Category Archives: Trade Talk

Let’s talk about the Milwaukee Brewers trade deadline

In July 2018 the Milwaukee Brewers made waves before the MLB trade deadline hit. The Brewers — who were sitting a few percentage points behind the Chicago Cubs with a 63-47 record — added Mike Moustakas, Joakim Soria and Jonathan Schoop in three separate trades. Moustakas and Soria were significant contributors to Milwaukee’s NLCS run, while Schoop (-0.3 in 46 games) failed to make a positive impact. July 2018 was an important month for the Brewers, and it allowed fans to wonder and salivate over what moves were in store for the team this year.

Once again, the Brewers made three trades (Jordan Lyles was acquired from the Pirates on July 29) before the 3:00 p.m. CT deadline arrived, but unlike a year ago, the players acquired were far less remarkable. Here’s what the Brewers cooked up on trade deadline day:

When Robert Murray of The Athletic tweeted the Brewers were sending Dubon to the Giants in a “significant” trade, my heart stopped. For a brief second I thought that both Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith were headed to Milwaukee, until I realized that Murray’s definition of “significant” was drastically different than mine, and well, the rest of the world’s. The only thing significant about Milwaukee’s deadline is that they traded a 2018 All-Star and a fan and clubhouse favorite in Aguilar. The three players the Brewers got back? Not so noteworthy. But let’s talk about them anyway.

Jake Faria

Faria burst onto the scene in 2017 when he finished with a 3.43 ERA, 4.12 FIP and 1.3 WAR in 16 games (14 starts) as a rookie. He looked like a legitimate young rotation pitcher. But then 2018 rolled around and he looked lost, evidenced by his 5.40 ERA and 5.08 FIP. Here’s a quick look at the difference:

Faria’s never been known for his velocity or spin, but he was above average in strikeout rate and did a good job of limiting opponent’s power, although he did give up a fair amount of hard contact. Fast forward to 2018 and he plummeted in all categories. He wasn’t just bad, he was bottom-of-the-barrel terrible. This year’s been better, at least in terms of ERA, and while he’s been able to strikeout over 23 percent of batters, his walk rate is through the roof. And that’s been a constant in Faria’s young career, and something that will limit his success if he can’t fix his control.

Faria recently turned 26, so he’s still young enough to figure things out. And, might I add, he has years of team control left. He’s not eligible for free agency until 2024, which was very appealing to the Brewers. However, he won’t do much to help the Brewers this season and is a wild card for the future, which is why this trade didn’t do much for me. Plus, I think they gave up on Aguilar too quickly.

Drew Pomeranz

In December 2018 I tweeted that Pomeranz was a clear buy-low candidate for the Brewers. It only took them seven months and their fourth-best prospect before they listened. It wasn’t exactly a buy-low, but there’s stuff to like about the lefty.

Let’s first forget about his current ERA of 5.68. Pomeranz will be used as a reliever — not as a starter like he was deployed San Francisco — and so far the results out of the bullpen have been magnificent. His velocity is up a few ticks since the switch and of the 10 batters he’s faced, he’s struck out half of them. It’s a small sample, definitely, but encouraging nonetheless.

Pomeranz is also a lefty, and the Brewers have need a lefty reliever who’s not named Josh Hader and who’s more consistent and strike hitters out more often than Alex Claudio. Pomeranz will definitely help the bullpen, but is he worth Dubon? I’m not so sure. I’m not the biggest Dubon believer in the world, but I believe he could’ve been packaged with other prospects to secure a more dominant and helpful player. It hurts even more knowing that Pomeranz will likely walk in free agency after the season.

Ray Black

Black throws heat. He throws hard and and he throws fast. His fastball — which is capable of reaching over 100 mph — is in the 99th percentile in terms of velocity. Black also uses his velocity to his advantage. In 25.1 major league innings, Black has a strikeout rate of 35.9 percent. If we set the inning parameters to a minimum of 20 innings, Black has the 10th-highest strikeout rate in MLB history. Obviously that doesn’t mean all that much, other than the fact that Black is capable of being filthy.

On the flip side, he walks everyone, even more than Faria. And in those 25.1 aforementioned innings, he owns a 6.04 ERA, albeit a much more friendly 4.15 FIP, thanks to his strikeout ability. His limited control will keep him in the minors — where the Brewers sent him — and keep his potential hidden. But Black has the most upside of all three players, and it’s really not hard to see why.

***

The Brewers didn’t have a significant deadline because the moves they made won’t help the 2019 team enough in its playoff push. They also may not help in the future, though that remains to be seen. And that’s the biggest problem I had with Milwaukee’s deadline. It left me wondering, what was the point?

Jordan Lyles joins the Milwaukee Brewers again

It’s not the splash fans wanted, but the Milwaukee Brewers traded for a starting pitcher Monday. The Brewers sent RHP Cody Ponce to the Pittsburgh Pirates for RHP Jordan Lyles.

Lyles, as some of you may recall, spent time with the Brewers in 2018 after being picked up off waivers from the San Diego Padres. He was deployed exclusively as a reliever for Milwaukee, pitching 16.1 innings and posting a 3.31 ERA and 2.49 FIP. The 28-year-old hurler ultimately elected free agency after the season and signed a one-year, $2.05 million contract with the Pirates. Some questioned why the Brewers let him walk so easily. Some were more than fine with his departure, citing his less-than-stellar track record as a major league pitcher.

But now Lyles is back in Milwaukee once again, where he hopefully — for the Brewers’ sake — can pitch like he did a year ago. However, that may not be in the cards, as his time in Pittsburgh wasn’t too friendly. Lyles joins the Brewers with the baggage of 5.36 ERA and 4.81 FIP, the former being the ninth-worst mark among starters in baseball (minimum 80 innings pitched). He’s giving up nearly two home runs a game (1.75/9) and currently sits in the 11th percentile in hard-hit rate allowed. So why do the Brewers think he’ll be an upgrade? General manager David Stearns discussed that very question:

The Brewers – like most clubs in 2019 — are looking past the ERA. They believe that he’s been a victim of a bit of bad luck, which is probably true. In fact, did you know that Lyles’ ERA was under 4.00 until the calendar turned to July? And did you know that in July teams have a batting average on balls in play of .556 against him? That’s the highest mark in baseball. A BABIP like that — and the same thing would be said for an incredibly low BABIP — is completely unsustainable. And then there’s the strike outs. Lyles is striking out batters at a career-high clip of 24.9 percent including 27.1 percent in July. He’s just getting severely punished when hitters make contact, kind of like Josh Hader. (No I’m not saying Lyles is like Hader, so please stop.)

Lyles joins a team that is desperate need of arms, both in the rotation and in the bullpen, so it’ll be interesting to see where the Brewers use his talents. The team has already confirmed he’ll start at some point this week, but the best option may be to use him out of the bullpen. He’s already proved he can be a valuable bullpen arm for the Brewers, and his strikeout rate could potentially rise even more if he works just an inning or two. The Brewers should do everything they can to avoid Lyles having to face a lineup multiple times through the order.

Lyles isn’t going to help the Brewers win the World Series, but he might — just maybe — make them better. From the sound of it, Stearns and Co. expect to make more moves before Wednesday’s deadline hits. The question is: will they be significant moves or more Lyles-esque acquisitions?

MLB Trade Deadline: Trade targets for the Milwaukee Brewers

The Major League Baseball trade deadline is less than a week away, and since there’s only one trade deadline this year, we could be — and hopefully are — in store for a flurry of trades before the clock strikes August 1.

The Milwaukee Brewers — like many teams in the National League — have a tough decision to make. Should they buy? They currently sit in third place in the NL Central with a record of 54-50 record, though they trail the first-place Cubs by just 2.0 games. General manager David Stearns has repeatedly said he’s always on the look out to improve the team, and the trade deadline is the perfect time to do just that. And why wouldn’t he want to make his team better? The Brewers are above .500 and within striking distance of a playoff spot. It makes perfect sense for Stearns to perform his magic and go get one, two or 65 starting pitchers, and no one would fault him for doing so.

But is it the smart, fiscally responsible thing to do? The Brewers have problems nearly everywhere you look. They have a -12 run differential, the third-worst starting rotation in terms of ERA in the National League and an untrustworthy bullpen with a 4.58 ERA. Can Stearns really make enough moves to vault his team into World Series contention?

If the Brewers decide to push all-in — a phrase uttered by Mark Attanasio this offseason — they’ll surely start by fixing the rotation. Saying it needs to be upgraded is an understatement. It desperately needs a rebranding and a complete makeover. With Brandon Woodruff expected to miss at least six weeks, and Jhoulys Chacin — who realistically should have been removed from the rotation weeks ago — headed to the injured list, the need is even more dire.

Here are a few starting pitchers Milwaukee should be targeting:

Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler:

There have been talks that the Brewers are interested in Mets’ starters Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler. Now, Syndergaard will cost an arm and a leg, or maybe two of each. He doesn’t become a free agent until 2022 and isn’t yet making break-the-bank money. In relation to his teammate, Wheeler wouldn’t be as expensive to acquire. He’s scheduled to hit the open market after the season, and his current 4.69 ERA will likely drop his cost. Syndergaard has an equally high ERA, but like Wheeler, his peripherals look much better. Plus we know the talent his possesses. Both arms would aid the Brewers rotation, though it remains to be seen if the Mets sell, and even if they do, prying Syndergaard away will probably be next to impossible, especially with the lack of top-tier prospects in Milwaukee’s system. Keston Hiura would assuredly be part of that deal.

Madison Bumgarner

Despite the fact that Madison Bumgarner doesn’t want any player to have fun playing baseball, he’s been a solid starter in 2019. Due to his decline in velocity, Bumgarner has been throwing fewer baseballs with encouraging results. He owns a 3.66 ERA with an even lower FIP, and his strikeout rate of 24.6 percent and walk rate of 5 percent rank 26th and 9th, respectfully. He’ll be hot commodity at the deadline, though with San Francisco’s recent out-of-this-world hot streak, one wonders if they’ll even sell. They should, but that doesn’t mean they will. The Brewers are on Bumgarner’s no-trade list, but that’s most likely just a leverage play. Parting with two upper-tier prospects for someone of Bumargner’s pedigree makes sense, even if he’s destined to leave via free agency in 2020.

Marcus Stroman

Stroman might be my favorite guy on this list, particularly because I have a thing for ground-ball pitchers. Stroman is second-best in the majors at generating ground balls with a grounder rate of 57.1 percent. Milwaukee’s infield defense — though not the best — is more than capable of gobbling up those grounders for outs. Stroman doesn’t strike many people out, but he’s still managed to post the lowest ERA and second-lowest FIP of his career. Like Syndergaard, though, he’ll come with a hefty price tag (he’s not due to be a free agent until 2021) and is probably destined to end up with a big-market team.

Robbie Ray

Stearns loves players who still have years of team control, and although that means getting rid of more assets, it’s usually the wise move to make when you know you’re limited in the free agency game. If I was Stearns, I’d be all over Ray. He’s under team control until 2021, he’s on a team that — just like every team in the NL — might sell and he strikes out more batters than every other starting pitcher but seven. He has walk issues and sometimes gives up too many home runs, but he’s consistent and you know exactly what he’ll bring every time he steps to the mound. He could be a key piece in Milwaukee’s rotation not just for this year’s playoff run, but also for 2020 as well.

The Brewers — if they truly believe they can make another deep playoff run — will need to improve their bullpen as well. A reunion with Will Smith could be in the cards. Maybe they could even package him with Bumgarner. Toronto’s Ken Giles will likely be moved, and Baltimore’s Mychal Givens and Seattle’s Roenis Elias could be of interest to the Brewers.

If the Brewers push their chips even more into the middle than they already have, the pitchers above should be on top of their wish list, though all will have plenty of suitors. With all that being said, though, I’m not sure I believe the Brewers should make significant trades and gear up for an attempt at the postseason. I just don’t think this year’s team is good enough, even with one or two major upgrades. The Brewers came into 2019 believing they were a better team than their 2018 club, despite gigantic question marks in the rotation. Those question marks have become exclamation points because of just how bad nearly every Brewers starter has turned out to be. Stearns failed to make rotation upgrades in free agency, and now the team is paying for it. Should he really plunder a minor-league system and potentially hurt the future of the franchise for a chance at the playoffs? Maybe it’s best to retool during the winter and focus on 2020. But maybe they think they have another magical late-season run in them.

And perhaps they do. Hopefully they do.

Did David Stearns make a mistake?

The Milwaukee Brewers (73-59) sit 4.5 games behind the Chicago Cubs and currently lead the Rockies by a game in the race for the second Wild Card spot. Once upon a time, they had a sizable lead in the division, and once upon a time — on July 10 — they were a season-best 18 games over .500. Milwaukee has spent a total of 76 days in first place this season, and they seemed primed for an October appearance, yet since the Major League Baseball trade deadline on July 31, the Brewers are 11-12, all the while losing significant ground on the Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central.

General manager David Stearns — a hero among Brewers fans and the architect of one of the quickest rebuilds in recent memory — was an active participant in the trade market, though the trades he executed were seen by some as confusing and unnecessary. Stearns acquired third baseman Mike Moustakas (106 wRC+) and second baseman Jonathan Schoop (90 wRC+) right before the final buzzer sounded. To the surprise of the masses, the Brewers watched the trade deadline expire without acquiring a starting pitcher. On Tuesday, Adam McCalvy of MLB.com tweeted the following:

The argument can be made that Milwaukee’s biggest weakness leading up to the deadline was its offense. Not many can disagree with that sentiment. For the season, the Brewers have been shut out 10 times, and have scored two or fewer runs 42 times in the team’s 121 games, for a record of 9-33 in those contests. Their 92 wRC+ as a team in the first half ranked 19th in the majors. The Brewers needed offense, and Stearns attempted to address that need when he acquired Moustakas and Schoop. Though those two haven’t exactly elevated the offense — at least so far — as much as the Brewers had hoped, at least the front office made an attempt to bring more runs to the team.

The same cannot be said for the pitching side of the club, and that’s where Stearns may have made a mistake.

Let’s first look at how Milwaukee’s rotation has performed before and after the trade deadline.

ERA FIP wOBA against
Before 7/31 3.80 4.30 .303
After 7/31 4.58 4.88 .336

Stearns has said over and over that he and his front office value his team’s starting pitching more than the outside world. That’s been the case all season. But it wasn’t hard to see regression was coming as quick as another Avengers movie,  and even Stearns had to know his starters — the best one being Jhoulys Chacin — couldn’t keep this up. No move was made, however, as the Brewers showed interest in the starting pitching market, but failed to pull the trigger on any deal. As a result, Milwaukee’s rotation has been unreliable since July 31.

We can’t judge Stearns’ inaction just by the Brewers’ rotation alone. We must also look at how the starting pitchers who were traded at the deadline have fared since joining their new teams to see if any of them would’ve been a significant upgrade. (Apologies if I left someone out.)

ERA FIP WAR
Chris Archer* 4.91 3.81 0.3
Kevin Gausman* 2.00 3.15 0.6
J.A. Happ 2.37 3.94 0.6
Lance Lynn 3.81 2.04 1.0
Cole Hamels 0.79 2.36 1.2

*does not include their starts on 8/26

Every pitcher on the table above — with the exception of Archer — has been absolutely brilliant (small sample size alert) since switching teams. Gausman seems to be finally reaching his potential, Happ is as reliable as ever, Lynn has figured something out after a miserable short tenure with Minnesota and Hamels thinks it’s 2011 again. The Brewers were rumored to have interest in all of these pitchers, and although I didn’t see anything that linked him to Milwaukee, Mike Fiers — who was traded after the non-waiver deadline — has been lights out with the Athletics, as well. Aside from Archer, acquiring these players came at a relatively low cost, a cost the Brewers could’ve easily managed.

Stearns’ love for the rotation he constructed has cost the Brewers wins, and it has allowed the Brewers to play second fiddle to the Cubs once again. A rotation consisting of Chacin, Junior Guerra, Freddy Peralta, Chase Anderson and Wade Miley — who has the second-largest difference between his ERA (2.32) and FIP (3.99) among starters with at least 50 innings — doesn’t inspire much faith, except, apparently, to Stearns. For a team that has playoff hopes, and for a team who, on paper, has a formidable offensive lineup, the rotation is a sight for sore eyes, and Stearns should be criticized for not improving it.

The Brewers still have the ability to add a starter or two if they claim someone on revocable waivers or work out a deal for a player who went unclaimed. However, the market is rather dry, and there aren’t too many eye-opening arms out there. Milwaukee has shown interest in Nationals’ starter Gio Gonzalez, and although his 2018 performance to date has been disappointing, he could still give the Brewers some quality innings down the stretch.

Stearns said “we’ll find out” when asked if he made a mistake by not acquiring a starting pitcher. Well, I think we can safely say that he did, and while there are other factors involved, it’s a big reason why Milwaukee’s playoff odds have significantly dropped.

Trade targets for the Milwaukee Brewers

The Milwaukee Brewers sit at 55-43. And while no other team in the National League has more wins (the Chicago Cubs also have 55), they still find themselves 2.5 games behind those Cubs in the NL Central. The Brewers have lost six games in a row and eight of their last 10 games. They couldn’t have finished the first half in a worse fashion, causing Brewers fans across the great state of Wisconsin to collectively lose their freakin’ minds.

It’s true that the Brewers just finished an excruciatingly grueling part of the schedule — 22 games in 21 days — so the offensive struggles are understandable. However, it’s also true that the Brewers need help. The team that has exceeded expectations desperately needs a few more pieces if they want to continue exceeding those expectations, and not only get into the playoffs, but make a deep run.

When the Brewers organization believes it has a chance for October baseball, they don’t hesitate to make bold moves via the trade market. They acquired CC Sabathia just before the All-Star break in 2008, and they sent the farm to acquire Zack Greinke before the 2011 campaign. In both seasons, the Brewers made the playoffs. Both trades paid off. Both trades were worth it. Anyone who says differently can argue with me on Twitter. I won’t respond because you’re ridiculous, but you can argue all the same.

The Brewers believe they can make a run in October, and why shouldn’t they? They signed Lorenzo Cain (3.6 WAR) to a massive deal this winter and simultaneously traded for Christian Yelich (2.4 WAR), two players who have been instantly valuable in Milwaukee’s success. The Brewers have been leading the Cubs for almost the entire year, and despite the recent underwhelming play, the Brewers look like a team that is destined to play fall baseball for the first time since 2011. General manager David Stearns will not hesitate to make that a reality. He’s going to make moves, and they’re going to be significant ones.

Here are the players he should be targeting:

SS Manny Machado

This is the obvious one. Machado and the Brewers have been linked for months, and there’s a real possibility that the two sides will work out a deal. The Brewers are in desperate need of middle infield help, as they currently rank 29th in shortstop WAR (-0.7) and 26th in second base WAR (-0.2).

The Orioles are reportedly asking for Milwaukee’s No. 2 prospect Corbin Burnes — who has been lights-out impressive since joining the big-league squad — and while the Brewers are reluctant to part with him, I doubt Stearns would balk at the chance to bring in one of the game’s best bats. Machado has a 156 wRC+ with 24 home runs and 3.8 Wins Above Replacement, and he would join a lineup that already includes Cain (125 wRC+), Yelich (121), Jesus Aguilar (159), Travis Shaw (115) and Eric Thames (135). Machado would instantly make the Brewers one of the better offensive teams in baseball.

The problem with trading for Machado is that he’ll only be around for a couple of months. Like Sabathia in ’08, he’s a rental, and the Brewers will have to decide if the opportunity cost is worth a few months of a phenomenal player.

Chance of acquiring Machado: High

SP J.A. Happ

Looking at Happ’s statistics, you might question why Happ is on this list. The 35-year-old starter has an ERA and FIP over four and lasted just 3.2 and 2.2 innings in his last two starts, respectively. Yet the Brewers should be all over the southpaw.

Happ will be a free agent after this season, and due to his current stats, won’t cost much to acquire. The Blue Jays aren’t in the running for a playoff spot, so they should have no hesitation in trading a mid-30s pitcher who has a 4.29 ERA. But if we look past his ERA — like the Brewers should — we see that his strikeout rate of 26.5 percent is the highest of his career. He’s also walking fewer than three batters per nine innings. On the negative side, he’s already allowed 17 home runs after allowing a total of 18 last season, and admittedly, that might be a problem in Miller Park.

Happ is by no means an ace, but adding him to Milwaukee’s rotation will give it a much-needed boost. He’s averaging 5.7 innings per start, and while that might not seem like a lot, take into account that Milwaukee’s starters have averaged just 5.3 innings per start. They’re right in the middle of the pack in that category.

Jhoulys Chacin is due for some regression, Junior Guerra just landed on the disabled list, Chase Anderson doesn’t look like his 2017 self and Brent Suter and Wade Miley are, well, Brent Suter and Wade Miley…uninspiring. The Brewers need rotation help, and Happ would be a cheap piece that could help propel the team to the playoffs.

Chance of acquiring Happ: Moderate to high

SP Chris Archer

The Brewers have long been rumored to have interest in the Tampa Bay Rays ace, but there’s been nothing in the rumor mill as of late. In fact, I’m not even aware anything has even been whispered about Archer in recent weeks. Maybe this guy has heard something.

Unlike Happ, Archer would be the immediate No. 1 pitcher for the Brewers. Though his strikeouts are considerably down from the past few seasons, Archer can dominate games and carry a team on his back if need be. That’s the type of hurler the Brewers covet. They need someone who can pick up the slack if the offense has a quiet night — which has happened all too often in 2018. Archer has posted an ERA over four each of the last three seasons, but he’s always been a guy whose FIP outperforms his ERA (3.68 career ERA, 3.49 career FIP. The same is true again this season. I truly believe that Archer is in need of a change of scenery, and he could once again be a shutdown ace if in the right situation.

Of everyone that is seemingly available on the trade market, Archer will cost the most. He’s just 29 years old and doesn’t become a free agent until after the 2021 season. And did I mention that he’s currently locked into an unbelievably team-friendly contract? Archer is due just $16.5 million over the next two years, which is why the Rays will be asking for the farm in any trade talks. The odds the Brewers acquire him are low, as it would, in all likelihood, force them to give up both Keston Hiura and Corbin Burnes. Nonetheless, not only would Archer almost guarantee the Brewers a playoff spot, he’d stick around for at least another two years, and Stearns loves cheap players who have multiple years of team control. It’s possible Stearns and the Rays pull the trigger on a deal involving Archer, but not likely.

Chance of acquiring Archer: Low

2B Whit Merrifield

Before 2018 began, I was against the Brewers acquiring Merrifield from the Kansas City Royals. I thought his 2017 season was a flash in the pan. Even though he broke out, his wRC+ was barely over 100 and his OBP was below .330. I thought Jonathan Villar could put up similar numbers while costing the Brewers next to nothing.

Well, Merrifield has taken his break out to another level. The 29 year old has already been worth 2.8 WAR, and he’s raised his OBP by 54 points and his walk rate by 4.6 percent. He’s hitting for considerably less power, but the Brewers — who are among the top 10 in home runs in MLB — don’t really need another power hitter. They need someone who can get on base at a high clip, and someone who is a force on the base paths. Merrifield does both of those extremely well.

However, like Archer, Merrifield will cost an arm and a leg to acquire, considering he’s not even arbitration-eligible until 2020. Still, I think Stearns could pull the trigger on him in order to upgrade the team’s middle infield.

Chance of acquiring Merrifield: Moderate

2B Brian Dozier

Don’t look at Dozier’s batting average. Don’t look at his on-base percentage. Heck, don’t even look at his wRC+. They’re all bad. But I don’t care. Dozier needs to be a Brewer. For the past few seasons, Dozier has gotten off to rotten starts at the plate, but then goes absolutely nuts in the second half.

AVG OBP HR wOBA wRC+
2016 First Half .246 .335 14 .338 109
2016 Second Half .291 .344 28 .405 155
2017 First Half .242 .328 13 .319 95
2017 Second Half .302 .394 21 .410 158

Why can’t he do it again, except this time in a Brewers uniform? The two have already been linked together.

Dozier is set to be a free agent this winter, and since the Twins’ season has been a bitter disappointment, they have no reason to keep an aging second baseman on the roster any longer. He’s not in the organization’s long-term plans, so it would make sense if they ship him off for a prospect. Dozier would add massive power to the Brewers’ lineup, and he could even be more dangerous in a stadium like Miller Park. If Stearns doesn’t want to pay up for Merrifield, getting Dozier to Milwaukee is a no brainer.

Chance of acquiring Dozier: Moderate to high

The non-waiver trade deadline is quickly approaching. In just two weeks, numerous players will be changing cities and switching teams, and if the Brewers expect to still be playing in October, they’ll soon be welcoming new players to their city. Do they go all-in and acquire someone like Machado? Or do they make small improvements like adding Happ? Only time will tell.

Who are the Brewers getting in Brad Miller?

Hit a pinch-hit grand slam one day. Get sent to the minors and subsequently traded the next. That’s more or less the life of a fringe MLB player, and that’s exactly what happened to Ji-Man Choi on Sunday evening when he was shipped to the Tampa Bay Rays in return for infielder Brad Miller and cash considerations.

This trade is an obvious one. With Jesus Aguilar hitting better than the likes of Nolan Arenado and Joey Votto, and Eric Thames ready to come off the disabled list in the very near future, the Brewers just didn’t have a spot for another first baseman. His signing this offseason was puzzling for that reason alone, unless David Stearns’ goal from the get-go was to use him as trade bait. If so, mission accomplished. In 32 plate appearances, Choi hit two home runs and finished his Brewers career with a 98 wRC+, and that enticed the Rays enough to send Miller — who the team had already designated for assignment — to Milwaukee.

But who exactly are the Brewers getting in Brad Miller?

The Brewers acquired Miller to play shortstop and/or second base, although the 28 year old hasn’t logged a game at short since the 2016 season, when he posted -14 defensive runs saved (DRS). According to DRS, Miller was the second-worst fielding shortstop during that year, behind only Alexei Ramirez. But Miller will have to get reacquainted with the position soon if the Brewers expect any offensive production from shortstop going forward. Defensive ace and current starting shortstop Orlando Arcia has eight walks, 39 strikeouts and a 37 wRC+. His backup, Eric Sogard, has a wRC+ of 3. Three. That means he’s been 97 percent worse than league average. In reality, he has no business being on a major-league roster right now.

And that’s where Miller comes in. He won’t impress with his batting average and he won’t get on base at a high clip, but he has power, and he’s a considerable upgrade over Arica and Sogard. And that’s all the Brewers really need. In 2016, Miller went deep 30 times, but has just 14 home runs in 581 plate appearances since. The former second round draft pick owns a career 100 wRC+, so he’s the definition of a league-average hitter, and a league-average hitter in an offense that already includes Lorenzo Cain (124 wRC+), Christian Yelich (133) and Travis Shaw (124) will be welcomed with open arms. He will make the offense better.

Miller’s defense will be tough to watch at times, but if he can make up for it at least a little with his bat, he’ll help a team that seems destined for the playoffs.

Who are the Brewers getting in Anthony Swarzak?

The Milwaukee Brewers are buyers in 2017. If I would’ve told you that on the eve of Opening Day, my readership would be flirting with zero. That’s how incredible this whole thing is. As of publication, the Brewers have a 0.5 game lead in the NL Central over the Chicago Cubs, and they just made a trade. And unlike in recent seasons, they shipped out a prospect (Ryan Cordell) and brought in a veteran (Anthony Swarzak). Yes, the Milwaukee Brewers are buyers in 2017, and even if it’s a soft buy, they’re still attempting to compete.

But who exactly are the Brewers getting in Swarzak?

This has been a breakout year for Swarzak, and you may have guessed that considering you’ve probably never heard of the guy. At 31 years old, he’s been worth 1.7 WAR and posted a 2.23 ERA and a 2.34 FIP across 48.1 innings of relief this year for the Chicago White Sox. For his career, however, his numbers are intensely different and not nearly has admirable. The truth is that he’s been a bad pitcher for the majority of his career. Yet the Brewers believe the pitcher he’s been in 2017 is the real deal, and they shipped away Cordell — one of the players in the Jonathan Lucroy trade a year ago — to put that belief to the test.

The Brewers are probably right about Swarzak, as he’s made significant changes. He’s a two-pitch pitcher who throws a fourseamer and a slider, and he’s managed to up his velocity this year. More importantly, though, he’s discovered a dominant slider. Swarzak has always utilized a slider, but now he’s getting more whiffs than ever with it.

The above chart shows the whiff percentages on each of Swarzak’s pitches since the beginning of his career. As you can see, his slider has gotten better.  His slider whiff rate is sitting just under 20 percent (18.48 percent to be exact) in 2017 — the highest of Swarzak’s career. Side note: He pitched just 13 innings in 2015, so I’m throwing away that sample size.  Not only has his slider improved, but his fastball has been more fierce as well. It sits in the mid-90s and has jumped up almost a full mile per hour from 2016, and batters are really struggling to hit it, managing just a .168 batting average. Quietly but surely, Swarzak has turned into a reliever that can be trusted down the stretch, not just in games but in the late innings as well.

Swarzak will help the Brewers immediately, and this is the type of soft buy the Brewers should be making. Their bullpen is anything but trustworthy, and his presence will allow relievers like Carlos Torres and Oliver Drake to pitch fewer high-leverage innings, which is a very good thing. Swarzak will most likely slide into the seventh/eighth inning role alongside Jacob Barnes, who has had an up-and-down season thus far.

Losing Ryan Cordell isn’t easy — I like him more than most — but there’s essentially no risk here on Milwaukee’s side. The Brewers wanted help for 2017, and Swarzak fits that. He’s cheap and reliable; two things David Stearns values.