In previewing the Brewers’ 2016 lineup yesterday, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported a number of different trade-related items, noting that in addition to catcher Jonathan Lucroy, outfielder Khris Davis has drawn some interest on the trade market this offseason.
Clubs looking for offense in the outfield have contacted Milwaukee about Davis, per Haudricourt, and the team does have a logical in-house replacement in the form of Domingo Santana, who was acquired in the Carlos Gomez trade this past summer. Haudricourt notes that Santana currently projects to bounce around the outfield, seeing time at all three positions, although that role will probably limit his at-bats. While some might suggest Santana should simply handle center field on an everyday basis, it’s worth noting that his glove profiles better in an outfield corner than in center field. A rebuilding club like the Brewers could probably get away with playing him in center despite the lackluster results, but with both Davis and Ryan Braun under club control through 2019 (or, in Braun’s case, 2020), there’s no immediate opening for regular at-bats for Santana in the long-term.
Davis, who turned 28 in December, has batted .250/.315/.494 in two-and-a-half seasons at the Major League level, belting 60 home runs in 321 games/1142 plate appearances. That power production, while impressive, figures to begin earning him some notable salaries next offseason when he hits arbitration, though, so there’s some logic to the Brewers moving him while he still has one highly affordable pre-arbitration season remaining. While he grades out as a below-average defender in left field, Davis nonetheless hit 27 homers in 440 plate appearances last season and has posted relatively even platoon splits throughout his career to this point. Haudricourt notes that Davis would be moved “if the right offer” came along.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Haudricourt also writes that the Brewers “would not hesitate” to move Ryan Braun, should a “sensible” offer present itself. Braun is entering the first season of a five-year, $105MM extension this season, and while a PED suspension and some injuries have brought down his reputation somewhat, the 32-year-old was outstanding at the plate in 2015, batting .285/.356/.498 with 25 home runs and 24 stolen bases. Braun’s glovework was less impressive, although Defensive Runs Saved felt that he turned in much better results in his second season as a right fielder than in his first. Regardless, $21MM per year over the next five seasons would represent a hefty commitment to a player entering his age-32 season, especially considering the fact that he underwent lower back surgery this offseason and has twice had to undergo a cryotherapy treatment for a damaged nerve in his right thumb.
Turning to Lucroy, Haudricourt writes that teams “continue to inquire” about the affordable catcher, but GM David Stearns has as many reasons to retain Lucroy as he does trade him at this point. Lucroy’s value is down somewhat on the heels of a season that was slowed by a fractured toe and ended with concussion problems, so there’s definitely some sense in hanging onto the 29-year-old and letting him rebuild some of that value. Given his $4MM salary in 2016 and $5.25MM club option for the 2017 season, there’s little financial harm in doing so, and Lucroy would still be a desirable trade piece this summer. Additionally, as Haudricourt notes, the Brewers don’t have a young catching prospect knocking on the door, as they do at shortstop in Orlando Arcia. Of course, holding Lucroy does carry the risk of further injury or of the once-excellent backstop simply not returning to form and thereby further diminishing his trade value.
And lastly, having already mentioned Arcia, Haudricourt points out that his proximity to the Major Leagues will soon force the Brewers into a decision of sorts. Arcia is the shortstop of the future in Milwaukee, which means that Jean Segura could either be traded or moved to second base in the near future. If the latter outcome proves to be the Brewers’ desired course of action, then a trade of second baseman Scooter Gennett becomes a possibility. While some might wonder about the possibility of a platoon between the two — Gennett, after all, has never hit left-handed pitching much — Segura doesn’t have the type of strong platoon splits one would like to see in a platoon partner for Gennett. With Segura projected to earn $3.2MM this season, he’d make for the more logical trade candidate in Milwaukee, from my perspective, if and when Arcia does force his way into the big league picture, which could happen as soon as this summer.