to improve, and more plate appearances should only help that.

Shaw, along with newly signed Eric Thames, provides a left-handed power bat to a right-handed heavy lineup, and although he should help the Brewers for years to come — he isn’t eligible for free agency until 2021 — he isn’t the most exciting piece of the trade return.

Before we get to the player I like the most, let’s first focus on Josh Pennington. Pennington turned 21 seven months ago and has yet to pitch above Low-A ball. He was drafted in the 29th round in 2014, falling in the draft after undergoing Tommy John surgery as a senior in high school. The Brewers, however, believe he’s rebuilt his arm strength, and reports claim he sits in the mid-to-high 90s with his fastball.

Pennington started 13 games in Low-A last season, and racked up a 2.86 ERA and 3.75 FIP. He struck out fewer than eight batters a game and struggled with command (4.29 BB/9), but there’s still a lot to like about this hurler. First and foremost, he’s young and controllable, which is exactly what Stearns has been targeting since becoming the GM. Plus, Pennington just doesn’t have enough experience to be accurately judged yet. His numbers I posted above don’t really mean much without context. His arsenal and ability to hit the high 90s is more telling of his future performance, so at the very least Pennington has a high floor.

Here’s what Stearns had to say about his new pitcher, via Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“He pitched healthy all of last year,” Stearns said. “We’re excited to be able to bring that type of high-upside arm into the system. “It takes a little while sometimes for guys to regain arm strength after Tommy John, and we believe he has.”

Pennington will be a wait-and-see prospect. The Brewers like him, but until he moves up to Single-A, Double-A, etc and starts facing stiffer competition, he’s little more than a lottery ticket that could pay huge dividends.

The third player the Brewers received from Boston is 22-year-old shortstop Mauricio Dubon. Dubon, in my opinion, makes this a home run trade for Milwaukee, as I think he can be an above-average hitter and fielder in the major leagues. He’s already proven he can hit in the minors, and he might be just a season or two away from his debut.

Dubon once profiled as a slap hitter, posting high ground-ball rates throughout his time in the minors, yet that changed when he went up to Double-A halfway through the 2016 season. In 269 plate appearances, Dubon registered a 151 wRC+ and got on base 37 percent of the time, and he showed some pop as well, with six home runs and a plethora of extra-base hits. Now, he won’t be a power hitter in the majors, but his contact ability is extremely encouraging, and that alone could make him an everyday player.

Because the Brewers already have stud defensive shortstop Orlando Arcia, they plan to use Dubon’s versatility at multiple infield positions in the minors, but according to Stearns, for at least this upcoming season, he’ll stick at shortstop.

The Red Sox got a top reliever in Thornburg, and the Brewers added more exciting prospects to an already stacked bunch. Boston gave up a lot, but with the news trickling in that they signed Chris Sale, it’s clear they’re going for it all in 2017. As for Milwaukee, Shaw will be an instant contributor, Pennington is somewhat of an unknown and Dubon could be the far-and-away best player in this trade.

The Wizard strikes again.

Who are the Brewers getting in Lewis Brinson and Luis Ortiz?

It happened. It finally happened.

After Jonathan Lucroy vetoed deal that would’ve sent him to Cleveland, the Milwaukee Brewers were able to strike a deal with the Texas Rangers that shipped him, along with closer Jeremy Jeffress, to the Lone Star State in exchange for OF Lewis Brinson, RHP Luis Ortiz and a player to be named later. It had been long speculated that both Lucroy and Jeffress were going to be traded, but David Stearns cut it close, with reports of the move not surfacing until within minutes of the trade deadline. Multiple sources claimed highly touted prospect Joey Gallo was the centerpiece of the deal, but that obviously never came to fruition.

Lucroy upped his value this season and re-entered the conversation of best MLB catcher after a forgettable 2015. The 30-year-old catcher has been worth 2.8 WAR already (third among qualified catchers) and has created 20% more runs than league average. His hitting ability and defensive wizardry is a big get for the Rangers, who have lacked a capable backstop all season.

Texas also acquired Jeffress, who has turned into a shut-down closer after resurrecting his career in Milwaukee. He saved 27 games in 28 chances, if you’re a fan of that sort of thing, and posted a 2.22 ERA and 3.16 FIP along the way.

But this is a Brewers website, so we know all that. Let’s talk about who Milwaukee is getting in Brinson and Ortiz.

Lewis Brinson is a talented and powerful outfielder who has the potential to be a star. MLB.com ranked him as baseball’s 21st-best prospect when they released their midseason prospect list, and despite his poor showing in Double-A this season (.277 OBP/98 wRC+), the 22 year old has real promise. Some in the industry think his bat is capable of hitting 30 home runs with his plus bat speed if he can stay healthy, which has been a big issue for Brinson during in his minor league career. The outfielder also rates as a top-notch defender with a strong arm and excellent speed. It’s no mystery why so many are high on this kid. The disappearance of his walk rate this season is something to keep an eye on going forward, though.

Like Brinson, Luis Ortiz was a highly regarded prospect not only in Texas’ system, but in baseball as a whole. Ortiz is MLB’s 63rd-ranked prospect and enters Milwaukee’s ranks at No. 5. He owns a plus fastball with an above-average slider that could evolve into a devastating pitch in time. The 20-year-old righty has put together a solid first season in Double-A — in nine games (eight starts) he’s accumulated a 4.08 ERA with a 3.32 FIP. What’s most impressive about this youngster is his control as his BB/9 has remained under two in each level of minor league ball with the exception of Triple-A, and that’s only because he has yet to pitch in Triple-A.

Ortiz projects as a mid-rotation arm who isn’t too far away from making his debut. Give him maybe two or three more years to polish his stuff in the minors, and he just might be ready to be an impact player for the Brewers.

Since taking over the team, David Stearns has made great deal after great deal, and this is no exception.

Who are the Brewers getting in Phil Bickford and Andrew Susac?

About two hours before the 3 p.m. MLB Trade Deadline, Milwaukee Brewers left-handed reliever Will Smith was dealt to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for their No. 1 prospect RHP Phil Bickford and C Andrew Susac. This was the first of two trades the Brewers would make Monday, the other one being the trade of Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress to Texas.

Even though I predicted the Brewers would keep Smith for another year, I knew there was a strong possibility he was a goner, and from the looks of it, Milwaukee made out like bandits. Smith, compared to past seasons, is having a somewhat down year. His ERA is up a full run from 2015, and his FIP is up nearly two — not to mention his velocity has been noticeably lower as well. To get a potential top-of-the-rotation arm and an offensive-minded catcher, both of whom have been ranked among the top 100 in prospect lists at one time or another, is a big win for the organization. FanGraphs called giving them up a “steep price to pay” for the Giants, while Baseball America echoed the notion.

But who exactly are the Brewers getting in Bickford and Susac?

We’ll start with the exciting one. In MLB Pipeline’s midseason top 100 prospect list, Phil Bickford, a first-round pick in 2015, landed at #67. Among Brewers’ prospects, he enters as the sixth-best in the system.

The big righty stands 6’4″, 200 lbs with an excellent slider and deceptive fastball that at one point could hit triple digits. His velocity has decreased significantly this season, with reports claiming he sits between 90-94 with his heater. Even so, that hasn’t stopped Bickford, who’s only 21, from having success in the minors. After he posted a 2.70 ERA with an even more impressive 2.45 FIP in Class-A this season, Bickford was promoted to High-A where he’s put up a 2.73 ERA and 3.96 FIP. He’s struck out almost 10 batters per nine innings but has had some trouble with his control since his promotion (3.27 BB/9). By no means is that worrisome by itself, but it’s a significant bump from the 2.25 BB/9 mark he put up in Class-A.

Bickford’s ceiling is probably a No. 2 starter — especially if he can get his velocity back — with his floor being somewhere around a high-leverage reliever like the player he was traded for. Watching his progression in the minors will be fun, and he should be ready for the majors when the Brewers are finally set to compete.

Andrew Susac has appeared in 87 major league games over his career (mainly as Buster Posey‘s backup), and in that small sample size, he’s been worth 1.0 WAR and owns a .309 wOBA and 106 wRC+. He’s not a prospect anymore, and at 26, he doesn’t seem to fit into Milwaukee’s future plans after the rebuild is complete. The former second-round pick will report to Triple-A Colorado Springs and is more of a depth grab for Milwaukee than anything else. Susac is, however, an offensive-first catcher who could start for the next few seasons if Martin Maldonado continues to not hit. But as far as catchers go, the Brewers are biding their time until Jacob Nottingham is ready.

Who are the Brewers getting in Aaron Wilkerson and Wendell Rijo?

The Milwaukee Brewers began their sure-to-be interesting march to the trade deadline by sending Aaron Hill and cash to the wRC+-leading Boston Red Sox in exchange for RHP Aaron Wilkerson and INF Wendell Rijo. This trade will be the first of (hopefully) many the Brewers make before Aug. 1.

Hill was acquired by the Brewers this winter for Jean Segura in a package that included Chase Anderson and Isan DIaz. So essentially, if you’re a fan of trade trees, Milwaukee traded Segura who is absolutely killing it this season, and Tyler Wagner for Anderson, Diaz, Wilkerson and Rijo. That’s a significantly better haul than it was the first time around, and something I can get behind.

But who exactly are the Brewers getting in Wilkerson and Rijo?

Aaron Wilkerson has had a tumultious professional career up to this point. He underwent Tommy John surgery in college and made stops in independent ball before being picked up by the Red Sox. Wilkerson is a 27-year-old righty who started the 2016 season in Triple-A — his first stint at the highest level of minor-league ball, and so far the results have been good despite not being among Boston’s top prospect lists. In nine games (eight starts), Wilkerson posted a 2.44 ERA and a 3.17 FIP, thanks to a very strong strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.91). Among his four-pitch arsenal is a deceptive fastball that has no doubt been a huge reason for his success in the minors.

Although he’ll start in Colorado Springs, Wilkerson has a real chance of getting a call-up this season. There’s no reason the Brewers shouldn’t try him out during a rebuilding year, even as a bullpen arm.

Wendell Rijo seems to be the prize in this trade. He was rated as Boston’s 17th-best prospect to begin the season, and he provides even more depth for an organization that’s starting to get stacked with infield talent. Rijo is naturally a second baseman, but is capable of moving around the infield which he will likely do when he reports to Brevard County. He played with Boston’s Double-A squad this year as a 20 year old, so it’s not really a surprise that he struggled. His batting average was sub-200 with a .245 on-base percentage. Previous to 2016, though, Rijo was an OBP hitter who could draw walks and hit for average power. Not necessarily home run power, though, as most of his isolated power in Single-A came from his ability to hit doubles.

Overall, this trade provides the Brewers with great value. They traded Aaron Hill, a player who has been just dreadful the past two seasons, for two prospects who both have a shot at making an impact with the major-league club.

I don’t know about you, but with all the impressive moves David Stearns is orchestrating, I’m starting to think he’s a wizard. And not like an evil wizard like Saruman from the Lord of the Rings. More like Gandalf who does good things. Ya know?

Brewers make interesting/confusing trade with Diamondbacks

The Brewers have officially given up on Jean Segura, a player once thought to be half of Milwaukee’s middle infield for years to come. On Saturday night, GM David Stearns sent the young shortstop and RHP Tyler Wagner to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for 2B Aaron Hill, RHP Chase Anderson and infield prospect Isan Diaz. Reminder: Segura was the prized-prospect the Brewers received when they traded Zack Greinke to the Los Angeles Angels.

By trading Segura, the team opened a spot at shortstop for Orlando Arcia, the Brewers’ top prospect and an overall top-10 prospect in Major League Baseball. Arcia, according to Stearns will still start the year in Triple-A, but now a future trade to clear space is no longer necessary. After years of incompetence at the plate, Segura quickly lost his place in Milwaukee’s future plans. He was tremendous in his first full season with the Brewers in 2013, accumulating a 3.5 WAR with a surprisingly above-average bat (105 wRC+). That, however, was his only even remotely decent season. Over the next two, he failed to post wRC+’s above 70, and if you forgot, a league average wRC+ is 100. His on-base percentages barely even whiffed .290. As a ground-ball hitter with no power and who doesn’t walk, his usefulness at the plate was non-existent. The Brewers absolutely needed to trade him. And as far as Wagner goes, well, he’s really nothing more than a throw in. Maybe he can be an innings-eating reliever. Maybe.

But while I was of the opinion that Segura needed to be moved, I thought the return would be relatively small. His age is his only real value right now, so what would a team realistically give up to acquire him? Stearns somehow worked his magic again, though, and landed two interesting players (one with huge upside) and one fading veteran.

With that being said, I am still somewhat confused about Milwaukee’s return, making this the first of Stearns’ many moves that I’ve questioned.

Aaron Hill, an aging vet, is for lack of a better term worthless. He’ll need to platoon with Scooter Gennett to at least be a little productive. Hill used to be a very good player, but the last few seasons has been dreadful. In 2014, he was worth -0.9 WAR and last year 0.1 WAR. He’s 34 and on the last legs of his career. I mean, look at his OBP over the last few seasons:

Hill

What good does he do the Brewers? Even if Hill was still in his prime, he would be of little help. The Brewers aren’t trying to win right now. Or next year. Or the year after that. They need young, cheap players; not a failing second baseman who will cost them $5.5 million in 2016. (Thank god the DIamondbacks are forking over $6.5 million.) I’m assuming the Diamondbacks insisted that Hill be included in the deal. They were probably more than happy to shed some of his salary. The best case scenario on the Brewers side is if they can flip Hill at the deadline, although the return will be smaller than an ant.

The same can be said for Chase Anderson, although he’s more of an average player than Hill and will be around a lot longer. His age is what makes him a confusing acquisition. Anderson has played just two years in the majors, but he’s entering his age-28 season with no clear upside. He’s been a league-average pitcher in his 48 career starts (4.18 ERA and 4.17 FIP). He does have one of the best changeups in the game, but with a fastball that averages 91 mph, his arsenal is weak and it doesn’t get him many strikeouts.

Anderson won’t cost the Brewers much, and is destined to be in the starting rotation for years to come according to Stearns, but did Milwaukee really need a back-of-the-rotation starter? I’m not so sure.

Obviously, this deal will be made or broken by the progression and career of Isan Diaz. Diamondbacks’ GM Dave Stewart said Diaz was the first player the Brewers asked for when trade discussions commenced, and when looking at his last season in rookie ball, it’s easy to see why. The 19-year-old shortstop posted an insane .436 OBP and an even more crazy 169 wRC+ in 312 plate appearances. He was named the Pioneer League MVP in September. (Lyle Overbay was honored with the same award in 1999.) For a shortstop, he has some pop in his bat and the ability to walk, two things that Segura could never do. Diaz already has a higher ceiling than Segura.

Diaz is the only part of the trade that I really like and understand. He has a chance to be an above-average fielder and hitter, and the fact he’s so young gives him a lot of time to keep improving on his art. The Brewers are in no rush to get him to Milwaukee. Once again, the Brewers are playing the “high-ceiling” game, hoping Diaz turns into a respectable major-league player.

As far as Hill and Anderson go, well, I guess we’ll just have to see what happens. I could reasonably see Anderson turning into a No. 3 starter, but by the time the Brewers are ready to compete, he’ll most likely be past his prime. That’s my biggest problem with acquiring him. Hill is already past his prime and will do nothing to help the Brewers going forward. A throw-in is all he is.

The Brewers have made many great moves this offseason, but this might be the most interesting one.

Brewers find their center fielder, trade Jason Rogers

David Stearns is staying busy this winter as he continues to reconstruct the Milwaukee Brewers roster. Late Thursday night, the Brewers sent 1B/3B Jason Rogers (0.7 WAR in ’15) to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for CF Keon Broxton and RHP Trey Supak.

To some, this move may come as somewhat of a shocker. The Brewers, now without Adam Lind, are in need of a first baseman, and Rogers was one of the few in-house options to take over that position. That is now no longer an option, which makes me think that another move could be in the works.

Milwaukee has also coveted a center fielder this offseason. Domingo Santana is more suited for a corner outfield position, and neither Ryan Braun or Khris Davis have the defensive skills to play there. Hence trading for Keon Broxton, a player who could make an impact in 2016.

Broxton, an above-average defender who can play all three outfield spots, has the speed to perform well in center while also not being a chum at the plate. In 367 Triple-A plate appearances last season, the 25 year old boasted a .352 on-base percentage and a 126 wRC+. He has some raw power which could translate into him being a doubles machine in the big leagues. He’ll need to work on his pitch selection and plate discipline, however. He struck nearly 30% of the time. Broxton is also a beast on the base paths, snagging 28 stolen bases on 37 attempts.

He’ll most likely provide more value on the defensive side, but nonetheless, Stearns said Broxton has a shot at making the Opening Day roster.

As for Trey Supak, he’s another unknown teenage arm that Stearns seems to be so fond of. Supak is the fourth teenage pitcher the Brewers have acquired this offseason. Supak, 19, has spent two seasons in Rookie Ball and hasn’t exactly impressed so far. He hasn’t shown much strikeout potential, but his command did drastically improve from 2014. Supak has an above-average curveball with a fastball that can reach 94 mph. Former FanGraphs prospect writer Kiley McDaniel ranked Supak as Pittsburgh’s 15th-best prospect entering the 2015 season.

Unlike Broxton, it’ll be years before Supak makes an impact on the major-league team, if ever. But Stearns continues to stockpile young pitching, and like I’ve said before, a team can never have enough pitching depth.

Jason Rogers will have a chance to start at first for the Pirates, who were also in need of a first baseman after non-tendering Pedro Alvarez. Rogers was very good for the Brewers in 2015. His wOBA (.354) and wRC+ (121) were superb for his first real shot at big-league action. But before Pirates’ fans get too excited, he was very much helped by a .360 BABIP, including a .328 BABIP on ground balls. I’ll be very surprised if Rogers can repeat what he accomplished with Milwaukee.

Getting two young players in return for Rogers is an excellent move from a Brewers standpoint. They may have found their 2016 center fielder, and it cost them very little.

 

Brewers trade Adam Lind, get three young, high-ceiling arms

A team can never have enough pitching depth, a thought-process Milwaukee Brewers GM David Stearns is clearly well-aware of. On Wednesday, Stearns shipped veteran first baseman Adam Lind to the Seattle Mariners in return for three right-handed starting pitchers who are still in their teenage years.

I guess Stearns wasn’t kidding about making the club younger.

The three new Brewers’ pitchers, Daniel Missaki (19), Carlos Herrera (18) and Freddy Peralta (19) have all shown the ability to rack up high-strikeout rates during their limited time in the minors, meaning their ceilings should be considered relatively high. The only thing better than a young hurler who can strike batters out is three young hurlers who can strike batters out.

Stearns had plenty of nice things to say about the newest members of his squad.

“We are excited to add three young starting pitchers, all under 20 years old, to our minor-league system. All three possess quality arms with an advanced feel for the strike zone.”

Stearns also said the opportunity to acquire three teenage pitchers was “unique” while also admitting there is risk.

Missaki, considered the best arm of the three, has made 24 appearances (20 starts), split between Rookie Ball and Single A, as a professional ballplayer. Over 11 starts in Rookie Ball in 2014, he boasted a 2.76 ERA and an equally impressive 3.14 FIP.  But more importantly, he struck out over 26% of hitters faced while only walking 6.8%. His walk rate even improved when he was promoted to Single-A ball this past season.

At 6’0″, Missaki is a bit undersized for a pitcher. He’s also not a blow-it-by-you type of pitcher by any means as his fastball sits 89-91 mph, but he has a solid changeup and curve that he’s able to work in. Does he remind anyone else of Mike Fiers?

Missaki underwent Tommy John surgery this past May, so it might be awhile before we see his arm in action down in the minors next season.

Like Missaki, Carlos Herrera has a fantastic knack for throwing strikes. In his only season as a minor leaguer, Herrera struck out 8.21 batter per nine innings while walking just 1.46 per nine. That turned into a remarkable professional debut season (3.26 ERA and 3.00 FIP). Herrera will enter and finish the 2016 season as an 18 year old, so there’s still plenty of time to grow as a player and improve his pitches.

After an excellent rookie season in the minors in 2013 and a disappointing season in 2014, Freddy Peralta was absolutely dominant this past season. He made 11 appearances (9 starts) and posted a 10.58 K/9 and 1.26 BB/9, equaling a 25.3% K-BB%, which is a great tool to use when projecting a player’s future.

Peralta can get up to 94 MPH, and as former FanGraphs’ prospect writer Kiley McDaniel wrote, has “a clean arm action and delivery with a chance to start.”

To sum up, the Brewers are now in possession of three young and talented arms, and the price for them was relatively low in Adam Lind. At 32 years and expensive, Lind was never going to be a part of Stearns’ vision for the team. Almost everyone in baseball, including Lind, knew he was going to be traded sometime this offseason. The Brewers will, however, miss his ability to get on base and play above-average defense at first.

While I like the talent the Brewers acquired, I was expecting them to land a third baseman, which is still a glaring hole on Milwaukee’s roster. Mariners’ third base prospect D.J. Peterson‘s name was thrown around for a few days leading up to the trade, but Seattle may not have wanted to pay such a high price for a one-year rental.

The Brewers acquired three pitchers who could have bright futures, but we must be aware of the fact that there’s a ton of risk involved. These are, for the most part, unknown and unproven prospects with small sample sizes. But nonetheless, this was a good trade for Milwaukee.