The Brewers are the surprise leaders of the National League Central as the All-Star break approaches, and Jon Morosi of MLB.com writes that they’ve begun doing “background work” on White Sox lefty Jose Quintana and Athletics righty Sonny Gray in advance of the non-waiver trade deadline. Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel tweets that any pitcher the Brewers acquire this summer would have to be controllable beyond the current season.
Milwaukee’s place atop the standings was unexpected for most, but it’s not much of a surprise to see them linked to controllable arms. As we noted when listing Milwaukee as a potential fit for Gray last week, assets of this nature mesh with the Brewers’ current status as contenders as well as their longer-term rebuilding vision that’s ahead of schedule thanks to breakouts from Jimmy Nelson, Corey Knebel, Travis Shaw and Eric Thames, among others. That rebuilding effort, it should be noted, has left Milwaukee with one of the game’s top-ranked minor league systems.
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Quintana can be controlled through the 2020 season via a guaranteed $8.85MM salary next season and a pair of club options for the 2019 and 2020 seasons, which are respectively valued at $10.5MM and $11MM. Gray, meanwhile, is earning $3.575MM in 2017 and will be eligible for arbitration in each of the next two winters before reaching free agency upon completion of the 2019 campaign. Either player would easily fit into a Milwaukee payroll that is among the game’s lowest in 2017 and has just $25MM committed to two players (Ryan Braun and Thames) in each of the next two seasons.
Neither Gray nor Quintana has numbers that are immediately eye-catching, but each has shown signs of life after poor starts to the season. In his past six outings, Quintana has averaged 9.1 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9 with a 54.8 percent ground-ball rate, leading to a 2.34 ERA in that span. Gray, meanwhile, has averaged 8.7 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9 with a 51.3 percent grounder rate across his past seven outings, resulting in a 3.45 ERA.
The Brewers have received 104 sensational innings from Nelson this season, but their second-best starter, Chase Anderson, recently landed on the disabled list due to an oblique strain and could miss up to six weeks. Matt Garza has enjoyed a resurgence in 2017 after a pair of sub-par seasons, but Milwaukee’s rotation has been spotty beyond that trio. Zach Davies is second on the team in innings but carries a 4.90 ERA, while Junior Guerra missed the first six weeks of the season and hasn’t come close to last year’s success when healthy. Wily Peralta, meanwhile, has 6.08 ERA through eight starts.
Given those struggles and their reported desire to upgrade the 2017 roster, Milwaukee figures to be linked to a number of rotation options over the next three weeks. (Morosi speculatively links them to Toronto lefty J.A. Happ as well.) The Brewers currently sit 4.5 games ahead of the Cubs and 5.5 games ahead of the Cardinals in the NL Central.