The Brewers added to their bullpen late Monday night, announcing a deal with the Rangers to bring in Matt Bush. Texas receives infielder Mark Mathias and minor league pitcher Antoine Kelly in the deal.
Bush has had a strong season out of the Texas bullpen. The 36-year-old hurler made the Opening Day roster and has tossed 36 2/3 innings through 40 outings, posting a 2.95 ERA. He’s fanned nearly 30% of batters faced on an above-average 12.4% swinging strike rate while averaging north of 97 MPH on his heater. Bush generates top-of-the-scale spin on his four-seam fastball and has drawn strong results on his breaking ball.
When healthy, Bush is a plenty appealing bullpen piece. He’s pitched in parts of five seasons for Texas, posting a cumulative 3.34 ERA across 177 2/3 frames with above-average strikeout and walk numbers. The issue for the righty has been staying healthy. He pitched just four innings at the big league level between 2019-21, losing the majority of that stretch to elbow issues — including a July 2019 Tommy John surgery.
Bush missed a couple weeks earlier in the year with forearm soreness, but he’s been healthy for the past few weeks. He’ll add an affordable and generally effective power arm to the middle innings mix for manager Craig Counsell, and he’s more than a short-term pickup. While Bush is already into his mid-30s, he’s arbitration-eligible for two seasons beyond this year. Building off a modest $825K platform salary, he’d be a low-cost bullpen option in Milwaukee through 2024 if he holds his spot on the 40-man roster.
In exchange, Milwaukee sends a utility option and a pitching prospect to Texas. Mathias, 28, has only appeared in 22 major league games — six this season. He’s had a stellar season with the Brew Crew’s top affiliate in Nashville, though, hitting .318/.421/.518 with eight home runs and a massive 13.4% walk rate in 202 trips to the plate. He’s split his time between second and third base this year, and he also has some prior corner outfield experience.
Kelly, 22, was recently named the #7 prospect in the Milwaukee system by Baseball America. That’s partially a reflection of a generally thin minor league system, but the southpaw was a second-round draftee in 2019. Evaluators have long raved about his fastball-slider combination while questioning his control, and that’s borne out in his numbers at High-A this season. Kelly has a 3.86 ERA through 19 starts, punching out over 30% of batters faced but walking 13.4% of opponents. The Rangers will have to add the Illinois native to the 40-man roster at the end of the season or leave him available in the Rule 5 draft.
MLB Nerds was first to report the Brewers were acquiring Bush. Robert Murray of FanSided first reported the Brewers were trading Mathias to the Rangers, while Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic was first with Kelly’s inclusion.
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.