The Brewers and Braves have lined up on a rare, early-season trade involving three players on the teams’ respective 40-man rosters. The Brewers are sending infielder Orlando Arcia to the Braves in return for right-handed relievers Patrick Weigel and Chad Sobotka, per announcements from both teams. Weigel and Sobotka will report to the Brewers’ alternate training site.
While it’s a bit surprising to see a trade of any note taking place so early in the season, Arcia’s role with the Brewers has diminished in recent years. The hope at one point was that he’d be the long-term answer at short, but Luis Urias now looks to be the preferred option at that position for the Brew Crew. Arcia has also seen some time at third base this year, but Travis Shaw made the Brewers’ Opening Day roster and is expected to serve as the primary option at the hot corner.
Arcia is off to a 1-for-11 start to his 2021 season, but he turned in perhaps the best showing of his career last summer when he slashed .260/.317/.416 through 189 plate appearances. That said, it’s somewhat disappointing for that output to represent a career-best showing for Arcia, given that he once ranked among baseball’s top 10 overall prospects at both Baseball America and MLB.com. Arcia’s glove always gave him a decent floor, but his bat simply hasn’t come around as hoped. Through 1876 plate appearances at the big league level, he’s managed just a .244/.293/.364 batting line with 42 homers and 39 steals.
The Braves obviously don’t have a need for an everyday shortstop — Dansby Swanson has the position locked down — but Arcia gives them a utility option with a solid glove. He has 4250 career innings at shortstop, so it’s not a surprise that Atlanta would be comfortable sliding him over to either second base or third base.
Ehire Adrianza had been filling that role with the club, although there’s some uncertainty surrounding his status at the moment. Adrianza left the club to tend to a personal matter recently, and he was reportedly in the process of going through intake testing to return to the club. David O’Brien of The Athletic tweets that Adrianza is expected to return to the club by this weekend.
Arcia joins Adrianza, Johan Camargo and Pablo Sandoval as utility options off the bench for skipper Brian Snitker, although the Braves can’t carry that many backup infielders simultaneously. Both Arcia and Camargo have a minor league option remaining. Arcia is the more expensive of the two, with a $2MM salary to Camargo’s $1.36MM, and it would stand to reason that if the Braves are giving up some pitching to acquire him, he’d get the nod. At some point, the acquisition of Arcia could place the roster spot of one of the other backup infielders in jeopardy.
Depending on how things play out for Arcia in Atlanta, he could be an option for them not only in 2021 but in 2022. He currently has four-plus years of big league service, which means he’ll be controllable through the 2022 season via arbitration.
In exchange for Arcia, the Brewers will pick up a pair of optionable relievers — one of whom once rated as one of the better arms in a pitching-rich Braves system. The 26-year-old Weigel ranked ninth among Braves farmhands on Baseball America’s list back in 2017 and still checked in 14th this past offseason.
His career has been slowed by 2018 Tommy John surgery, but Weigel’s 2019 return from that procedure created some optimism. In 79 innings split between Double-A and Triple-A, the righty worked to a 2.73 ERA — albeit with less-encouraging strikeout and walk rates (21.6 percent and 12.5 percent, respectively). Weigel pitched in just one game with Atlanta last year, allowing a pair of runs in two-thirds of an inning. That’s his lone MLB appearance to date.
Sobotka, 27, has displayed a knack for missing bats but has also battled control issues in parts of three seasons with the Braves. The righty boasts a fastball that averages better than 96 mph and a career 28.8 percent strikeout rate through 47 big league innings, but he’s also walked 14.2 percent of his opponents and plunked three more.
The trade gives the Brewers some flexibility on the pitching staff in a season where most teams figure to need it more than ever before, but it also closes the book on one of the organization’s most promising farmhands in recent memory. They’ll now turn the reins over to Urias, a former top prospect himself, in hopes of better results. While Urias himself hasn’t had any real big league success yet, he’s more than three years younger than Arcia and has a vastly better track record in Triple-A, where he’s put together a .305/.403/.511 line in 867 plate appearances.
MLB Network’s Jon Heyman first reported that the Brewers were in talks to trade Arcia. FanSided’s Robert Murray reported that a deal with an unknown club had been reached. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that the Braves were acquiring Arcia, and MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reported that Weigel and Sobotka were headed to the Brewers.