Brewers pitcher Corbin Burnes was pulled early from his start last night due to pectoral strain. It is believed to be a minor injury and manager Craig Counsell voiced that Burnes may be able to make his next scheduled start. With that said, seeing a starter go down, even while briefly, is extremely scary considering Brandon Woodruff is already on the shelf for an unknown length of time.
The health of the rotation is a huge factor in how successful this season could end up being. The Brewers have handled the loss of Woodruff well but losing another ace could be devastating. While it seems as though Burnes avoided anything serious, I want to look at pitching options internally, through trade, or free agents. Starting pitching depth is key for every team with playoff aspirations and that depth is already being tested for the Crew.
As exciting as the Brewers farm system is, at least in comparison to recent years, starting pitchers aren’t at the top of the rankings. Milwaukee has some exciting arms but very few have made it past AA. I don’t see this as being the route they’d go if there was a long term need. Here are the most likely internal options to get called up if depth becomes a major concern.
Robert Gasser- LHP
Gasser was part of the return for Josh Hader last year and slots in as the second highest rated pitching prospect in the system. The lefty had impressive strikeout numbers last season but struggled with walks after reaching AAA. Walks hadn’t been a huge concern leading up to that point but he has 7 of them in 9.1 innings so far this season. He is sporting an impressive 1.93 ERA and 1.07 WHIP, and those numbers could be even better if he wasn’t missing the strike zone. If he can refine his mechanics a bit, his stuff is good enough to fill the back of the rotation.
Ethan Small – LHP
Small has been used out of the bullpen so far this season in AAA and the results have been less than ideal. With that said, he had been a starter up until this season. He had a great 2021 which saw him jump from rookie ball all the way to AAA. He’s always had impressive stuff but locating it consistently has been his downfall. He started 2 games for the Brewers last season and although he had 7 K’s in 6.1 innings, he also had 8 walks. He needs to figure out how to repeat his delivery if he’s going to be a reliable option for the Brewers.
The free agent options are not good, and that’s putting in lightly. It’s too be expected, but all of the names are pitchers multiple years removed from their last effective season and age far from on their side. With depth being the main goal, there are a few options that could eat innings and would come with a very low price tag.
Chris Archer – RHP
Chris Archer is a name all Brewer fans should be familiar with as he spent 2 years with the Pirates in 2018 and 2019. He wasn’t overly effective over those years but was an electric arm in the early 2010’s. Since then, he’s been a steady innings eater that has pitched to respectable yet unspectacular ERA’s. His last 2 seasons with Tampa Bay and Minnesota resulted in ERA’s of 4.66 and 4.56 respectively. Signing someone like Archer would be with the hope that he can eat innings and keep the ball in the park. He would have a solid defense behind him and as long as he limits walks, he can keep this team in games every 5th day.
Mike Foltynewicz – RHP
Foltynewicz has been out of baseball for a year and likely was for the best after a rough 2021. He lost 2020 due to an injury and came back the following season which led to a 5.44 ERA. He’s never been an overpowering pitcher but has had some solid seasons in the past. He was a solid arm for the Braves for multiple seasons before the injury cut short his 2020 campaign. He had some off the field issues in 2022 but if all of that is cleaned up, he could be an option for the Brewers. If he’s healthy and able to keep the ball in the park, he has proven to be able to eat innings and is still relatively young (31).
Regardless of the name or quantity of pitchers that could potentially go down, Milwaukee is never going to swing a trade for a flashy name. With that said, there are some pitchers that hold value on teams that are in full rebuild mode. They signed inexpensive pitchers with the hope that they pitch well enough to warrant a return via trade from a competitive team.
Rich Hill – LHP
At 43 years old, Hill has been staving off father time for quite a while. Not only has his career continued much longer than most, but he’s had some of the best years of his career as he’s aged. He signed with the Pirates this off-season for $8,000,000 but they would likely pick up part of the salary depending on what kind of prospect is coming back. Hill has had a solid start to the season outside of one game and does a great job of eating innings. No 43 year old pitcher is going to demand a big return and Pittsburgh knows this hot start won’t last. I know this article is about depth but a rotation of Burnes, Woodruff (when healthy), Peralta, Miley and Hill would be impressive.
Zack Greinke – RHP
Greinke is a name we are familiar with as he was one of the huge additions this team has made through trade in its history. Although he doesn’t carry the star power he once did, he’s still a very serviceable starter. The Royals signed him during the off-season to a 1 year, $8,500,000 deal. Like Hill, that number isn’t what the Brewers would have to pay. Depending on when a team calls, that number will drop as the season goes along. Not too mention the fact he’s 39 and Kansas City would likely be willing to eat some of the salary.
In the end, I don’t think the Brewers sign or trade anyone. It would take an extremely brutal stretch of injuries for them to get desperate enough to sign any of the available free agents and I don’t think the front office would be willing to give up much, if anything, for aging pitchers via trade. That leaves us with internal solutions. Although none of the names look like immediate impact arms, Counsell has gotten creative with young arms in the past and could do it again if health becomes an issue.
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