As the Major League Baseball season progresses, many eyes turn to an important date at the end of the summer: the non-waiver trade deadline. Each season, around this time of year, teams decide whether they are set with their roster, are a piece or two away from the World Series conversation, or need to sell and rebuild.
At the time of writing this article, the Brewers are coming off a close win against the Chicago Cubs. Currently, the Brewers have a 10-10 record and are in the playoff picture. With a roster of former all-stars, plenty of platoon pieces, and one Christian Yelich, it’s hard to tell what the Brewers are thinking going into this season’s deadline. Do they believe they are true contenders, or a couple of years away from contending once again?
There has never been a better time than now to answer this question if you’re the Milwaukee Brewers.
Many have presented different opinions about the potential of this year’s squad. Yet, there are a few facts that most fans and analysts can agree on. The Brewers have plenty of players on one year deals (i.e. Justin Smoak, Jedd Gyorko, Brock Holt, etc.), and this team is producing at a much lower rate than the teams we’ve been accustomed to seeing over the past three seasons. There are going to be a lot of roster spots open this offseason, and general manager David Stearns may be looking to fill a few of those this season to plan for a competitive future. That being said, here are three trade predictions that the Brewers could consider prior to this year’s deadline.
Trade No. 1 – Hosmer Finds New Home In Milwaukee
Brewers acquire 1B Eric Hosmer and a PTBNL or cash considerations from the San Diego Padres in exchange for RHP Zack Brown (Brewers #15 prospect according to MLB.com), 1B/3B Lucas Erceg (Brewers #30 prospect according to MLB.com), and 1B/OF Chad Spanberger
Some may wonder why the Brewers, a small market team, would trade for a benched first baseman making $21 million dollars per year? After all, they already have Justin Smoak, Ryan Braun, Brock Holt, and Jedd Gyorko on the roster to play first base.
Putting his salary aside, Eric Hosmer’s above-average hitting and run-production abilities would provide a major boost to the offense.
Hosmer signed an eight-year, $144 million dollar contract with the San Diego Padres in 2018 after spending the first seven years of his career with the Kansas City Royals. With the Royals, Hosmer was a four-time Gold Glove Award winner, won the Silver Slugger Award in 2017, and was a member of the 2015 AL All-Star team. He also helped the Royals win the World Series that year. Since joining the Padres, Hosmer’s production has taken a slight drop off. He has not had an OPS above league average in his two years there, which he was above in all but two of his seasons with Kansas City.
This can be traced to the ballparks he has called “home” in his time in the league. Transitioning from Kaufmann Stadium to PETCO Park is quite the jump from one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the league to one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the league; Kaufmann has one of the highest ballpark factors according to ESPN’s MLB Park Factor analysis, while PETCO is among the lowest. Despite this, Hosmer has still managed to have a batting average above league average in his two years at PETCO. Miller Park is also one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the league. This change of scenery might be what Hosmer needs to become one of the top first basemen in the league.
Hosmer’s 2020 has been anything but ideal for someone with all-star potential, even at age 30. He has only played in 10 games to start the year, but is hitting .286 with a .924 OPS. Despite those stats, he isn’t even starting for the Padres. Hosmer is sitting behind rookie Jake Cronenworth, who’s batting .311 in 16 games with a .662 slugging percentage. Cronenworth is the Padres #19 prospect according to MLB.com. He has played most of his games at first base this season, but can play all over the infield. The Padres also have Ty France, another young first baseman on their roster, though he hasn’t proved much in his time in the league just yet.
The Return For Hosmer
Going to the Padres in this trade would be two of the Brewers’ top 30 prospects, including pitcher Zack Brown. Brown has been one of the more dominant arms in Milwaukee’s farm system since being drafted by the team. Despite a down 2019 in Triple-A, in which Brown went 3-7 with an ERA above 5.00, his 2018 campaign at Double-A Biloxi was nothing shy of spectacular. That season, Brown went 9-1 with a 2.44 ERA and had a career high 119 strikeouts in 22 games (21 starts). Because of his 2019 struggles, Brown went undrafted in the 2019 Rule 5 Draft, but was a part of the Brewers’ Spring Training roster this season, and is currently on the roster at the team’s alternate training site in Appleton, Wisconsin.
One of the other players going to the Padres in this trade is Lucas Erceg. Erceg is a former NAIA star, hitting 20 home runs in 2016 at Menlo College after transferring from Cal-Berkeley. The Brewers’ second round selection in 2016 has put up promising power numbers in the team’s farm system, and can provide some power for the Padres. The only knock on Erceg would be his fielding, as he has registered over 10 errors every year in the minor leagues.
Lastly, first baseman and outfielder Chad Spanberger would also join the Padres in this trade scenario. Spanberger was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays last offseason for pitcher Chase Anderson. He had a down 2019 season at Double-A New Hampshire, in which he saw a decrease in multiple categories. He showcased his power-hitting ability in 2018, though. That season, he hit 27 home runs and slugged .538. Spanberger has a very good glove, with a .985 career fielding percentage and the versatility to play multiple positions.
Trade No. 2 – Crew Adds Gonzales to Strengthen Rotation
Brewers acquire LHP Marco Gonzales from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for LHP Aaron Ashby (Brewers #6 prospect according to MLB.com) and C Payton Henry (Brewers #17 prospect according to MLB.com)
Gonzales has been arguably the ace on the Mariners’ pitching staff in recent years. The lefty does not strikeout many batters, but has lowered his ERA and increased his WAR in recent years. Gonzales also finished 22nd in quality start percentage in 2019, around pitchers like Trevor Bauer and Noah Syndergaard.
Gonzales has had a good start to the 2020 campaign, going 2-2 with a 3.97 ERA in four starts. He has also accrued career-highs in K/9 and K/BB this year, though the sample size is quite small. With these stats, Gonzales is becoming one of the best pitchers in the AL West, let alone on the Mariners.
Prior to Spring Training, the 28-year-old lefty signed a four-year extension worth $30 million dollars, which kicks in next season. Considering his statistical trends towards dominance, it would be smart to acquire Gonzales, a low-cost pitcher with increasing efficiency. A rotation featuring Brandon Woodruff, Adrian Houser, and Marco Gonzales could become one of the best rotations in the game.
The Return For Gonzales
Like the Eric Hosmer trade, the Mariners would be receiving two top 30 prospects, one of whom being Aaron Ashby. The nephew of former Padres pitcher Andy Ashby is one of the top pitchers in the Brewers’ system. In 34 starts in the minor leagues, Ashby put up a 7-13 record with a 3.53 ERA. He also had a 7.2 H/9 ratio in 2019. Ashby is a three-pitch pitcher with his fastball, slider, and changeup. He is also working on a curveball that he can use at higher levels of competition.
Payton Henry, the other trade piece, was the Brewers’ 2016 sixth-round pick and two-time Gatorade Player of the Year in high school. While his hitting abilities still need some work, Henry has proven to be quite the fielder behind the plate. Henry has a career .992 fielding percentage, and a 36% caught stealing percentage. That CS% would put him in the top 10 active leaders in the MLB. As it stands right now, the Mariners have only one catcher in their top 30 prospects list, Cal Raleigh. With the addition of Henry, the Mariners would add another catcher to that list. Plus, with utilityman Austin Nola as the current catcher, the M’s could use another true catcher in their system as competition for the big league starting spot.
Trade No. 3 – Brewers Bring In Boyd, Workman
Brewers acquire LHP Matthew Boyd and 3B Gage Workman (Tigers #24 prospect according to MLB.com) from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for UTIL Brock Holt, LHP Antoine Kelly (Brewers#7 prospect according to MLB.com), OF Corey Ray (Brewers #11 prospect according to MLB.com), and a PTBNL or cash considerations
A left-handed pitcher with a huge 6’3″ build, throws five pitches, and is still just 29 years old? What more is there to like about Matthew Boyd?
Well, his stats tell a different story.
Boyd currently pitches for the Detroit Tigers, a team that has not been competitive since 2016 when they went 86-75. They also have not made the playoffs since 2014. Boyd was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays, along with two other players, in exchange for former all-star David Price. Though Boyd was not the centerpiece in the trade, he quickly ascended to the Major Leagues. According to Sung Min Kim of fangraphs.com, Boyd cut down on excess weight and even took DNA tests to further improve his physique and his skill set, which worked…sort-of.
While Boyd had a tremendous increase in strikeouts last season (he obtained a career-high 238 strikeouts, 11.9 K/9, 30.2 K%, and 4.76 K/BB in 2019, compared to 159, 8.4, 22.4%, and 3.12 in 2018), he is still a fly ball pitcher, which may not translate well at Miller Park. Boyd gave up a career-high 39 home runs last season, with a 0.54 ground ball/fly ball ratio (0.66 groundout/flyout ratio) and a 14.2% home run percentage to go along with it. This all comes despite his home/away splits, which are confusing as can be. Boyd pitches in a pitcher-friendly park when at home (ESPN’s MLB Park Factor analysis puts Comerica Park in the top third of pitcher-friendly parks) and has allowed more home runs at home in his career than on the road, in six less innings pitched. Despite that, Boyd has a worse career ERA, a higher K/9, and a higher OPS allowed on the road. Boyd still has to work on his skill set, but with three years of arbitration eligibility, the Brewers should consider taking this risk.
The Brewers would also be receiving prospect Gage Workman from Detroit in this trade scenario. Workman, a fourth-round selection this year, stands 6’4″ tall, is a switch hitter, and has tremendous power. Though he racks up plenty of strikeouts, Workman’s power potential, above-average glove, and agility would go a long way at the next level for Milwaukee.
The Return For Boyd
In return, the Tigers receive utilityman Brock Holt, former top prospect Corey Ray, and a left-handed flamethrower in Antoine Kelly. Holt signed a one-year deal with Milwaukee last offseason after spending eight seasons with the Pirates and the Red Sox. Despite his slow start to 2020, the former All-Star and world champion is a hitting machine who plays multiple positions. Detroit is only 3.5 GB of the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central right now. With struggling hitters at almost every position, the Tigers could use a reliable hitter in Holt to keep them in contention this year.
Corey Ray is a 25 year old outfielder in the Brewers’ system that has not lived up to his potential; The former fifth overall selection in 2016 has yet to bat over .250 in a full season in the minor leagues. That being said, Ray showed off his power potential at Double-A Biloxi in 2018, hitting 27 home runs that season. Ray also has a great fielding ability in the outfield; he can play all three outfield positions, and has not had over 10 errors in a season. With the center field position secured by JaCoby Jones, Ray would play one of the corner outfield spots.
Lastly, the Tigers would receive 6’6″ left hander Antoine Kelly in this hypothetical trade. Kelly, a second round selection in 2019, uses his fastball to overpower hitters. This may not translate well at the major league level until he can further develop his slider and changeup. Not many would want to trade away Kelly, but Boyd’s arsenal and potential can provide both immediate and future impact. Kelly may not be available for the next few years at minimum. If the Brewers wish to remain competitive this year, they would need to part ways with Kelly.
Will These Happen?
The likelihood of all three of these trades occurring is slim to none. But, could one, if not two, of these scenarios happen? Certainly! General Manager David Stearns has been the mastermind behind the Brewers’ consecutive playoff appearances in the last two years; it would be shocking to see him not make a trade this year, nor be in talks with other teams. Only time will tell, but if the Brewers remain around the .500 winning percentage level, trade rumors may soon follow.
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