When the Blue Jays traded Rowdy Tellez to the Brewers in June 2021, the move was mostly seen as a depth addition to stabilize first base after slugger Daniel Vogelbach went down with a hamstring injury. Now, over a year since that trade was completed, Tellez has blossomed into a righty-masher, posting a .222/.303/.498 (117 wRC+) slash line against right-handed pitchers in 2022, with a collective .219/.307/.462 line and 35 homers against all competition.
On the heels of such a productive season, Tellez will garner some trade interest. Predicted to earn only $5.3MM in his second trip through the arbitration process, Tellez projects as an affordable option in a thin first base market (recently analyzed by MLBTR’s Anthony Franco). Besides José Abreu, Josh Bell, potentially Anthony Rizzo if he executes his opt-out, and a few veterans coming off down years, there are few first basemen available that provide power similar to Tellez.
As for the Brewers, while they do not currently have any top prospects at first base, ranked by MLB.com, former Brewers’ top prospect Keston Hiura does not have a clear starting spot. Willy Adames and Luis Urías are penciled in as the starting shortstop and third baseman, respectively, and Kolten Wong is patrolling Hiura’s natural position, second base, with prospect Brice Turang waiting in the wings if the Brewers decline Wong’s club option this offseason. With a crowded infield, the Brewers may be forced with the tough call of starting Hiura, who hit .226/.316/.449 in 80 games last season, and trading Tellez, or potentially moving on from Hiura due to the logjam.
If the Brewers decide to trade Tellez, some teams that might be interested in the slugger include the Houston Astros and the San Francisco Giants.
The Astros relied on Yuli Gurriel to hold down first base during the 2022 season, but the 38-year-old, who will turn 39 during the 2023 season, showed signs of decline, hitting a meager .242/.288/.360 in 146 games. It’s a far cry from the strong .319/.383/.462 line the righty posted in the 2021 season, and more akin to his weaker, pandemic-shortened 2020 showing in which he hit .232/.274/.384 in 57 games. Internally, the Astros have Yainer Díaz and Joe Perez as potential heirs to Gurriel. Both players made their MLB debut in 2022, but neither progressed through the minor league system as first basemen. Díaz, who hit .294/.343/.587 in Triple-A Sugar Land this past season split time at catcher and first, after beginning his minor league career as a catcher. Perez spent time at the other corner infield position, third base, but is blocked by All-Star Alex Bregman. Perez spent the majority of the 2022 season at Doble-A Corpus Christi where he slashed .265/.355/.397 in 64 games.
The Giants primarily used a combination of Brandon Belt and Wilmer Flores at first base this past season. The lefty Belt hit an underwhelming .213/.326/.350 and underwent season-ending surgery on his right knee while the righty Flores hit a slightly stronger .229/.316/.394. With Belt a free agent, the Giants could trade for Tellez to platoon with utility man Wilmer Flores. However, the Giants may opt to bring back Belt in hopes of a rebound season after he slashed an impressive .274/.378/.597 during the 2021 season.