The Pirates and Brewers have agreed to a trade sending outfielder Troy Stokes Jr. and righty Jandel Gustave from Pittsburgh to Milwaukee in exchange for 17-year-old catcher Samuel Escudero, according to a team announcement out of Milwaukee. Stokes and Gustave have both been assigned to Triple-A Nashville for the time being.
It’s a bit of an oddball trade between two division rivals, as neither Stokes nor Gustave are on the 40-man roster for the rebuilding Pirates. Stokes, 25, was originally a fourth-round pick by the Brewers back in 2014 but made his way to the Pirates via a pair of waiver claims over the past couple seasons. He made his MLB debut earlier this season with Pittsburgh, appearing in eight games and 2-for-18, but he’s since been outrighted off the 40-man roster.
Stokes hasn’t been hitting particularly well in Triple-A Indianapolis since being removed from the 40-man roster. He’s logged 29 games and 84 plate appearances with a tepid .169/.298/.310 slash, dropping his career slash at the Triple-A level to .221/.333/.372 in 465 plate appearances. He’ll give some upper-level outfield depth to a team that traded Billy McKinney to the Mets last month and currently has Lorenzo Cain on the injured list. Milwaukee also recently designated outfielder Derek Fisher for assignment, and if he ends up elsewhere that’d only further deplete their outfield depth.
For the Brewers, the acquisition of Gustave could be the greater focus. Milwaukee’s acquisition of Willy Adames from the Rays bolstered its defense and lineup, but the Brewers had to part with righties J.P. Feyereisen and Drew Rasmussen in order to get that deal done. Righty Trevor Richards came to Milwaukee in that deal and has thrown well, but they’re down a reliever on their depth chart following that swap.
President of baseball ops David Stearns suggested in an interview with The Athletic’s Will Sammon this week that looking for some complementary bullpen arms might be on the to-do list as the deadline approaches. “Where we’ve struggled is finding those complementary players who can round out a pitching staff and provide consistent performance,” Stearns told Sammon.
Acquiring Gustave certainly seems to mesh with Stearns’ comments. The former Astros and Giants righty was once a prospect of some note, going with the top pick in the 2014 Rule 5 Draft. Tommy John surgery limited him to five innings with the ’Stros in 2017 and wiped out his entire 2018 campaign. He made it back to the big leagues with the Giants in 2019 and tossed 24 1/3 innings of 2.96 ERA ball, albeit with a lowly 14.1 percent strikeout rate and a 9.1 percent walk rate.
Gustave didn’t pitch in the Majors last year. Though he started the season on the Giants’ 40-man roster, he wasn’t added to their initial 60-man player pool and was designated for assignment in early August. He inked a minor league deal with Pittsburgh over the winter and has thrown well in Indianapolis, holding opponents to six runs on a dozen hits and five walks with 18 punchouts through 15 frames (3.60 ERA).
While Gustave hasn’t missed too many bats in the big leagues, he’s whiffed 29 percent of his opponents in Triple-A this season and 23 percent in parts of three career campaigns there. The right-hander carries a 3.43 ERA in 44 2/3 innings at the MLB level and a 4.39 mark in 98 1/3 innings of Triple-A work. At the very least, he gives the Brewers another depth arm with some experience should they need to tap further into the minor league reservoir.
As for the Pirates’ return, there’s not much publicly available data on the young backstop. The Brewers signed him as an amateur out of Venezuela back in January, and the Pirates have assigned him to their affiliate in the Dominican Summer League. Given that the Bucs are trading away a player who cleared waivers a month ago and a second non-roster player who was acquired on a minor league contract, getting even a far-off lottery ticket who’s just setting out on his pro career is a nice pickup.