Category Archives: Trade Talk

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.

Brewers trade talk: Who stays and who goes?

Being a fan of a miserable team isn’t all that much fun. Attending games is less entertaining and watching your team lose time and time again on television eventually becomes a waste of time, not to mention beyond frustrating.  And yet, being a fan of a miserable team can have its perks, especially during the weeks leading up to the trade deadline. The trade deadline is a time when rebuilding teams can do just that — rebuild. They go out and acquire young talent while issuing farewells to long-time players, and although it may be sad, it’s for the good of the team.

That’s how Brewers’ fans are currently feeling. Aside from constant trade rumors, it’s been a rather boring year for Milwaukee fans, and they’re excited for the rumors to finally come to fruition. I know I am.

It should be a busy week and a half for the Brewers’ front office, and I’m sure David Stearns is on the phone right now trying to work a deal.

Let’s get to some predictions.

Players who will be traded

Jonathan Lucroy – If Lucroy’s still a member of the Brewers on Aug. 2, I’ll be absolutely shocked. He’s arguably the best player on the trade market, and with his defensive value and 123 wRC+, there’s multiple teams vying for his services.

Prediction: The Texas Rangers seem like the current favorite to land him, and they make the most sense, so I’m going to go with them. However, I have a feeling Boston will come just in the nick of time with a better offer, especially if they don’t believe Sandy Leon‘s current pace is sustainable. Spoiler: It’s not.

Jeremy Jeffress – Almost every contending team is in need of bullpen help, and the Brewers have a few to spare, including their closer. Jeffress’ strikeouts are down a considerable amount in 2016, but that hasn’t stopped him from running a 2.29 ERA and a 3.40 FIP. Teams will be drawn to him because of his mid-90s fastball that creates a plethora of ground balls. Jeffress probably won’t close on whichever team he’s dealt to, but he’ll no doubt make it stronger.

Prediction: The San Francisco Giants have been rumored to have interest, and I think that’s where he’ll land, maybe as a setup man to Santiago Casilla. Those two would make a dangerous 1-2 punch.

Junior Guerra – I’m in the minority on this one, but I really think Guerra will be moved. A team looking for a controllable pitcher who won’t cost much will find no better option than the Brewers’ 31-year-old rookie. He has an ERA that’s flirting with going below 3 and can hit 96 mph on the gun. At least one team will be attracted to him,

Prediction: Guerra seems like a perfect fit for the Rangers, who, by the way, are currently employing Kyle Lohse as a starter in their rotation.

Players who won’t be traded

Ryan Braun – If you would have asked me a month ago if I thought Braun would be on the move, I would have definitively said yes. Now I’m not so sure. His contract is huge, and his injury history is obviously worrisome. I thought his performance this season would negate all that. Then July hit. So far this month Braun has a 45 wRC+ and has yet to hit a home run. Can a team really take a chance that he’ll get his swing back over the last two months AND absorb his enormous contract?

Will Smith – Will Smith is receiving a lot of interest, so I could see him being traded. Then again, I’m a believer in David Stearns, and I think Stearns will wait until next year to sell Smith off after he regains some value. Smith has lost a little value this year because he’s not striking out hitters like he once did. His strikeout rate has fallen from 34.5% in 2015 to 22.7% in 2016. That’s essentially a 12% loss of strikeouts. Stearns might want to hold on to him a little while longer.

Is Junior Guerra trade bait?

The trade market for starting pitchers is relatively weak this season. There’s really no other way to put it. Very few “ace-like” pitchers will be available, if any at all. When teams trade for a starter just before the deadline, the intention is for that hurler to pitch for them in the playoffs, not just to pitch them into the playoffs. Unfortunately for postseason-hopeful teams, there’s not many playoff pitchers out there, even though the demand is substantial.

MLB Trade Rumors recently released a list of 40 pitchers that teams could pursue, but a good majority of them are either at best average pitchers or have too pricey of contracts, safe for a few like the entire Rays’ rotation, Drew Pomeranz and Julio Teheran.

But among the 40 that made the list, Milwaukee Brewers’ rookie Junior Guerra was nowhere to be found. And that’s what prompted me to write this post, because Guerra should absolutely be considered trade bait.

After spending essentially his entire career with the minors, Guerra has burst onto the scene as a Brewer. He’s made 13 starts and accumulated a higher WAR (1.5) than any other Brewers’ starter. Guerra can also brag about having the lowest ERA (3.06), FIP (3.87) and K% (22%). Needless to say, he’s been one of the few and unexpected bright spots on a team that sits near the bottom of its division.

Guerra is under team control for another five seasons after 2016 finishes up, and doesn’t hit arbitration until 2019. Granted, his age of 31 isn’t exactly a plus, but his arm doesn’t have as much wear and tear on it as, say, a major-league pitcher who’s been in the bigs since age 22. Besides, he’s most likely going to be a cheap player who’s under team control for the duration of his career, and that’s the important part.

If a team shows enough interest in Guerra, expect David Stearns to pull the trigger. The Brewers don’t have much of a need for an aging pitcher when their sole focus is acquiring young talent. However, I don’t believe Stearns will trade Guerra just to trade him. That’s not his style. So if Stearns isn’t satisfied with the return, he’s going to hold on to him and hope his stock rises a bit more in 2017 as a starter and then try to move him. It would be a risky move, but it might behoove the Brewers in the end.

Guerra looks like a playoff pitcher from what he showed in the first half of the season. His FIP and xFIP tells us to expect some regression, but it could be that he’s just peripheral-beater. Watch out for teams like the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians and Washington Nationals to make a play for him.

Prince Fielder traded back to the Brewers

In a strange and rather wild move, the Milwaukee Brewers have acquired Prince Fielder from the Texas Rangers in exchange for Jimmy Nelson, Matt Garza and Tyrone Taylor. Fielder returns to the organization that drafted him and for which he played from 2005 to 2011.

Nelson was slated to be Milwaukee’s No. 2 starter in 2016 with Garza slated right behind him, but General Manager David Stearns says Zach Davies and Michael Blazek will get the first crack at the rotation spots. Taylor, once considered one of the organization’s top outfield prospects, is also headed to Texas.

Fielder hit 23 home runs and was worth 1.6 WAR for the Rangers last season.

This move comes as quite a shock for a Brewers team in the midst of a major rebuild. Some in the baseball industry have been quoted as saying the trade is “ludicrous” and “simply outrageous.” An anonymous GM claimed that it makes “zero sense for either team.”

Stearns, however, is very excited to bring back “one of the best Brewers of all time.”

“Prince is a decorated veteran of this league, and a hero in Milwaukee,” Stearns said. “We are thrilled to be reunited with him.”

Stearns also isn’t listening to the criticism surrounding the move.

“People can say whatever they want,” Stearns said. “But the fact of the matter is, we didn’t trade for Prince because of his offensive skill. No. We got him because he will be a huge help to the young players we have on our club. He’ll be more of a mentor than anything.”

Incumbent first baseman Chris Carter will be moved to center field, according to manager Craig Counsell, despite having zero experience in the outfield. This most likely means Keon Broxton and Kirk Nieuwenhuis will not make the team.

When told about the trade, Fielder didn’t mince his words.

“This is [expletive] unbelievable,” Fielder said. “Can Milwaukee even afford me? Have they seen my contract? [Expletive] this. I don’t want to go back. Not after the way they treated me and Rickie [Weeks] during our last years there. [Expletive] this.”

Fielder’s agent, Scott Boras, declined to comment, but a source inside the Commissioner’s Office says he is actively trying to get Rob Manfred to negate the trade.

Reports out of Milwaukee are claiming that Brewers’ Owner Mark Attanasio didn’t sign off on re-acquiring Fielder. Some are even saying that he is irate with Stearns, and that termination is “definitely on the table.”

It was already going to be a lousy season in Milwaukee, but this trade takes it to even greater depths.

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Happy April Fool’s Day, everyone. Ruin someone’s day by sharing this.

A little Gerardo Parra perspective

Gerardo Parra is going to be traded. There’s little doubt about that. He’s going to be moved because he’s the hottest hitter on a terrible baseball team. That’s as simple as logic gets.

But for some reason, there are Brewers fans out there who think Milwaukee should sign the outfielder to an extension. First of all, I can’t believe there’s more than one person who thinks this, but there is, just look on Twitter. Second of all, I can’t believe people think his production this season is actually sustainable.

Therefore, it’s time for a little Gerardo Parra perspective.

Despite what his fielding stats say in 2015, Parra is a top-tier outfielder. He won a Gold Glove in 2013 and can play every outfield position with the best of them. The majority of his career WAR total comes from his defense, because, up until this season, Parra’s offense has been suspect. Before the season commenced, Parra owned a career .326 on-base percentage and an 89 wRC+ as a six-year major leaguer. His only above-average season came in 2011, which is the only time he ever posted a wRC+ over 100. With a lack of power and too many ground balls, Parra has never been a “good” hitter.

Enter 2015.

Parra ranks 26th in wRC+ (135) and 23rd in wOBA (.371). His .193 ISO is by far a career high, and with two more home runs, he’ll also break another career mark. Parra’s BABIP is also a best, sitting at .360. When putting everything together, Parra has been one of the very best hitters in all of Major League Baseball. That’s right. Gerardo Parra, the player the Brewers got in exchange for a very fringy outfield prospect in Mitch Haniger and Anthony Banda, has been a better hitter than the likes of Michael Brantley, Kris Bryant and Adam Jones.

Does anyone really think Parra suddenly turned on a switch and became a top-30 hitter in baseball? To sane people, the answer is obviously no, but the people with brains in their heads aren’t who this article is targeted at. It’s directed at the insane. In other words, I’m hoping insane people read this.

2015 has been an amazing offensive season for Parra, but it won’t last. And even he probably knows this. We have six years of sample size to determine this, and even though Parra, who just turned 28, has entered his prime, thinking his prime is that of an amazing hitter is crazy talk.

He’s been really, really good for 326 plate appearances this season, but in all likelihood, Parra will revert back to an amazing outfielder but just an OK hitter when 2016 hits. His performance will earn him a bigger free agency contract than originally thought, but it won’t be that of a perennial All-Star. And it shouldn’t be.

Parra will be traded by the Brewers, and it is absolutely the right decision.

Predicting who gets traded and who stays

We are now at the All-Star break, and for teams sitting at the bottom of the standings, like the Milwaukee Brewers are, it’s a welcome furlough. The four-days off is also usually the beginning of trade season, as teams are either getting ready to stack up for a postseason run or start shedding veterans in order to ignite the rebuilding process. In case you don’t know anything about anything, the Brewers will be doing the latter. At 38-52, they have the second-worst record in Major League Baseball. They are officially sellers.

Milwaukee is currently in possession of a handful of players who contending teams should be calling about. They have veterans with expiring contracts, but they also have players who are on the cusp of their primes, making them extremely coveted.

The Brewers won’t trade their entire roster (even though I’m not against the idea), but it’s safe to say they’ll be sending a few players out of the city known for its beer. So let’s make some predictions.

Players who will get traded

OF Gerardo Parra – Numerous teams are in need of outfield depth (see Kansas City), and with the way Parra has performed offensively, his name is one of the hottest on the block. Of outfielders with at least 300 plate appearances, he has the 13th-highest wRC+, not to mention his on-base percentage of .344 would be his best mark since 2011. Parra is as good as gone.

SP Kyle Lohse – I know his ERA and everything else you can possibly look at is downright terrible, but I still have this feeling that a team is going to take a flyer on him, for the right price, of course. The Brewers won’t get much back and they’ll probably to have pay some of his remaining salary, but with Lohse being a free agent after the season, why wouldn’t a team in need of a back-end starter go after him?

3B Aramis Ramirez – Every team needs hitting and Ramirez can still provide that at 37 years old. He’s a notorious slow starter and this season was definitely no exception. His numbers are finally beginning to improve, however. After producing a .272 wOBA in June, he crushed the ball in July and finished the month with a .366 wOBA. He, like Lohse, is in the last year of his contract (and career). He’s a rental who a team will trade for.

1B Adam Lind – He’s been the best player on the Brewers in 2015 and is probably the best hitter on the market. He’s already put up 2.1 WAR while creating an impressive 43% more runs than league average. Lind could bring back a fairly decent haul, especially compared to the other guys I listed above. If a team is looking for a high OBP player who hits home runs, Lind is the man for the job.

RP Francisco Rodriguez – I’ll admit I was wrong about Rodriguez. I thought he would be equally as bad as he was in 2014, but as it turns out, he’s been lights-out. His strikeout rate (30.8%) is back in line with his career norms and he’s no longer getting bit by home runs. He would be a very valuable add to a bullpen in need of a high-leverage reliever. The only thing stopping a team for making a play for him is his big contract. He’s owed $7.5 million in 2016 with a $6 million club option in ’17 ($2 million buyout). That’s a lot of money for a closer who’s been up and down in the past few seasons. Still, I think the Brewers will trade him yet again, but this time, there will be no reunion between the two.

Players who won’t get traded

OF Carlos Gomez – The Brewers should trade him, but I think they’ll wait another year. They need to be able to sell tickets in 2016, in spite of the talent-less roster they’re sure to put together, and people will pay to see Gomez. I feel like that is a terrible reason not to trade someone, especially since his value now is higher than it will be next year, but it’s what the Brewers will presumably do.

C Jonathan Lucroy – Lucroy’s going to stay in Milwaukee as well. The Brewers will have to be unbelievably blown away in order to trade a great catcher with a team-friendly contract like Lucroy. I think Lucroy will be involved in a mid-season trade next season, but not this one.

RP Jonathan Broxton – Making the playoffs and doing well once you’re there is nearly impossible without a quality bullpen. Basically everyone is looking for bullpen depth. By old-school numbers Broxton has been less than quality in 2015, which is why I don’t see him being moved. The Brewers would get next to nothing in return for him. so maybe their mindset is, why bother?

SS Jean Segura – I struggled with Segura. I can easily see him being traded, seeing as how Orlando Arcia is coming for his job. But which team is going to give up what the Brewers demand for him? That’s the big question here. Segura is a young and defensively talented shortstop who hasn’t hit much to date. What’s he really worth? Because that’s unknown, I think Segura stays put.

Could a Jean Segura for Steven Matz trade happen?

Before I start, let me just say I highly doubt a Jean Segura for Steven Matz trade will happen, so please don’t think I’m delusional. It would be an unbelievable trade for the Brewers and a less than stellar one (to put it nicely) for the Mets. There’s a very small chance that New York’s front office would ever green light a trade of this nature. However, even though there’s a small chance, there’s still a chance. And the Mets don’t really have a history of making the smartest acquisitions. Furthermore, they apparently already have interest in Milwaukee’s young shortstop.

According to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, the Brewers and Mets have engaged in trade discussions centered around Segura and third baseman Aramis Ramirez.

Morosi makes no mention of Matz, so this is just pure speculation on my part. I’m honestly just curious if a trade of this magnitude is plausible.

Let’s start with Milwaukee’s side of this trade.

The Brewers are hopefully about to begin a massive rebuild. I mean, if they had any sense at all, they’d trade as many players as possible on the current 25-man roster. Things are bad in Milwaukee, and the next few years will be nothing to smile at either. The time to start over is now. And starting over begins with acquiring young players who can make an impact in the future.

Teams can’t win without pitching, and the Brewers farm system, in terms of arms, is weaker than my pinky toe. The few pitchers I’m excited about, like Kodi Meideiros, are a years away from sniffing the major leagues, which is fine, considering the Brewers are now looking to the future. But the need to load up on young arms is crucial, and Matz (24 years old) could be one of those arms. If it’s going to take the Brewers three years or so to finish the rebuild (three years is on the short side), Matz will just be entering his prime years and his value will be through the roof.

Baseball America ranked left-handed Matz as the Mets’ second-best prospect behind Noah Syndergaard entering the 2015 season. He made his major league debut on June 28, and before going on the disabled list with a partial tear in his left lat muscle, he was doing quite well for a rookie hurler. In his two starts, he struck out about 27% of batters and allowed just a .167 batting average on balls in play. That played into a 1.32 ERA, but a 4.25 FIP and 3.97 xFIP. He walked quite a few hitters and gave up two home runs in his 13.2 innings.

But because his major league stats screams “small sample size,” we can’t and shouldn’t put too much merit into them. Instead, we need to look at how he performed in the minors. In 90.1 innings in Triple-A, Matz pitched to a 2.19 ERA and a 3.44 FIP. Like in the majors, he issued too many free passes (8.6 BB%), but that was really his first run-in with a plethora of walks. He walked just 14 hitters in 71.1 innings in Double-A in ’14, so it’s a bit too early to know if he’ll have control problems as a major-league pitcher.

Matz features a plus fastball and a plus changeup with a curveball thrown in there. When he threw his changeup, he made hitters swing-and-miss 14.3% of the time while up with the Mets. The Brewers would love to have someone of his caliber launch the rebuild.

As far as Segura goes, the Brewers shouldn’t really have a problem unloading him. They have stud shortstop Orlando Arcia, who is figured to be one or two years away, waiting and killing Double-A. And because Segura has not hit a lick with the Brewers (.296 wOBA and 83 wRC+ in his career), I wouldn’t be surprised if the Brewers are ready to move on from him.

Clearly, this trade favors the Brewers, but there are a few reasons why the Mets might want to take the risk and ship off one of their best prospects for a former highly touted prospect in Segura. The first one being that the Mets are already stacked with top-notch pitchers. They have Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom and Syndergaard. Not to mention they have a high-strikeout guy in Rafael Montero in the minors.

New York has pitchers to spare, but what they don’t have is a shortstop. When comparing Segura and current Mets’ shortstops Ruben Tejada and Wilmer Flores, there’s not much difference in their hitting profiles. They’re all below-average hitters who don’t get on base all that often. However, Segura is the superior defender at short over Tejada, has more upside despite being the same age as Tejada and older than Flores, and comes at a very cheap contract price with three more years of club control.

And who knows? Maybe the Mets believe that Segura will turn into a league-average hitter. He did hit consistently well in the minors, and 2014 was a lost season because of the death of his infant son, so we have to take his lackluster performance with a grain of salt. Segura still has a lot of time to live up to his billing. Upside is the keyword here.

If the Mets did send Matz to Milwaukee, my guess is that New York would demand more than just Segura in return. And they’d probably want more than just a throw-in player. Maybe a player like Tyler Thornburg or Corey Knebel would be enough for them, although I doubt the Brewers would part with a young, high upside guy like Knebel. But if the Brewers want someone like Matz, they’ll need to part with a player similar to who I just mentioned.

Segura alone won’t be enough.