The Brewers announced Monday that they’ve returned Rule 5 righty Gus Varland to the Dodgers after he went unclaimed on waivers, placed lefty Eric Lauer on the 15-day injured list due to an impingement in his right (non-throwing) shoulder, and recalled right-hander Tyson Miller from Triple-A Nashville.
Varland, 26, earned a spot on the Brewers’ Opening Day roster after he whiffed 17 of his 35 opponents in spring training. He started the season with a 2.25 ERA through his first eight innings, albeit with a less-impressive 5-to-5 K/BB ratio, and landed on the injured list in mid-April after a comebacker struck him on the pitching hand. He thankfully escaped major injury and was back on the mound about three weeks later, but the Cardinals torched him for nine runs in an outing that saw him record just two outs. That ballooned his ERA to 11.42, and the Brewers designated him for assignment the next day.
Twenty-eight other teams had the opportunity to claim Varland, though doing so would’ve meant committing to carrying him on the active roster, as his Rule 5 restrictions would’ve followed him to a new club. Once he went unclaimed, the Brewers had to offer him back to the Dodgers, who’ll now plug Varland back into the upper levels of their system and hope he can recapture some of that eye-catching spring form he showed with the Brew Crew. With Varland back in the Dodgers’ system, six of the 15 players selected in the 2022 Rule 5 Draft have been returned to their original organizations. There’s still another six on active big league rosters, plus three more on their teams’ Major League injured list.
Turning to Lauer, it’s unclear how serious his injury is or how long he is expected to be out of action, but it will be a frustrating and challenging development for the Brewers regardless. The club has already seen each of Brandon Woodruff, Wade Miley, Aaron Ashby and Jason Alexander head to the injured list this season and now Lauer will join them, putting yet another dent into the club’s rotation depth.
Lauer wasn’t off to a great start here in 2023, having posted a 5.48 ERA through his first 42 2/3 innings. His 21.9% strikeout rate, 10.7% walk rate and 25.4% ground ball rate are all worse than league average. He had been much better in the previous two seasons, posting a combined 3.47 ERA over 2021 and 2022 while striking out 23.8% of opponents and walking just 8.7%. Perhaps the shoulder issue has been bothering him prior to this IL placement as his velocity is down on all five of his pitches, relative to last year.
That at least gives some hope of him returning to his previous form once he has time to heal up, but the club will still have to improvise with their starting mix in the meantime. The rotation currently consists of Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta, Adrian Houser and Colin Rea, with one spot needing to be filled. Bryse Wilson has plenty of starting experience but has been in the bullpen with the big league club and can’t be sent down to get stretched out because he’s out of options. Janson Junk is on the 40-man and was called up for a spot start earlier this season, but he’s not throwing exceptionally well in Triple-A this year. He has a 3.86 ERA through 35 innings but a much higher 5.38 FIP thanks to a tepid 17.7% strikeout rate and .277 batting average on balls in play. Robert Gasser is one of the club’s more interesting pitching prospects but he has a 4.74 ERA in Triple-A so far this season and isn’t on the 40-man. Thomas Pannone isn’t on the 40-man either but has major league experience and currently sports a 2.66 ERA in Triple-A this season.
I wonder if the Brewers needed to keep their receipt in order to return Varland to the Dodgers.
ISWYDT, but nah, he just goes back to being a minor leaguer off the MLB team’s 40-man roster.
The IL is becoming our entire pitching staff
Brewers are showing their disGuss with the Dodgers.
The Brewers, being a division leader and contender, will now aggressively pursue a trade for a frontline starter. It would be absolutely foolish and cruel to fans to squander this once-per-generation competitive window and division lead. The time to act with urgency is now.
Just kidding. It’s the Brewers. Who is excited for Janson Junk? Woohoo!!!
Very disappointed with this move. I’d like to believe they tried to work out a trade before returning him, but I really doubt it. Yeah, he had a bad outing, but he’s got some good tools. Crew just doesn’t seem to be catching any breaks so far this year. No fight in this team.
They’re in first place..
Have you watched them??
The whole division is booty juice and half their pitching is hurt
All other 28 teams passed on claiming him off waivers. I’d say there probably wasn’t a ton of trade interest
The same rule also would’ve applied to the new team if he were traded, he’d of had to have been on the mlb roster. So it’s safe to say the interest just wasn’t there