Brewers general manager Matt Arnold attempted to trade infielder Keston Hiura prior to this morning’s DFA, he told reporters in the wake of the move (Twitter link via Curt Hogg of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel). Clearly, no deal came together. It’s still possible that the Brewers could find a trade partner in the coming days, but a DFA on the heels of an apparently tepid trade market also creates the possibility that Milwaukee will attempt to pass Hiura through waivers.
There’s no guarantee Hiura would be claimed, given his $2.2MM salary, prolific strikeout rates and limited defensive abilities. While he turned in a .226/.316/.449 batting line (115 wRC+) with 14 home runs in 266 plate appearances last year, Hiura also punched out at staggering 41.7% clip. He needed a .355 batting average on balls in play and a massive 29.8% homer-to-flyball rate just to get to a .226 average overall. It’s hard to imagine him sustaining either.
[Related: The Brewers’ Keston Hiura Dilemma]
Hiura’s strikeout rate has worsened each year since his sensational rookie debut back in 2019, when he hit .303/.368/.570. Since that time, he’s a .205/.293/.394 with a 38.5% strikeout rate and negative ratings for his glovework at second base. He’s been about average in 603 innings at first base, per both Defensive Runs Saved and Outs Above Average. That Hiura is out of minor league options also contributed to both his DFA and the ostensible difficulty in finding a trade partner.
The DFA of Hiura and subsequent signing of Luke Voit were just a couple of many steps the Brewers took toward solidifying the roster today. The team also informed Rule 5 pick Gus Varland today that he’s made the Opening Day roster. (Fans of any team will want to check out the video of Arnold and skipper Craig Counsell informing Varland of the news.) Counsell also announced that Owen Miller made the roster while top outfield prospect Joey Wiemer has been reassigned to minor league camp (Twitter link via Adam McCalvy of MLB.com).
Varland pitched to a 4.15 ERA in eight spring appearances but also showed the potential to overpower opponents. Though he was tagged for three home runs, he also fanned 17 of his 35 opponents (48.6%) against just one walk in 8 2/3 innings. He’s had a brutal two seasons with the Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate in 2021-22 (combined 5.98 ERA), but the Brewers were intrigued by his raw stuff over his results, and at least thus far, that interest looks well founded.
That Varland landed with the Brewers of all teams is surely extra sweet to the right-hander, who’s from nearby Minnesota and noted during an emotional interaction with Arnold and Counsell that he has family in Milwaukee. He and his brother Louie Varland, who pitches for the pair’s hometown Twins, played their college ball at Division-II Concordia in St. Paul but can now both call themselves big leaguers.
Today marks even more of a homecoming for Miller, a Wisconsin native whom the team picked up in a trade that sent a player to be named later to the Guardians back in December. Miller hit just .243/.301/.351 in 472 plate appearances with Cleveland last year, fading after a hot April, but he slashed .385/.429/.487 this spring. He’s played all four infield positions in his brief MLB career — primarily first base and second base — but the Brewers gave him a look in center field this spring and could use him on the grass in 2023. Miller does have minor league options remaining, so he can be freely sent to Triple-A Nashville if he has a rocky stretch this season.
Some Brewer fans will be disheartened to see Wiemer, 23, sent to minor league camp — particularly after last year’s .287/.368/.520 showing in Triple-A. The 2020 fourth-rounder looks like one of the steals of his draft class after a big 2022 season and currently sits on the top 100 prospect rankings at Baseball Prospectus (65), MLB.com (90), FanGraphs (91) and The Athletic (91). He hit .262/.319/.429 with a pair of homers and a double in 47 plate appearances this spring.
As Counsell explained, the decision on Wiemer simply boiled down to playing time. The roster spot that was up for grabs was a part-time role off the bench, and the organization wants Wiemer and fellow top outfield prospect Sal Frelick to receive regular playing time down in Nashville. Given the prospect status of both Wiemer and Frelick, a strong start could force the team’s hand early on, but for now it looks like it’ll be Christian Yelich in left field, Garrett Mitchell in center and likely Brian Anderson in right field. Tyrone Taylor’s eventual return will be a factor at some point, but he’s expected to miss at least the first month of the season.
Hiura seems like a decent buy-low option for the Phillies to take over 1B with the Hoskins injury. Otherwise you’re probably looking at lower end teams jumping in on him. Can’t imagine he’ll stick with the Brewers through the waivers process.
Hiura also is a) making $2.2 million, not league-minimum salary, b) likely 1B/DH-only with how shaky he looks at second base, and c) one of the worst players in the majors at making contact. Makes sense for the Phillies to take a gamble, but it’s not exactly hard to see why other teams would pass on him.
$2.2 is practically chump change for a Phillies team paying Scott Kingery $8 million to play at Lehigh Valley.
Unless the $$ owed him, awful offensive numbers, poor defense and being out of options scares teams that might otherwise take a chance. Philly I assume can afford it, at least for an audition, but I don’t know if rebuilding squads want to spend the money AND a roster spot on a guy who has gotten worse 3 consecutive years now.
2.2mm isn’t really brutal for most teams unless their budget is completed exhausted. But it would seem ludicrous for a rebuilding team to be spending at their capacity as they let you kids play. None of the Reds, Royals, Marlins, Nats, D-Backs, or Pirates are running all-time high payrolls and could definitely afford the 2mm if they believed Huira had a reasonable chance at rebounding with a change of scenery
They still have to want to spend it..on a guy who can’t hit, field or throw..and I’m guessing in most instances supplant a still cheaper option, probably with more upside. I’m not saying it can’t happen, just that I wouldn’t bet on it.
I think it makes more sense for those type teams to wait and see if he passes through unclaimed, and refuses an assignment with the Brewers, and see if he’d be open to a minor league deal so they don’t bump 1 of their own off the 26/40, only to find he’s still struggling, and dump him after a month and be that much further in the hole, so to speak.
The can’t hit or field. Why on earth would any team, especially ones that are re building, want to take a player like that on? There are better options whether in-house or in free agency. Time for Hours to head to the kbo or npb.
$2.2MM for a poor defensive player with a huge hole in his swing, and no options, will be of little interest to rebuilding teams that have already spent their budgets. He could very well pass thru waivers and be outrighted.
Watch Hiura turn into Gary Sheffield.
Sucks with the brewers, trade him and he’s a stud. Maybe he just needs to take some PEDs like shef.
I think the Brewers would have been happy if Hiura turned into Matt Mieske, let alone Sheffield. There is probably a team out there that can help Hiura but i think until we get away from launch angle and uppercut swings the bad hitters will stay that way
The Brewers made and released a video of “the team” informing Rule 5 pick Gus Varland today that he’s made the Opening Day roster?
And then they made the video public?!?
That’s nice for him and his loved ones – maybe they can put it on his Facebook page. But shouldn’t business things remain private?
I guess that Corbin Burnes’ need for a safe space when he had to experience the realities most adults in the world experience so many times in our lives probably drove the Brewers to show that they aren’t “real meanies”, but baseball seems to be “a business” when players inevitably leave a team and city for more money. Maybe they should post feelgood videos of their players children’s 4-year-old birthday parties as well.
I followed that team closely for years and enjoyed watching them play. But I lost any respect I had for the players that point-blank quit/choked in the 2022 season, Corbin Burnes, and now this nonsense. I wish the organization well.
The minimum salary in 2023 is $720,000. Exceptional producers work day and night to succeed in America for 30 years and few achieve that salary for a year.
Sure, these are supposed adults playing a kids game. But do they have to be treated like little kids or else they’ll bring their parents – or agents – in?
Thank you for you input.
I doubt the Brewers will miss you.
Any chance this swan song also includes you no longer following and commenting on every mlbtr Brewers-related story too? Or are we still going to be subjected to your expert analysis and personal disapproval on a regular basis..?
Samuel loves to display his elitist mindset on the daily. He won’t be going anywhere, but at least we get a daily laugh at the utter nonsense he spews 90% of the time.
Rumors were Jays were interested in Ruf as the 26th man, RHH lefty masher, plays LF poorly from what I’ve read and had a bad 22 season as a met at 37 y/o
If Hiura can play anything passable in LF defensively, the Jays could give him a chance to repeat the Lourdes experiment but with a better pedigree and likely better bat in the end.
2.2 million and no trade required seems like a decent chance to take for Rogers and the Jays.
Otto Lopez isn’t an OF either, would benefit from daily play in AAA and force his way up like Barger, Pearson, Zulu etc.
Alright, we’ll give you Hiura for Van Eyk straight up.