The Brewers have designated right-hander Phil Bickford for assignment, per a club announcement. His spot on the 40-man roster will go to right-hander Zack Godley, whose contract has been selected from the team’s alternate training site. Manager Craig Counsell indicated last night that Godley’s contract would be selected, and outfielder Corey Ray would be optioned, but the corresponding 40-man move was only revealed this morning.
Bickford, 25, was the No. 10 overall pick by the Blue Jays back in 2013. He opted to attend college rather than sign, but he was again a first-rounder once eligible, going to the Giants with the No. 18 overall selection. San Francisco traded Bickford and catching prospect to Milwaukee in exchange for lefty Will Smith back in 2016, but Bickford has yet to establish himself as a viable big league arm. He’s tossed just two innings in the Majors — one in 2020 and one in 2021 — allowing a total of six runs.
Bickford’s path to the big leagues hasn’t exactly been a straightforward one. He served a 50-game suspension after a second positive test for a drug of abuse in 2017. Upon returning, he was struck in the hand by a batted ball, fracturing both the pinkie and ring finger in his pitching hand, which required surgery to repair. Because of that suspension and surgery, Bickford totaled just 51 2/3 innings from 2017-18.
A return to the mound in a bullpen role in 2019 proved quite fruitful, when Bickford notched a 2.48 ERA and a whopping 41.1 percent strikeout rate in Class-A Advanced, but the lack of minor league games in 2020 and so far in 2021 hasn’t done any favors for his development. All in all, he sports a 2.98 ERA in 226 2/3 frames, but Bickford will also turn 26 this summer and hasn’t pitched above High-A with the exception of those two MLB innings.
The Brewers will have a week to trade Bickford or attempt to pass him through outright waivers. Given his former pedigree, a solid minor league track record and a pair of minor league options remaining, it’s possible that another club will look at him as an intriguing project.