Category Archives: Trade Analysis

Breaking down the trade that sent Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers to Houston

The best overall player and the best starting pitcher on the Milwaukee Brewers are no longer on the Milwaukee Brewers. Both Carlos Gomez (1.7 WAR) and Mike Fiers (1.7 WAR) were shipped off to the Houston Astros in exchange for four minor league prospects. The rebuilding and retooling has officially begun in Milwaukee, and it’s a glorious thing. Sure, seeing Gomez, a fan favorite, and Fiers, my personal favorite, leave is tough to deal with as fans, but knowing it’s for the greater good makes it easier to handle.

Other than Jonathan Lucroy, Gomez was the most highly valued hitter and fielder on the Brewers. Gomez been worth 17.9 WAR over the past three and a half seasons and has saved 88 runs defensively. He becomes a free agent after the 2016 season, and the Brewers had little chance of re-signing him (he is a Scott Boras client after all). Trading him now was absolutely the right move.

The Astros also received a solid pitcher in Fiers. He’s actually been the 43rd-best starting pitcher in 2015, meaning he’s been more valuable than Mike Leake, who was just traded to the San Francisco Giants, and Yovani Gallardo, who’s name came up in multiple trade discussions. Trading Fiers came as a bit of a surprise to some because he’s a cheap pitcher who is under team control for basically forever. However, if the Brewers didn’t include Fiers in the deal, the Astros never would have sent the star prospect of the trade, Brett Phillips, to Milwaukee.

So, let’s break down each of the four prospects the Brewers received as we get excited for the future of the organization.

OF Brett Phillips

Phillips was Houston’s No. 2 prospect coming into the 2015 season. He’s now Milwaukee’s No. 2 prospect, according to MLB.com. A lot of knowledgeable people around baseball believe he’s a future All-Star. He has a cannon for an arm out in center field, but most of the hype that surrounds him is because of his bat. Phillips absolutely obliterated baseballs in High-A ball this season (15 home runs and a .417 wOBA) before being promoted to Double-A. The power hasn’t shown up there yet (just one home run), but a .372 OBP has contributed to a 133 wRC+. Like the recently departed Gomez, Phillips also has great speed and could be a 15-20 stolen base guy in the majors. Phillips is exactly the kind of player you want to build your team around.

OF Domingo Santana

While everyone is smitten over Phillips, Domingo Santana is the guy who I’m most excited about. If everything goes right, I think he can turn into one of the best players in all of baseball. Yeah, you read that right. Mark it down. He has all the talent to make it happen. In 75 games in Triple-A this season, Santana posted an insane on-base percentage of .426. And that’s with striking out almost 28% of the time. He has power and draws a fair amount of walks. The only problem with Santana is his lack of contact, which is why he’s being considered as a wild card and a player who’s difficult to project. Santana made contact on just 71.6% of pitches inside the zone. That’s not good. At all. His contact problems are very worrisome as he enters the big leagues. But if he can start putting the bat on the ball with more consistency, watch out. He’s 23, so don’t be surprised if you see him up with the Brewers in September, and starting in 2016.

LHP Josh Hader

Josh Hader has put together a very nice season in Double-A this year, posting a 3.17 ERA and 3.46 FIP. He’s also struck out 9.51 batters per nine innings. He has a decent fastball and changeup, but his slider isn’t as effective as it should be. If we’re talking about upside, I see Hader as a back-of-the-rotation guy. His strikeout numbers are, of course, promising, but he has control issues and isn’t an overpowering pitcher. But similar to Fiers, Hader hides the ball well, making his fastball, which usually sits in the low 90s, look much faster.

RHP Adrian Houser

By his minor-league numbers alone, there’s not much that excites about Adrian Houser. He’s really struggled during his short time in Double-A, mainly due to the fact he can’t keep the ball in the park and walks far too many hitters while not striking out enough. At the very best, Houser will be an OK reliever if and when he reaches the big leagues. But don’t expect to see him in Milwaukee any time soon. He has a lot to work on.

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This was a tremendous trade for both organizations, but for the Brewers, it makes a weak farm system considerably better. Both Phillips and Santana are top-5 prospects, and the potential is there with Hader and Houser. Doug Melvin deserves a pat on the back.

Who are the Brewers getting in Yhonathan Barrios?

And the Milwaukee Brewers rebuild has begun.

On Thursday, the Brewers sent third baseman Aramis Ramirez to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for right-handed relief pitcher Yhonathan Barrios. The Pirates are also taking on $3 million of Ramirez’s remaining $5.74 million contract.

Trading Ramirez was basically a given for Milwaukee. They needed to shed some money off his large contract, and since he’s retiring at the end of the season, there was no reason to keep him in a Brewers’ uniform. The Pirates, who were in desperate need of a third baseman with injuries to Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer, was an ideal fit for both Pittsburgh and Ramirez. Ramirez gets to go back to the team he began his career with and has a legitimate chance of making the postseason. Good for him.

But who are the Brewers getting in Yhonathan Barrios?

Barrios is a 23-year-old reliever who stands at an undersized 5’11”. He originally started out as an infielder out of Colombia, but since his bat never found its groove, the Pirates shifted him to the bullpen. The results have been a little better, but nothing too noteworthy.

The (minimal) excitement that surrounds Barrios is his action fastball. It sits in the 94-98 mph range and can hit 100 mph. He also throws a changeup to offset his power pitch, with a slider mixed in there as well.

Barrios’ stats (1.46 ERA and 3.89 FIP) in Double-A were good enough to earn him a promotion to Triple-A this season, but he was helped tremendously by a low batting average on balls in play of only .211. His luck has changed since the promotion, and as a result, so has his numbers. In 15.2 innings out of the Triple-A bullpen, Barrios has a 4.50 ERA with 3.56 FIP. His ERA got worse but his FIP, which tells a better story than ERA, improved. That’s due to a small uptick in strikeouts and the fact he hasn’t given up a home run yet.

When Barrios started out in Pittsburgh’s minor league system, he threw like a strikeout pitcher. In 2013, he struck out 23.8% of batters in 11 innings in Rookie Ball before moving to A ball a season later. He was just as effective at getting the K there (20.7 K%). But once Barrios was promoted to High-A, the strikeouts suddenly dropped, and they have yet to re-emerge in Double-A or Triple-A. Combining his numbers from AA and AAA, Barrios has set down just 12.3% of batters via the strike out. Walks are also a huge problem for the young righty. His walk rate was over 11% in Triple-A before the Brewers made the trade.

Barrios is a guy who doesn’s strike out batters and walks too many of them. Why would the Brewers want someone like him? It’s simple, really. Barrios is the type of player a team gets in return when it ships off an old hitter with just two more months left of his career. He didn’t make any notable top prospect lists and barely squeezed in on FanGraphs’ top 31 Pirates’ prospect list. Not many think that highly of him.

If anything, Barrios is a lottery ticket. And because he’s a lottery ticket, Brewers’ fans should be excited. Buying lottery tickets is fun! With his fastball speed and movement, he has upside as a future reliever/closer. But if you’re expecting him to transform into a starter, well, that’s just not going to happen.

Making sense of the Yovani Gallardo trade

Trading Yovani Gallardo was inevitable, and frankly, it was overdue. He should have been moved prior to the 2014 season. He would have garnered more interest from teams and therefore, been worth more than just a couple of question-mark prospects.

Everybody wants to judge and put a grade on a trade the minute it happens. We live in a world of instant gratification. So, to appease the masses, here’s what I think: The Texas Rangers won this trade, but only if we’re talking about the 2015 season. The Brewers are a worse team without Gallardo. The Rangers are a better team with him and without Corey Knebel, Luis Sardinas and Marcos Diplan. Again, I’m only talking about the 2015 season. If Gallardo leaves the Lone Star State after the season, and the prospects Texas gave up turn out to be at least league-average players, then Milwaukee will probably come out on top. But that’s a ways down the road, and even though Knebel and Sardinas have a legitimate shot at making the Brewers’ Opening Day roster, their true value won’t be realized in just one season. What’s more important is what the Brewers do with the $9 million that Gallardo left behind.

Let’s start by going over what the Brewers gave up in Gallardo, and why the team believes so strongly in Jimmy Nelson, the man who will be replacing Gallardo in the starting rotation.

Gallardo is not the pitcher he used to be. His peripherals have been suffering for some time now (see Tweet below), despite him entering what is usually the prime of a player’s career (he’ll be 29 in February).

From 2011 to 2012, Gallardo was worth 5.7 WAR. From 2013 to 2014, he was worth 3.5 WAR. Walks have always been an issue for Gallardo, along with high pitch counts, and for a pitcher who was thought of as Milwaukee’s ace, he only has four complete games in his career. Justin Verlander had six in 2012 alone. Additionally, Gallardo’s strikeout rate has decreased every season since 2009. That’s five straight years of decline. Luckily, though, his ground ball percentage has been trending upward, and if he’s not striking out hitters anymore, forcing ground balls is a nice alternative.

Gallardo should no longer be viewed as a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, but more of a very solid No. 3 starter, and that’s who the Rangers traded for. The Brewers, on the other hand, were aware of Gallardo’s diminishing value and received all they could for him (probably). Like I said earlier, they should have traded him sooner, but that’s water under the bridge now.

The Brewers wouldn’t have traded Gallardo if it weren’t for Triple-A stud Jimmy Nelson. The club believes strongly in the hard-throwing righty, despite minimal major league experience. Nelson has just 18 major league appearances under his belt, earning a 4.42 ERA and a 3.68 FIP along the way. But maybe more importantly, are his minor league numbers. He was an absolute monster in the minors last season. Using his power fastball and power slider almost exclusively, his ERA was below two and his FIP was below three, which is outstanding in case you don’t know what baseball is. Yet, he isn’t without question marks, while, with Gallardo, you know what you’re going to get. The question marks make Nelson a risk, but a necessary one for the Brewers.

The Brewers didn’t want Nelson in the bullpen as a long reliever, and since he has all but earned the right for a shot at the rotation, Gallardo became expendable. It’s safe to say Milwaukee is looking toward the future, hoping Nelson is a key part of it. This is especially true with Doug Melvin’s recent comments about how the Brewers have had no dialogue with James Shields or with the Washington Nationals about Jordan Zimmermann. Nelson is the guy and the job is his until he loses it. He’ll need to develop an effective changeup in order to take the next step, but that line of thought is for another article.

Now, let’s look at the players coming to Milwaukee.

Corey Knebel is an thrilling prospect, and someone who could make this trade worth it for the Brewers. He’s a young guy with an indomitable heater (94 mph+) and a slow curveball (80 mph). He hasn’t had much experience in either the minors or majors (just two years combined), but in the time he’s been a professional, the results have been promising. In 14 games with the Detroit Tigers Triple-A squad, he accumulated a 1.96 ERA and 2.98 FIP, striking out 29% of batters and holding hitters to a .103 batting average. His ERA ballooned in 2014 when he made his major league debut with the Rangers, but as you should know by now, ERA is misleading. But before I tell you what his FIP was during his first taste of major league action, let’s look at his other peripherals first. Knebel allowed a .440 BABIP (league average was .295), his strand rate was 50% (league average was 73%) and he forced more ground balls than the average pitcher. It’s safe to say he was a tad unlucky, and as a result, his ERA was 6.23. But his FIP ( 1.63) and xFIP (2.92) were considerably lower and a more telling sign of his performance. If that doesn’t tell you enough, maybe this will; in just 8.2 innings, he was worth 0.2 WAR. In other words, he was worth more wins than Brandon Kintzler and Francisco Rodriguez.

There are two issues that surround Knebel: Walks and elbow problems. Yet, Knebel doesn’t seem too worried about the latter:

Everything is good now. I’m at 100% and ready to go. It was late in the season and there wasn’t any reason to push it. The MRI showed it wasn’t serious.

But even the slightest elbow issue is a cause for concern, and a slight ligament tear, like the one in Knebel’s shoulder, is a real red flag. Texas likely would have been more reluctant to trade him if he had a clean bill of health.

Control has also plagued Knebel during his short career.

Year Level BB%
2013 R 8.6%
2013 A 8.6%
2014 AA 13.1%
2014 AAA 13.0%
2014 AAA 10.0%
2014 MLB 7.7%

Keep in mind that his track record is shorter than Lou Piniella’s temper, so it may be unfair to label him as a wild pitcher. Time will tell.

Now, while I think Knebel has a bright future in Milwaukee, Luis Sardinas is a player that doesn’t make much sense to the Brewers organization. In all honesty, I don’t get this part of the trade.

Sardinas is a defense-first shortstop who makes contact with the ball, has nearly no power and doesn’t walk. Sounds like we’re entering familiar territory, doesn’t it? It should, because I just described Jean Segura. That means if Sardinas makes the roster, there will be two Jean Seguras on the team; two players who can field better than they hit with one backing up the other. And to make matters worse, the Brewers already have Hector Gomez, who is admittedly a worse fielder, but definitely has more power than both the alternatives. Sardinas feels like overkill.

Sardinas never hit in the minors, and so far the majors have been the same story. He made 125 major league plate appearances in 2014, posting a .279 wOBA and 70 wRC+.

David Cameron of FanGraphs agrees with me, but more realistically, I agree with him. Most scouting reports have pegged Sardinas as either a fringe starter or a trustworthy bench player. His defense is gold-glove fantastic, but his hitting ceiling is low. Could the Brewers have gotten someone better than Sardinas? I don’t know, but Sardinas doesn’t do much for me.

On the other hand, Marcos Diplan is an interesting prospect. Here’s what Derek Harvey of Brew Crew Ball wrote about him:

He has a fastball that currently sits anywhere from 89-92 mph and can hit as high as 96. As he grows and adds more strength that fastball should consistently hit that 92 mark, perhaps even better. He is also said to have a curveball and changeup that flash average at times.

Despite noting some inconsistencies with his pitches (understandable at 17/18 years old) Kiley McDaniel (Fangraphs), Ben Badler (Baseball America), and Mark Anderson (Baseball Prospectus) all remarked that Diplan showed an advanced fell for pitching relative to his age.

We haven’t seen much of Diplan, but he is an exciting young pitcher and it’ll be fun watching him progress in the minors. Unfortunately, he’s still four or five years away from even sniffing the majors (waiting is tough).

This trade was a necessity for both clubs. The Rangers are better for it, at least in the immediate future, and as for the Brewers, well, it’s too early to tell. Getting rid of Gallardo gave the Brewers the luxury of going after quality relief help, but the prospects they received don’t necessarily reflect Gallardo’s worth.

Who are the Brewers getting in Adam Lind?

First base has been a cause for concern for the Milwaukee Brewers ever since the mighty Prince Fielder packed his bags after the 2011 season. The team has gone through the likes of Lyle Overbay, Travis Ishikawa, Alex Gonzalez, Mark Reynolds and even Yuniesky Betancourt to try to fill the void, but as you can probably tell by those names, the experiment went awry.

But the Brewers are still trying. On Satuday,  the Brewers acquired first baseman Adam Lind from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for RHP Marco Estrada. We all know who Marco Estrada is; a decent long reliever and a dreadful starter. But who is Adam Lind and what can the Brewers expect from him?

Lind is 31 years old and has been in the major leagues since 2006. Lind  has hit over .300 only twice in his career, but batting average is hardly a good measurement of a player’s offensive production, so don’t let that scare you. The left-handed hitter has a career .342 wOBA and 110 wRC+. To put that in comparison, Jonathan Lucroy has an identical career wOBA and a 113 wRC+. Lind also brings power to Milwaukee; he’s hit 20+ home runs in three seasons, including 2009 in which he blasted 35 homers.

Lind has never found consistency when it comes to getting on base, but has seen his on-base percentage rise over the last four seasons.

OBP
2011 .295
2012 .314
2013 .357
2014 .381
Average .337

Milwaukee’s first basemen have only managed a .290 OBP since 2012. The addition of Lind will surely improve that.

Lind will need a platoon partner, however. Like Scooter Gennett (I miss you, Rickie), Lind has an extremely hard time hitting southpaws and only saw 33 at-bats against them in 2014. He’s a career .212 hitter when a lefty is on the mound. But this shouldn’t be a problem and I don’t believe the Brewers need to go out and find a right-handed hitting first baseman. They can just use Jonathan Lucroy.

When the Brewers face a left-handed pitcher, move Lucroy to first and Martin Maldonado will spell him at catcher. Maldonado is a phenomenal defensive catcher and about average with the bat, and Lucroy has played in 28 games at first, so it’s not like experience is an issue. Obviously, this shouldn’t/won’t happen every time they face a lefty as Lucroy needs his rest, but for the most part, it’s a perfectly sound solution. No available first baseman is as good a hitter as Lucroy, anyway.

On the defensive side, Lind leaves a lot to be desired. The last two seasons he’s posted a -3.9 UZR which is just below average, but I’m sure the Brewers won’t mind his defensive flaws if he can make noise with his bat.

Before the trade went down, the Blue Jays had exercised Lind’s $7.5 million option for 2015. Lind also has a $8 million team option for 2016.

So to recap, the Brewers traded a potential non-tender candidate in Marco Estrada for a good hitting first baseman who could be with the team beyond this upcoming season. This was a great trade by Doug Melvin and Co.