The Brewers and Giants have been in talks about a potential trade that would send lefty Will Smith from San Francisco back to Milwaukee, reports Robert Murray of The Athletic (subscription required). The Giants are particularly interested in second base prospect Mauricio Dubon, per Murray, though he specifies that no deal is close between the two clubs.
It’s not clear that Milwaukee would have any actual interest in dealing Dubon, particularly for a rental. As a player who’s already made his MLB debut after enjoying success in both Double-A and Triple-A, Dubon would be a costly price to pay in exchange for a half-season of a player — even an elite reliever. Dubon is widely considered to be among the Brewers’ five best prospects and boasts a career .300/.335/.479 batting line in 762 plate appearances at Triple-A. That’s not to say such a swap is out of the realm of possibility, however, particularly given how steep the demand for Smith will be. To this point, Smith has been linked to the Cardinals, Dodgers, Rays and Twins, among others. Beyond that, the Giants will have multiple relievers available (Sam Dyson, Tony Watson and perhaps Reyes Moronta), which creates myriad trade scenarios.
Smith is not only the top rental reliever on the market, he’s legitimately been one of the best relievers on the planet in 2019 (while earning an affordable $4.25MM). In 37 1/3 innings for the Giants this season, the southpaw has pitched to an excellent 2.17 ERA with 13.0 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 0.72 HR/9 and a 45.3 percent ground-ball rate. The 30-year-old Smith has struck out a career-high 39.4 percent of the hitters he’s faced in 2019 while demonstrating his best command of the strike zone since 2013.
The Brewers, meanwhile, have seen one of their greatest weapons in 2018 dwindle in 2019 with the decline of their relief corps. Josh Hader leads the team in saves and is posting historic strikeout numbers for a second straight season (50.3 percent), but he’s already allowed as many home runs (nine) in 45 innings as he did last year in 81 1/3 frames. Corey Knebel had Tommy John surgery and won’t pitch in 2019. Jeremy Jeffress was terrific through mid-June, but he missed a couple of weeks early due to shoulder fatigue and has hit a rough patch (7.15 ERA) over the past month.
Smith is far from the Brewers’ only option as they pursue bullpen trades — as is evident when perusing MLBTR’s list of the market’s top 60 trade candidates — but he’s also a known commodity in Milwaukee. The Brewers traded Smith to the Giants prior to the 2016 non-waiver trade deadline in a deal that netted them righty Phil Bickford and catcher Andrew Susac. Bickford, a former first-round pick, has yet to progress beyond Class-A Advanced. Susac was traded to the Orioles for cash after being designated for assignment in February 2018.