Milwaukee Brewers Rumors

Milwaukee Brewers trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

Central Notes: Harris, Verlander, Lucroy

The Cardinals are set to promote righty reliever Mitch Harris on Tuesday, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets. When Harris makes his first pitch with the Cardinals, he’ll become the first graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy to pitch in the big leagues in nearly a century, as Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan wrote last month. The Cardinals drafted the 29-year-old Harris in the 13th round all the way back in 2008, but Harris spent several years honoring his commitment to the Navy, traveling the world as a weapons officer. The Navy didn’t allow him to join the Cardinals organization until the 2013 season. Once he did, though, the Cards moved him quickly through the minors, and after a handful of innings at Triple-A Memphis, he appears set to make his big-league debut. Perhaps that will come in Washington, where the Cardinals play tomorrow through Thursday. Here are two more quick notes from the Central divisions.

  • Justin Verlander‘s MRI last Thursday confirmed the Tigers‘ initial diagnosis that he has a strained right triceps, James Schmehl of MLive.com writes. He won’t throw anymore until his arm stops feeling sore. Schmehl notes that Verlander is currently on the disabled list for the first time in his ten-year career. He has not yet pitched this season.
  • In other injury news, Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy is headed to the disabled list with a broken left toe, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy tweets. The loss of one of their superstars is an awful blow to a Brewers team that’s already in a 2-10 hole this season. Lucroy was hitting .167/.250/.214 in 48 plate appearances in 2015. Martin Maldonado will, presumably, handle the bulk of the Brewers’ catching duties in his place.

Rosenthal’s Latest: Tillman, Gomez, Beltre

Here’s the latest from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, via a video on FOX Sports:

  • When the Orioles discussed an extension with Chris Tillman this spring, Tillman favored a contract similar to Lance Lynn‘s three-year, $22MM deal with the Cardinals. That contract did not buy out any of Lynn’s free-agent years. The Orioles were interested in a longer deal for Tillman that would have delayed his free agency eligibility.
  • The Brewers‘ poor start suggests that they could be sellers at the trade deadline, and Rosenthal notes that they could deal Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza, Gerardo Parra or even Aramis Ramirez (despite Ramirez’s plans to retire at the end of the season). A player who could bring a much greater return, though, is Carlos Gomez, who is signed to a bargain contract the next two years.
  • The Rangers could trade anyone if they fall out of contention, but it might be somewhat tricky for them to deal Adrian Beltre, who has limited no-trade protection and who has about $34MM left on his contract. Beltre also recently turned 36 and is off to a slow .149/.167/.298 start offensively. One might think that would only impede a trade if it were to continue deep into the summer, however — Beltre has a long history of providing excellent value both offensively and defensively.

NL Central Notes: Bryant, Soriano, Gomez, Lackey

While some have suggested that the Cubs preferred Mark Appel to Kris Bryant in the 2013 draft, scouting director Jason McLeod explains to Phil Rogers of MLB.com that that isn’t the case; the Cubs only planned to select Appel if the Astros selected Bryant with the No. 1 overall pick that season. Rogers spoke with McLeod and cross-checker Sam Hughes about the decision to draft Bryant and how he moved up the Cubs’ draft board with a strong performance in his junior year at San Diego. McLeod admitted that the Cubs had concerns about Bryant’s hit tool, but Hughes went to bat strongly for Bryant after watching him and other top draft bats, including Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier. Most pundits expected the pitching-hungry Cubs to select on of Appel or Jon Gray — whichever the Astros didn’t draft — but McLeod said the Cubs preferred to take a volume approach to pitching rather than select one of the top arms. “History tells us pitching comes from all different parts of the Draft,” said McLeod. With Bryant’s debut nearing, Rogers notes that perhaps one of the best decisions under the Cubs’ new front office has been defying the widely expected decision to select a pitcher in favor of Bryant’s bat.

Here’s more from the NL Central…

  • Reds GM Walt Jocketty tells John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that despite the team’s bullpen issues, he hasn’t reached out to agent Scott Boras about Rafael Soriano, and Boras hasn’t contacted the Reds about Soriano (Twitter link). Jocketty feels that Soriano would be too expensive, according to Fay. While Soriano may not be in the mix, the Reds certainly need to pursue some form of upgrade. Kevin Gregg has allowed runs in each of his four outings (two runs in three and one in another), and the team’s collective 4.55 ERA is the fifth-highest in baseball. The group’s FIP is even worse, as no team sports a worse mark than Cincinnati’s 5.10.
  • Carlos Gomez will be placed on the 15-day disabled list with a small defect or tear in his right hamstring, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. He has already received a cortisone shot. Earlier today, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy wrote that Gomez was back in Milwaukee for an MRI after feeling a “pop” while running to first base in the ninth inning of last night’s game. The Brewers will need to make a roster move in order to replace Gomez, and as McCalvy notes, Shane Peterson is the only outfielder on the 40-man roster that is not in the Majors.
  • Cardinals right-hander John Lackey has every intention of playing in 2015, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. “I wouldn’t be pitching this year if I didn’t plan on pitching next year,” Lackey told Nightengale. The veteran Lackey is, of course, playing for the league minimum in 2015 because of a clause in his previous five-year, $82.5MM pact with the Red Sox that added an additional year at that rate in the event of a significant elbow injury. (Lackey had Tommy John surgery midway through that deal.) The Redbirds acquired him from the BoSox last year in exchange for Joe Kelly and Allen Craig.


California Notes: Ross, A’s, Padres, Shortstops

The Giants and Padres engaged in an extreme pitchers’ duel on Thursday night, needing a full 12 innings to decide a 1-0 Giants victory.  Pinch-hitter Justin Maxwell‘s RBI single in the top of the 12th proved to be the difference in a game that saw both clubs combine for only 13 total hits.  Here’s some more news from teams from the Golden State…

  • Newly-acquired Athletics outfielder Cody Ross told reporters (including MLB.com’s Jane Lee) that A’s were one of multiple teams who got in touch with him almost immediately after the Diamondbacks released the veteran over the weekend.  Ross saw Oakland as an ideal fit since he wants to play for a contender, and he now sees his release as a positive after he initially felt “blindsided,” “upset” and “bitter” about being let go so suddenly by the D’Backs.
  • Ross also noted that the Giants were one of the teams who had a “little bit” of interest in signing him, and The San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea confirms that this was the case, but the team didn’t have an available roster spot.  Ross, of course, played for the Giants from August 2010 through the 2011 season and played a big role in the club’s 2010 World Series title with an MVP performance in the NLCS.
  • With the Padres looking for shortstop help, Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron sees the Brewers’ Jean Segura as a realistic trade target.  Cameron speculates that a deal of Segura for Odrisamer Despaigne, Brandon Maurer and one of Alexi Amarista/Clint Barmes could give both teams an overall roster upgrade.  Beyond Segura, Cameron doesn’t see the likes of Troy Tulowitzki, Elvis Andrus, Starlin Castro or Jose Ramirez as plausible San Diego trade targets for a variety of reasons.
  • For the 20th straight season, the Padres have signed Matt LaChappa to a minor league contract, a move that gives the southpaw a regular income and access to health insurance, USA Today’s Ted Berg reports.  Steve Bischeff of the Orange County Register first wrote about LaChappa in 2005, detailing the second-round pick in the 1993 draft suffered a heart attack while warming up before a minor league game in 1996.  A virus around his heart led to a second attack and LaChappa is now confined to a wheelchair, but the Padres have continually renewed his minor league deal every year since the incident.
  • In news from earlier today, the Dodgers acquired Ryan Webb in a trade with the Orioles, while the A’s lost Alex Hassan to the Rangers on a waiver claim.

Extension Notes: Cueto, Zimmermann, Duda, Melvin

We just heard that the Angels and Huston Street could continue their efforts to find a new deal before he hits the open market, but the same may not be true of several other prominent free agents-to-be. Here’s the latest:

  • Johnny Cueto and the Reds are not expected to reach agreement, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets, confirming the expectations from recent reports. As Cincinnati takes the field, it appears the start of Cueto’s last year with the club.
  • The same holds true of Jordan Zimmermann and the Nationals, who as Morosi tweets never made progress on a new deal that could have kept him in D.C.
  • Mets GM Sandy Alderson says that he does not foresee restarting talks with first baseman Lucas Duda, as Matt Ehalt of the Record tweets. Of course, it seems likely that Alderson is merely referring to the notion that the team will not look to re-open talks during the coming season, not that it sees no future possibility of discussing a longer-term arrangement.
  • Meanwhile, it appears that an extension is all but a formality for the Brewers and GM Doug Melvin, as Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports (Twitter links). Owner Mark Attanasio says that he is still talking about a new deal with Melvin, with the major question being how long the veteran executive wants to stay at the helm.

Pirates Acquire Hunter Morris From Brewers

The Pirates have acquired first baseman Hunter Morris from the Brewers in exchange for a player to be named later, the clubs announced. The 26-year-old had already been outrighted over the offseason.

Morris has spent most of his time at Triple-A over the last two seasons, slashing .260/.315/.453 and hitting 35 home runs in 902 plate appearances. He earned the organization’s minor league player of the year award back in 2012. A left-handed hitter, Morris will presumably land with the Bucs’ top affiliate.


Brewers Re-Sign Chris Perez

The Brewers have re-signed righty Chris Perez to a minor league deal, the club announced. Milwaukee had released Perez on Sunday.

Perez, a former closer with the Indians, seemingly took some time to look around for a big league opportunity before deciding to return. At least one team, the Twins, was approached but declined the chance to add him, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets.

In spite of his solid results this spring, Perez was passed over for an Opening Day roster spot with Milwaukee. Of course, the 29-year-old has struggled to keep runs off the board in each of the last two seasons, with both results and advanced metrics painting a less-than-promising picture.


Offseason In Review: Milwaukee Brewers

Although the Brewers made a few significant moves this offseason, they hold about the same cards they did last year — too strong to fold, too weak to raise.

Major League Signings

Trades And Claims

Extensions

  • None

Notable Minor League Signings

Notable Losses

Needs Addressed

The Brewers entered the offseason in a precarious place. They fell apart down the stretch in 2014 and didn’t necessarily look like they’d contend in 2015. But they were also too talented to dismiss that possibility entirely, and didn’t appear to have enough minor-league talent to be able to get through a quick rebuild. Their offseason seems to reflect their situation — they made one significant trade to exchange a veteran for young talent, but their other key deal actually added a veteran. They seem to be trying to win as many games as possible in 2015 while still aiming for 2016 and beyond. That is, of course, what many teams are doing — going for it and and rebuilding have both become passé, with organizations trying to position themselves for playoff runs both now and in the future. But the thin line the Brewers are walking is one that makes some degree of sense for them, regardless of what’s happening elsewhere.

The biggest move of the Brewers’ offseason was their trade of Yovani Gallardo and $4MM to Texas, which netted them shortstop Luis Sardinas and pitchers Corey Knebel and Marcos Diplan. None of those players will make the Brewers’ Opening Day roster. Sardinas has significant upside if he can develop offensively, given his speed and excellent defense. Even for a 21-year-old with time to improve, however, that might be a tall order, given what he’s shown so far in the minors: good batting averages, but with no power and few walks. Even if he doesn’t improve much, though, he at least has a future as a utility infielder.

The hard-throwing Knebel was a first-round pick in 2013 who zoomed through the minors with the Tigers and then came to the Rangers organization in the Joakim Soria deal. He’s racked up huge strikeout totals everywhere he’s gone and might eventually become a late-inning option in the big leagues, although his upside is somewhat limited since he’s a reliever. Diplan, meanwhile, is a small Dominican righty with a good fastball who the Rangers gave a $1.3MM bonus in 2013. He’s promising, but he’s 18 and so far from the Majors that it’s impossible to guess what he’ll become.

In the end, then, the Brewers got three interesting pieces. None of them are sure bets, but the Brewers likely didn’t expect to get any blue-chip prospects, given that Gallardo was only one year from free agency. And more broadly, Gallardo gave the Brewers more of something they don’t necessarily need right now: adequacy. Gallardo, whose strikeout rate declined for the second straight year in 2014, has become more of an innings-eater than an ace. As we’ll see below, the Brewers have plenty of players who project to be good, but not enough who project to be more than that, and that goes for their rotation as well as the rest of the team.

The Brewers’ other big move of the offseason was to send Marco Estrada to Toronto for Adam Lind. Lind should solve what’s been a persistent problem at first base, where they haven’t had a reliable regular since Corey Hart in 2012. Lind comes relatively cheap, too, at $7.5MM in 2015 and either an $8MM option or a $500K buyout the following year. To get two years of a hitter who produced a .321/.381/.479 line last season, even if he won’t help much defensively and is likely to take a step backward in 2015, was a coup for Milwaukee, particularly given that Estrada isn’t a high-wattage arm and is only one year away from free agency.

The Brewers also added lefty Neal Cotts for $3MM, a deal roughly in line with his talent. The three-run jump in Cotts’ ERA from 2013 to 2014 suggests an extreme decrease in performance that wasn’t exactly there, but his peripherals did take a step backward, and he’s 35. He isn’t a specialist, however — he’s good against lefties and not bad against righties, so the Brewers will have some flexibility with how they use him. He’s not Zach Duke, the pitcher he’s effectively replacing, but he’ll probably be worth about a half a win above replacement, which makes his deal a reasonable one.

The big move the Brewers made to address their bullpen was to re-sign Francisco Rodriguez for two years and $13MM. The Brewers were already set to pay a former closer, Jonathan Broxton, $9MM in 2015, and they easily could have had Broxton take over the closer’s job and spent the money elsewhere. $13MM for Rodriguez wasn’t a massive overpay, however — in fact, K-Rod’s $13MM total fell $1MM below the contract MLBTR’s Jeff Todd projected at the beginning of the offseason. (Whether the Brewers should have traded for Broxton’s contract in the first place is a different question, although that happened before this offseason. Without Broxton on the books, the Brewers might have found more room to do something really creative this offseason, or to sign someone who projected to be a big bullpen upgrade, like Andrew Miller.)

Anyway, increasingly, even veteran relievers without significant closing experience get contracts in the $10MM-$15MM range, like the lefty Duke (who got three years and $15MM from the White Sox) or righty Pat Neshek (who got two years and $12.5MM from the Astros). The Brewers could perhaps have tried to re-sign Duke rather than re-signing Rodriguez and signing Cotts, but Rodriguez has a much longer track record of success than Duke does and is coming off a perfectly good season in which he posted 9.7 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 over 68 innings. If the Brewers paid extra for his ability to get saves, it wasn’t by much. Getting what is effectively a $4MM option for 2017 ($6MM minus a $2MM buyout) was a nice touch, too.

Questions Remaining

The Brewers have options that are at least reasonable at every position throughout their lineup and rotation, but only a few players who are likely to be standouts — Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy, and Ryan Braun, who’s young and talented enough to rebound after having thumb surgery in the offseason to fix a nerve problem that bothered him in 2014. Gomez and Lucroy especially stand out as stars who are both very good and dramatically underpaid.

Beyond that, though, it’s hard to say where the Brewers’ upside will come from, particularly in their lineup. Lind, Jean Segura, Aramis Ramirez, Khris Davis and Scooter Gennett (who has second base mostly to himself now that the Brewers declined their option on Rickie Weeks) are all capable, but it’s hard to imagine any of them  producing, say, 3 WAR. (Segura might be a possibility, though his performance last season, although it was a year touched by the tragic death of his young son, was probably more in line with the career patterns he established in the minors than his breakout 2013 season was.) This doesn’t mean these players aren’t valuable. Lind, for example, provides a good bat at a position where the Brewers didn’t previously have one. But they’re complementary players on a team that doesn’t have enough stars.

The rotation has similar problems — everyone in it projects to be competent, but no one projects to be a standout. Matt Garza‘s peripherals have declined in the past two seasons, and he isn’t as good as he was with the Cubs. Kyle Lohse has been essentially the same pitcher for the past several seasons, but he’s 36 and isn’t an ace. That leaves Mike Fiers (a 29-year-old soft-tosser who was mysteriously brilliant in 71 2/3 big-league innings last year), Wily Peralta and youngster Jimmy Nelson as the Brewers’ best hopes of providing very high-quality innings. (Fiers had shoulder issues this spring but figures to be fine to start the season.)

The 2015 Brewers figure to have a high floor, then — they have talent, and it’s hard to see them losing, say, 92 games. While predicting how a season will go is a notoriously inexact science, though, it isn’t easy to imagine scenarios where they win 92.

Deal Of Note

USATSI_8011999_154513410_lowresMutual options aren’t often exercised, but Aramis Ramirez and the Brewers each exercised their ends of a mutual option this offseason, and Ramirez is back in Milwaukee for one more year, after which he plans to retire. Personal reasons surely played a role in Ramirez’s decision to stay. “I’m comfortable here,” he told the Journal Sentinel’s Todd Rosiak at the time. Rosiak also quoted Brewers manager Ron Roenicke noting that Ramirez was “set financially.” Ramirez’s decision to accept his end of the option was, therefore, not primarily financially driven.

The structure of the option, however, also made it something close to financially rational for player and team. The $14MM option contained a large buyout of $4MM on the Brewers’ side. So for Ramirez, the option was effectively a decision on a one-year, $14MM contract. The $4MM buyout was a sunk cost for the Brewers, so the decision from their perspective was effectively a one-year, $10MM deal. So even if Ramirez hadn’t been thinking about retiring, it would have made sense for both sides to exercise the option if Ramirez’s market value had been between $10MM and $14MM (and if Ramirez hadn’t expected to get a lucrative multi-year deal if he rejected it). Ramirez produced 1.8 fWAR last year and projects to produce similarly next year. Given the cost of wins on the free-agent market, that puts him near or in that $10MM-$14MM range. Of course, Ramirez probably could have gotten a multi-year deal on the open market, but it’s interesting that, for the price of a single year, the option made good financial sense for both sides.

Overview

The Brewers aren’t particularly old, but they’re still essentially an aging team rather than a dynamic or young one. They’re victims of their own success — they’ve won 80 or more games in seven of the past ten seasons, so they’ve only had one top-ten draft pick since taking Braun fifth overall in 2005. They also haven’t generally been top bidders for international talent. As a result, their farm system, which previously had produced top players like Braun, Lucroy, Gallardo and Prince Fielder, hasn’t been as bountiful lately.

The Brewers did add Dominican infielder Gilbert Lara for $3.2MM last year, though, and also significantly improved their collection of minor-leaguers by drafting Kodi Medeiros, Jacob Gatewood and Monte Harrison and trading for Sardinas, Knebel and Diplan. A minor deal for Kyle Wren (a speedy outfielder who might one day become a useful bench player) also moved the needle a bit too.

In, say, two years, the Brewers could have an exciting group of prospects. For now, though, they’re a bit stuck, the result of a farm system that, following the 2013 season, Baseball America had ranked the least likely of any organization to provide high-quality help in the near term. Most of the Brewers’ best prospects are still far from the Majors. As I noted in my preview of their offseason, that makes rebuilding a difficult proposition, and the their big-league team could still contend if it catches some breaks. So what the Brewers did this offseason made sense — they didn’t rebuild, but they also didn’t do anything that would get in the way of rebuilding in the future. For example, they added Lind without giving up anyone likely to help them beyond 2015.

If they get off to a slow start in 2015, however, the Gallardo trade could be a preview of what’s to come, with pitchers like Lohse and Broxton potentially on the block. Again, though, there’s a case that more radical trades don’t make much sense — the Brewers have few payroll commitments beyond 2015 and could find a way to cobble together an interesting 2016 team even without much in the way of reinforcements from their farm system.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Central Notes: Garcia, Marcum, Brewers, Ramirez

After visiting with a team physician, Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia has been diagnosed with arm fatigue, writes Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. Garcia is still trying to work his way back from surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. He was on track to earn the fifth slot in the rotation, but will now miss the opening week. As Langosch noted, former Cardinal Chris Carpenter failed in his return bid from the surgery, although he was older at the time. One of Carlos Martinez or Marco Gonzales will likely replace Garcia.

  • Indians pitcher Shaun Marcum will report to Triple-A to start the season, tweets Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He’s currently still in big league camp and was informed last Tuesday that he would not make the Opening Day roster. He last appeared in the majors in 2013 with the Mets. He made 14 appearances and 12 starts with a 5.29 ERA.
  • Brewers GM Doug Melvin does not anticipate adding any players from outside of the organization for the Opening Day roster, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Rather, all roster decisions will pertain to players already in the system.
  • The Brewers and Aramis Ramirez will meet to discuss how he’ll be used this season, reports Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Leg injuries plagued Ramirez last year, so the thought is that frequent rest could improve his durability. The current plan is to sit him once a week with other off days built in as needed. Of course, no plan will be immutable. Ramirez and the Brewers will respond to how he feels and matchups.

 


Brewers Release Chris Perez

The Brewers have released reliever Chris Perez, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Perez was in camp on a minor league deal. He was granted his release rather than re-assigned so he can look for another big league opportunity (also Twitter).

Perez, 29, pitched 46 innings for the Dodgers in 2014. He posted a 4.27 ERA with 7.58 K/9 and 4.86 BB/9. The former Indians closer has locked down 133 career saves, but he began to struggle with command and control in 2013. His stuff has remained largely intact, including a 94 mph fastball. He pitched to a 2.70 ERA this spring with five strikeouts and three walks in 10 innings.