Tag Archives: Boston Red Sox

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.

Advertisements

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?

Garin Cecchini is a low-risk, high-reward move for the Brewers

When a team is in the midst of a rebuild, as the Milwaukee Brewers are, acquiring talent at a low price is a must, especially when said team is strapped for cash. I mean, let’s face it, the Brewers aren’t the Dodgers. They don’t have money to just give away. Instead, they are forced to find cheap talent and take fliers on thus far underachieving players. Rebuilding teams’ goal is to find that hidden gem, that player who teams have given up on, the player with hidden value.

A player just like Garin Cecchini.

Cecchini was once one of Boston’s most-prized prospects. Before the 2014 season, he was ranked the 74th prospect in all of baseball. With strong on-base skills and solid defense at third base, many in Boston were excited about this young kid. But after a 2015 season in Triple-A, a season in which Cecchini was absolutely atrocious, the Red Sox quickly threw in the towel and traded him the Brewers for cash considerations. That’s right. Cash considerations. A former top prospect being moved for cash. What a world we live in.

According to the depth chart on the Brewers’ website, Jonathan Villar is currently the club’s starter at third base. I highly doubt that will be the case come Opening Day. To me, only Cecchini and Will Middlebrooks — also a former Red Sox — have a real shot at the starter’s job. With Middlebrooks, however, we know what we’re going to get from him; marginal defense with a very low OBP. He’s more of a depth player than anything else at this point in his career. Cecchini can be more than that, though.

Cecchini will be 25 just a few weeks after the 2016 season starts, which means he’s still relatively young among baseball standards. And if you forget his year last season, he’s been a damn good minor-league baseball player. His biggest skill set is being able to get on base, something he’s done at a .340 mark or higher in every year of his minor-league career (excluding 2015). That includes a .420 OBP in 295 plate appearances in Double-A. The dude clearly knows how to get on base. Once he’s on base, he can steal a few bags, too, He stole 51 bases in Single-A in 2012.

He has almost no power, which is odd for a third baseman. Usually the hot corner requires somewhat of a home run threat. But the fact that he’s a left-handed hitter surely helps him as Milwaukee’s roster has a plethora of righties. Cechinni also won’t kill you defensively. He’s no gold glove, but he can get the job done. He’ll surely be better than Juan Francisco.

The main reason I’m not concerned about Cechinni’s lackluster performance in 2015 is because he actually decreased his K rate. Plus, while his BB% did drop, it wasn’t overly significant. Last year Cecchini was plagued by an abnormally low BABIP, and his stats suffered because of it. I don’t see that happening again.

By no means do I think Cechinni will be the next star in Milwaukee, but he has a chance to redeem himself and his career and become a good player. The Brewers have nothing at all to lose by acquiring him while they have everything to gain. There’s no risk involved here. Moves like this are exactly what GM David Stearns needs to continue doing. This is what rebuilding is.

To quote 50 Cent, Garin Cecchini could be “the diamond in the dirt that ain’t been found.”