Milwaukee Brewers – MLB Trade Rumors Thu, 18 Oct 2018 00:14:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Zach Davies Replaces Gio Gonzalez On Brewers’ NLCS Roster Wed, 17 Oct 2018 17:07:38 +0000 The Brewers announced this morning that they’ve replaced left-hander Gio Gonzalez on their NLCS roster following yesterday’s ankle injury; righty Zach Davis will take his place. The move renders Gonzalez, a pending free agent, ineligible to pitch in the World Series should Milwaukee advance, as players removed from the roster mid-series are automatically ruled ineligible for the following round of postseason play.

Gonzalez suffered a high ankle sprain in the second inning of last night’s game against the Dodgers when fielding an infield single off the bat of Yasiel Puig (video link via His short start forced skipper Craig Counsell to go to his bullpen early, which proved to be all the more significant in a game that would go 12 innings and deplete the bullpen for each team. Adding Davies to the mix, then, will give the Brewers a fresh arm while simultaneously ending Gonzalez’s season.

Davies, 25, missed a good chunk of the 2018 season due to a rotator cuff issue in his right shoulder, but he returned to the Brewers in September and posted a 3.91 ERA and an 18-to-4 K/BB ratio in 23 innings down the stretch. His overall numbers in ’18 aren’t much to look at, but Davies entered the year with a career 3.91 ERA in 388 2/3 innings with 6.6 K/9 against 2.5 BB/9 after being acquired from the Orioles in a 2015 trade that sent Gerardo Parra to Baltimore as a deadline rental.

The 33-year-old Gonzalez will reach free agency for the first time in his career this offseason. He’ll head into the open market coming off 171 innings of 4.21 ERA ball in the regular season, during which he averaged 7.8 K/9, 4.2 BB/9 and 0.89 HR/9 to go along with a 45.3 percent ground-ball rate. It’s the second pedestrian ERA for Gonzalez in the past three seasons, though his 2017 season was terrific in that regard (2.96), and his 2016 ERA (4.57) was heavily skewed by an uncharacteristic dip in strand rate.

Gonzalez has a solid track record over the years and was a fixture in the Nationals’ rotation for seven years after coming over in a trade from the Athletics. He’s lost about a mile off his average fastball since 2016 and turned in the worst full-season walk rate of his career in 2018 — neither of which figure to do his free-agent stock any favors. But Gonzalez has generally been a durable and dependable rotation piece since 2010, averaging 31.4 starts per season along the way. He’s only fallen shy of 30 starts once in that time (27 starts in 2014) and has posted solid run-prevention numbers with a knack for missing bats and limiting home runs.

Gonzalez’s swinging-strike and chase rates both improved substantially with the Brewers, albeit in a small sample of 25 1/3 innings, which could give interested parties some optimism in free agency this winter. At worst, the veteran southpaw should be viewed as a dependable source of 30+ starts, and if a team feels his 2018 control issues can be corrected (and/or that his improvement with the Brewers is sustainable), he could be seen as a step above that in terms of value.

Revisiting The 2016 Ryan Braun Trade Talks Mon, 15 Oct 2018 03:01:23 +0000 With the Dodgers and Brewers facing off in the NLCS,’s Adam McCalvy looks back to 2016 at the potential blockbuster deal between the two clubs that would’ve sent Ryan Braun to Los Angeles.  The rebuilding Brew Crew were exploring ways to get Braun’s big contract off the books, and the Dodgers were a natural trade partner, given their large payroll and the fact that they were one of six teams that Braun (a Southern California native) didn’t have on his no-trade list.  The most oft-cited version of the trade would’ve been Braun dealt to L.A. with Yasiel Puig, Brandon McCarthy, and two prospects going to the Brewers.  According to multiple sources, McCalvy reports that the Dodgers walked away from talks within the last half-hour before the August 31st deadline.

Imagining Braun as a Dodger (and, not to be overlooked, Puig as a Brewer) makes for a very interesting alternate-reality scenario, especially given the domino effect that that trade would’ve created on the Brewers’ and Dodgers’ subsequent moves over the last two seasons.  The deal will particularly loom large should either Braun or Puig end up being a deciding factor in the final three-plus games of the NLCS.

Minor MLB Transactions: 10/8/18 Mon, 08 Oct 2018 22:35:09 +0000 We’ll track the day’s minor moves in this post:

  • The Brewers have released right-hander Hiram Burgos, per Matt Eddy of Baseball America. The 31-year-old debuted in the majors in Milwaukee back in 2013, but hasn’t been back since. Now 31 years of age, Burgos will presumably end up with another organization for the first time in his professional career. He had re-signed with the club entering the year but was never able to get on the bump for game action. In parts of six seasons at Triple-A, Burgos owns a 4.43 ERA with 7.4 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 over 361 2/3 frames.
Attanasio: New GM Had To Keep Counsell As Manager Mon, 08 Oct 2018 04:04:14 +0000
  • The Brewers made Craig Counsell’s continued employment as manager a requirement for any general manager candidate in 2015, owner Mark Attanasio told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  “We interviewed seven or eight candidates, and I told all of them that Craig was going to be the manager,” Attanasio said.  “So, that would have disqualified a candidate if they had a problem with that….That was a precondition to the job.”  Counsell has paid off his employer’s faith by leading the Brewers into the NLCS, and quickly impressing observers along the way — eventual new GM David Stearns, the Brewers’ roster, and fans in Counsell’s home state of Wisconsin.
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    Brewers Notes: Moustakas, Nelson Sun, 07 Oct 2018 03:16:46 +0000 Third baseman Mike Moustakas “could see himself” staying with the Brewers, Jon Heyman of Fancred writes. “I like it here,” Moustakas said. “The team is together. The coaching staff is together. The training staff is together. We have a good time here every single day.” Moustakas, who joined Milwaukee via trade with Kansas City in July, has been a key part of the Brewers’ two playoff wins so far. He also offered respectable production between the two teams during the regular season, combining for 2.5 rWAR/2.4 fWAR with a .251/.315/.439 line (105 wRC+) and 28 home runs in 635 plate appearances. But it’s unknown whether that’ll lead the Brewers and Moustakas to exercise their $15MM mutual option for 2019; if not, it’s anyone’s guess whether the 30-year-old would garner much of a raise over his 2018 salary on the open market. Moustakas made his first trip to free agency last offseason, a frustrating winter in which he sat without a team until March. The lack of interest in Moustakas enabled the Royals to re-sign him for a surprisingly low sum ($6.5MM guaranteed and, as Heyman points out, $8.7MM with incentives). Looking ahead to 2019, the Brewers will have a full infield under control – which could make Moustakas’ stay with them a short one – though a few of those players (e.g., Eric Thames, Jonathan Schoop and Hernan Perez) logged uninspiring production during the regular campaign.

    • The Brewers haven’t received any contributions this year from injured right-hander Jimmy Nelson – nor will they as they continue a potential march to a World Series – but that figures to change in 2019. Nelson, down since September 2017 with shoulder issues, has completed his “formal rehab,” general manager David Stearns said Saturday (via Adam McCalvy of “He has returned to pitching. That is a great thing to say.” Nelson pitched like a front-line starter a year ago, notching a 3.49 ERA/3.05 FIP in 175 1/3 innings, and his absence has made the Brewers’ success this season all the more impressive. The 29-year-old will enter his penultimate season of arbitration control in 2019.
    Manny Pina Switches Agents Sat, 06 Oct 2018 01:27:08 +0000
  • Brewers catcher Manny Pina is now being represented by Peter and Ed Greenberg of the Legacy Agency, Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link).  The 31-year-old Pina will be eligible for arbitration for the first time this offseason and looking to earn a raise after becoming Milwaukee’s first-choice catcher over the last two seasons.  Pina has hit a respectable .266/.317/.410 over 696 PA, while delivering strong ratings for his blocking behind the plate, and his ability to throw out baserunners (catching 41 of 108 runners trying to steal on him in 2017-18).
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    Mets To Interview Doug Melvin For GM Job Wed, 03 Oct 2018 19:58:45 +0000 The Mets will interview former Rangers and Brewers GM Doug Melvin about their open general manager’s position sometime in the next week or two, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports.  Melvin, who has been a senior advisor for Milwaukee since being moved out of the GM role in August 2015, was first linked to the Mets by Fancred’s Jon Heyman back in August.  With Mets owner Fred Wilpon reportedly looking to hire a seasoned executive with a scouting background, Melvin’s 30 years of front office experience would certainly seem to make him a solid candidate, though COO Jeff Wilpon is seemingly more keen on a more analytical mind in New York’s baseball ops department.  Up to a dozen “serious candidates” are reportedly under consideration for the Mets’ GM job, however, so Melvin still faces tough competition.

    Assistant GM Matt Arnold Linked To Giants' GM Job Mon, 01 Oct 2018 04:15:39 +0000
  • Royals assistant GM Scott Sharp, Brewers assistant GM Matt Arnold, and Blue Jays VP of baseball operations Ben Cherington have all been linked to the Giants’ general manager position, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes.  Going into more detail on Cherington, Cafardo believes Cherington’s use of both traditional scouting and modern analytics makes him an ideal all-around candidate for both the Giants and Mets jobs, as Cherington is reportedly also under consideration in New York.
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    Past, Present & Future: National League Closer Turnover Fri, 28 Sep 2018 22:40:26 +0000 While a new breed of pitcher, one who can rack up holds, strikeouts and throw multiple innings, is beginning to emerge as an integral role on a baseball roster, becoming the “closer” is still the ultimate goal for a Major League relief pitcher. The closer gets the entrance music. The closer gets the congratulatory hug from the catcher after the third out, followed by handshakes from every teammate. Closers get paid! Most importantly, being the closer usually means that your manager trusts you above all other pitchers in that bullpen.

    Give up a lead in the seventh or eighth inning and your team still has a chance to pick you up. The later in the game a players fails, the better chance that mistake will stand out to anyone watching. It will be in the headlines. Fantasy Baseball owners will want to know who is “next in line.”  And for a team that has fought tooth and nail to get to the ninth inning with a lead, it can be debilitating if the last pitcher standing can’t close things out. Managers don’t have much patience for blown saves, either. There is a lot of pressure and a lot of turnover, which is why most teams won’t have the same closer in September as they did on Opening Day.

    Here’s a look back at each National League team’s closer situation on Opening Day versus where they are now and where they will be as they head into the offseason. (We ran through the American League earlier this week.)

    [Related: MLB closer depth chart at Roster Resource]

    Arizona Diamondbacks Diamondbacks Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Brad Boxberger
    September 2018: Committee — Yoshihisa Hirano, Archie Bradley, Boxberger

    Future Outlook: The Diamondbacks opted to keep their best reliever, Bradley, in a setup role while plugging offseason acquisition Boxberger into the closer’s role. For the majority of the season, things went according to plan. That duo, along with Hirano and lefties Andrew Chafin and T.J. McFarland, were a strength on a team that led the NL West on September 1. But as the bullpen has fallen apart over the past few weeks, the team has quickly descended in the standings and fallen out of the playoff hunt.

    As a result, the D-backs will head into the offseason with their closer situation somewhat up in the air. Overall, Boxberger, Bradley and Hirano have each been mostly effective and can still be counted on as valuable late-inning relievers. The D-backs will need to decide if they want add a better ninth inning option, though with numerous holes to fill as key players like A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin depart via free agency, the team could decide it has bigger needs.

    Atlanta Braves Braves Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Arodys Vizcaino
    September 2018: Arodys Vizcaino

    Future Outlook: Vizcaino was entrenched as the Braves’ closer to start the season, and he’s seemingly back in as the Braves prepare for their first playoff series since 2013. A.J. Minter proved to be a capable fill-in during both of Vizcaino’s disabled list stints. For a time, he even appeared to be more of a co-closer with a healthy Vizcaino on the roster, presenting a very formidable righty-lefty combination in the late innings.

    With a solid group of relievers, including Minter, Jesse Biddle, Shane Carle and Dan Winkler, all under contract for next season and the chance that one or two of their enticing young prospects could help out of the ’pen, the Braves appear to be in good shape in 2019. They could be tempted, however, to bring back free agent Craig Kimbrel, who had 186 saves, four All-Star appearances and won the NL Rookie of the Year award during a five-year stint with the team from 2010-2014.

    Chicago Cubs Cubs Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Brandon Morrow
    September 2018: Committee — Jesse Chavez, Jorge De La Rosa, Steve Cishek, etc.

    Future Outlook: The offseason signing of Morrow came with significant risk due to his long history of injuries and a heavy postseason workload (14 appearances) with the Dodgers in 2017. And while the Cubs did their best not to overuse him—he made back-to-back appearances just six times and pitched on three consecutive days only once—his season ended in mid-July due to a bone bruise in his elbow and biceps inflammation.

    Pedro Strop was up to the task as the fill-in closer—he had a 1.77 ERA and 11 saves in 13 chances after Morrow went on the disabled list—but a strained hamstring ended his regular season on September 13. He could return for the playoffs. In the meantime, the Cubs have been mixing and matching in the late innings, at times relying on journeymen like Chavez and De La Rosa as they try to hold off the Brewers in the NL Central race.

    Morrow and Strop will be back in the picture in 2018—Strop’s $6.25MM club option will almost certainly be exercised—as will setup men Carl Edwards Jr. and Cishek. Finding a left-hander who can close, if necessary, might be on the team’s agenda. Zach Britton could be a target if that’s the case.

    Cincinnati Reds | Reds Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Raisel Iglesias
    September 2018: Raisel Iglesias

    Future Outlook: Iglesias has had three consecutive good seasons out of the bullpen with 63 saves in 71 opportunities. The Reds, however, have been in last place with less than 70 wins in each of those years, making Iglesias’ contributions less significant.

    If the Reds are confident that they can be a much better team in 2019, it makes perfect sense to hold on to the 28-year-old right-hander—he’s under team control through 2021—and make him available via trade only if they fall out of contention during the season. Since he’s been able to stay healthy as a relief pitcher—not to mention that there is no clear “next in line” closer in the organization—they’re be better off leaving things as they are rather than experimenting with a move back to the rotation. The ninth inning should belong to Iglesias again come Opening Day 2019.

    Colorado Rockies Rockies Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Wade Davis
    September 2018: Wade Davis

    Future Outlook: Despite a few rough patches along the way, the 33-year-old Davis has 42 saves for the first-place Rockies and has been on a roll when it counts the most. In his last 17 appearances, he’s 10-for-10 in save chances with 23 strikeouts in 17 innings and only one earned run allowed.

    Davis is still guaranteed $36MM over the next two seasons—he’ll also get another $14MM in 2021 if he finishes 30 games in 2020—so his mid-season struggles and continued decrease in fastball velocity (95.9 MPH in ’15; 94.9 MPH in ’16, 94.3 MPH in ’17; 93.8 MPH in ’18) are a concern. He has done enough to hold on to the closing job for 2019, but it would be a good idea to have a backup plan in place. Adam Ottavino, the team’s most valuable reliever with a 2.47 ERA, six saves and 33 holds, will be a free agent after the season. Re-signing him or replacing him with a top free agent will be difficult considering that Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw, both disappointments thus far, signed $27MM contracts last offseason. They could rely heavily on Seunghwan Oh, who recently had his $2.5MM option vest for 2019 and has been very good since being acquired from Toronto in July.

    Los Angeles Dodgers Dodgers Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Kenley Jansen
    September 2018: Kenley Jansen

    Future Outlook: Jansen allowed six earned runs with two blown saves and a loss in his first seven appearances of 2018. He missed 13 days in August due to an irregular heart beat that will likely require offseason surgery. Upon his return, he allowed seven earned runs with two losses and a blown save over four appearances. And yet, the 30-year-old right-hander has 37 saves and a sub-3.00 ERA for a Dodgers team that is fighting for a playoff spot as we head into the last weekend of the regular season.

    Jansen’s occasional struggles on the mound and health concerns only magnified the team’s inability to replace Morrow, who was their primary setup man and bullpen workhorse last post-season. Setup relievers seem likely to be an area of focus this winter, and the Dodgers will be keeping their fingers crossed that Jansen comes back strong in what will be year three of a five-year, $80MM contract.

    Miami Marlins Marlins Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Brad Ziegler
    September 2018: Co-Closers — Drew Steckenrider and Adam Conley

    Future Outlook: It’s not clear why the rebuilding Marlins stuck with the veteran Ziegler through a rocky two-month stint as the closer to begin the season. Even though he had just one blown save in 10 chances when he was removed from the role, he had an ERA near 8.00 and Kyle Barraclough, next in line, had a 1.48 ERA. If they had any reluctance to turn it over to Barraclough, he showed why that might’ve been the case by losing the job two months later.

    After locking down all seven save chances while allowing just one hit over 12 scoreless innings in June, Barraclough fell apart in July. Over his next 13 appearances, he blew four saves and allowed 14 earned runs in 10 2/3 innings before the Marlins decided on a closer-by-committee approach in early August. Steckenrider and Conley lead the team with four and two saves, respectively, since Barraclough was removed from the closer’s role. Both pitchers have an ERA over 5.00 in the second half, however, so it’s very likely that the team will look to find a more reliable option during the offseason.

    Milwaukee Brewers Brewers Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Corey Knebel
    September 2018: Committee — Knebel, Jeremy Jeffress, Josh Hader

    Future Outlook: Knebel suffered a hamstring injury during his third appearance of the season, forcing him to the disabled list for a month. By the time he returned, Hader and Jeffress had each established that they were more than capable of picking up the slack if Knebel could not return to his 2017 form. And this did prove to be the case. The 26-year-old Knebel, sharing the closer’s role with Hader and Jeffress, had a 5.08 ERA through August 31st. September has been a different story, however, as Knebel has allowed just four hits and three walks over 13 1/3 scoreless innings with 26 strikeouts. Regardless of how things go in the playoffs, the Brewers appear set with the same trio of late-inning relievers heading into 2019.

    New York Mets Mets Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Jeurys Familia
    September 2018: Committee — Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Anthony Swarzak

    Future Outlook: The return of Familia, who missed time in 2017 due to a 15-game suspension and a three-and-a-half month-stint on the disabled list, was supposed to help propel the Mets back into playoff contention. While things have not gone swimmingly for the Mets, Familia’s comeback has actually gone quite well. He posted a 2.88 ERA with 17 saves for the Mets, was traded to Oakland in July and should be headed for a decent payday in free agency this offseason.

    The Mets, coincidentally, will likely be in the market for a closer, although it’s not known whether they or Familia would be open to a reunion. Gsellman has held his own as the primary closer, saving eight of nine games since Familia’s departure, but probably isn’t the long-term answer. Lugo has been terrific out of the ’pen, although his best role could be as a multi-inning setup man for whoever the team’s next closer will be.

    Philadelphia Phillies Phillies Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Hector Neris
    September 2018: Committee – Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Tommy Hunter, etc.

    Future Outlook: Neris was 8-for-10 in save chances with three losses and an ERA over 5.00 in mid-May when manager Gabe Kapler declared that he would no longer have a set closer. It didn’t take long for rookie Seranthony Dominguez to emerge as the most significant part of the group, pitching 14 2/3 scoreless innings with only two hits allowed, no walks and 16 strikeouts to begin his MLB career. He would falter as the season progressed, though, leaving Kapler to rely more on veterans Hunter and Pat Neshek down the stretch.

    Considering that Dominguez was a starting pitching prospect with no experience in the upper minors prior to the 2018 season, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think he can take a big leap forward and solidify the closer’s job for a full season. But with expectations for the Phillies likely to be in the high-to-extremely-high range, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Phillies pursue a more established free agent to close out games.

    Pittsburgh Pirates Pirates Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Felipe Vazquez
    September 2018: Felipe Vazquez

    Future Outlook: Vazquez signed a $22MM contract extension in the offseason and changed his name in April. By the end of May, Vazquez had an ERA near 5.00 and four blown saves. There wasn’t the normal negative buzz that surrounds most closers after blowing a save or two, though. He had only allowed an earned run in four of 24 appearances and the Pirates were playing much better than expected. He was also dealing with forearm discomfort and, of course, was one of the most dominant relief pitchers in baseball in 2017. He earned that long leash. Over his last 44 appearances, the 27-year-old lefty has a 1.77 ERA and 26 saves in 27 chances. Yep– still one of the most dominant relievers in baseball.

    With three games to go, Vazquez is two appearances shy of reaching at least 70 games for the third consecutive season. He pitched both ends of a double-header twice in 2018 and pitched three consecutive days on three occasions, including two days after experiencing the forearm pain. The acquisition of Keone Kela and the emergence of Kyle Crick and Richard Rodriguez as reliable setup men should help ease Vazquez’s workload in 2019.

    San Diego Padres Padres Depth Chart 

    Opening Day 2018: Brad Hand
    September 2018: Kirby Yates

    Future Outlook: While Hand’s offseason contract extension removed any sense of urgency that the Padres had to trade him, it also made him a much more valuable trade chip. After saving 24 games and posting a 3.05 ERA with 13.2 K/9 in 41 appearances, Hand was traded to the Indians for catcher Francisco Mejia, one of the top prospects in baseball. Yates stepped into the closer’s role, although there was a decent chance that it would be a short stint with 12 days to go until the non-waiver trade deadline and several contending teams potentially interested in acquiring him. The 31-year-old stayed put, though, giving him an extended opportunity to prove himself as an MLB closer. He’s passed the test with flying colors, saving 10 games in 11 chances—he has 12 saves overall—while continuing to strike out more than 12 batters per nine innings.

    The Padres, who currently have 95 losses, aren’t likely to build a legitimate playoff contender during the offseason. However, they’re far enough into their rebuild that they’ll want to go into 2019 with a team that can at least be .500. In that case, holding on to Yates would be smart, although general manager A.J. Preller will surely be willing to pull the trigger on a deal if a team meets his asking price.

    San Francisco Giants Giants Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Hunter Strickland
    September 2018: Will Smith

    Future Outlook: With Mark Melancon on the disabled list to begin the season, the Giants turned to Strickland as their closer. For the most part, he did a fine job, but his days as a closer swiftly came to an end, at least for the near future, on June 18th. Strickland entered the game with a two-run lead over the Marlins, an ERA just over 2.00 and 13 saves in 16 chances. After allowing three earned runs in the eventual 5-4 loss, he punched a door in frustration and fractured his hand. Upon returning in mid-August, Smith had 10 saves and a strong grasp on the closer’s gig.

    Smith will likely be the front-runner to keep the job in ’19 with Melancon also firmly in the mix given his experience and his sizable contract (four years, $62MM). He’s not quite back to his pre-injury form, but Melancon has a 3.08 ERA in 40 appearances.

    St. Louis Cardinals Cardinals Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Committee — Dominic Leone, Tyler LyonsBud Norris
    September 2018: Carlos Martinez

    Future Outlook: The committee was supposed to be temporary while Greg Holland, who signed a one-year contract in late March, worked his way back into shape with a Minor League stint. Holland, though, was brought to the Majors before he was ready and never looked right with the Cardinals. He walked four in his St. Louis debut and never quite recovered. Norris, as he did in 2017 with the Angels, quickly separated himself from the other closer options and proved to be a steady force in the ninth inning with 28 saves and a sub-3.00 ERA through August. The 33-year-old ran out of gas, though, forcing the team to use a temporary committee in early September. Martinez, who returned from a disabled list stint to pitch out of the bullpen in late August, has emerged as the team’s primary closer as they fight for a Wild Card spot.

    It’s highly unlikely that Martinez, the Cardinals’ Opening Day starter, will remain in the bullpen beyond this season. Barring any injury concerns, he’s just too good as a starting pitcher. Rookie Jordan Hicks, who has dazzled with his 100+ MPH sinking fastball, is a good bet to be the team’s closer at some point. It’s just not certain that the Cardinals will trust him enough at the beginning of the 2019 campaign, which could put them in the market for a stop-gap closer this offseason.

    Washington Nationals Nationals Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Sean Doolittle
    September 2018: Sean Doolittle

    Future Outlook: Doolittle was the Nationals’ closer on Opening Day, an NL All-Star selection in July, and he’s the Nationals’ closer as we enter the last weekend of the regular season. You’d figure things went pretty well for the Nats in 2018. But you’d be wrong.

    A stress reaction in Doolittle’s foot forced him out of the All-Star game and out of action for a majority of the second half. When he returned in September, the Nats were out of the playoff chase. Five different relievers, including Kelvin Herrera, picked up saves while Doolittle was out. Brandon KintzlerRyan Madson and Shawn Kelley were all traded, and Herrera suffered a season-ending foot injury in late August.

    Doolittle will be back in 2019—his $6MM club option will surely be exercised—and should jump right back into the ninth-inning role unless the Nats make a bold acquisition for another closer. In all likelihood, they’ll bring in another veteran setup man to help out a group that includes Koda Glover and Justin MillerGreg Holland is one possibility. He has been a pleasant surprise since signing with the team in early August (0.89 ERA in 23 appearances) .

    Nate Jones (if $4.65MM club option is declined)
    Joe Kelly
    Craig Kimbrel
    Ryan Madson
    Andrew Miller
    Fernando Rodney (if $4.25MM club option is declined)
    Sergio Romo
    Trevor Rosenthal
    Joakim Soria (if $10MM mutual option is declined)
    Central Notes: Detroit Ballparks, Forsythe, Hader Sun, 23 Sep 2018 16:34:21 +0000 In 1895, a ballpark was built on a patch of Detroit grass on the corners of Michigan and Trumbull avenues. 17 years later, the Tigers would make it their home until the turn of the millennium. But after it sat empty and lonely for another ten years, and then, as Jared Wyllys of puts it, it was gone.

    All that remains now of former Tiger Stadium is a dark green flag pole in center field at the new Corner Ballpark that’s since been built on site. The former home of the Negro League Detroit Stars has been neglected for two decades, too. Ike Blessit, a Tiger for four MLB games back in 1972, has started his own 501(c)3 organization to try and raise money to restore it. It’s a project of considerable size, but Blessit will “tirelessly evangelize any audience” in order to get the attention he feels the endeavor deserves. There are plenty more details within the full piece, which historians and Tigers fans alike ought give a full read.

    A couple more items out of the Midwest…

    • Twins infielder Logan Forsythe heads into free agency for the first time “surrounded by unknowns,” Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press tweets as an intro to a full piece on the subject. Forsythe has been dealing with a left knee issue, and will have only a small handful of opportunities to reverse a 44-game homer drought when he’s able to return to the lineup. Berardino describes Forsythe’s offense as being on a “downward trend”, citing a .287 slugging percentage with just ten doubles since his last homer on June 10th. While that’s somewhat of an arbitrary endpoint, Berardino brings to light more stable figures to draw from, such as a dip in homers per season and average exit velocity since his peak with the Rays in 2016. “This year going into the offseason, we’re just open ears right now,” Forsythe said on the subject. “When the offers start coming in, it’s going to be based on where our family is at and what’s best for our family. But I’ve always been a fan of Minnesota, coming here to play. It’s a sleeper city.”
    • Brewers relief ace Josh Hader broke two more records during Friday night’s contest against the Pirates, Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel notes, which further adds to the splendor of his 2018 resume. Hader’s streak of 16 consecutive outs recorded via the strikeout is the longest by a pitcher in the expansion era, and his 136 K’s on the season are now the most ever for a left-handed reliever in a single season. He’s needed just 77 innings to reach that threshold, making that feat all the more remarkable considering the former record holder needed 150 innings to set the old record of 134. Rosiak lists a slew of other accomplishments by Hader, and details his pitch selection along with some fun facts that diehard Brewers fans will surely enjoy.
    Minor MLB Transactions: 9/19/18 Wed, 19 Sep 2018 13:03:30 +0000 We’ll track the day’s minor moves in this post …

    • The Brewers have announced a series of moves involving non-40-man players, as Adam McCalvy of tweets. Righty Preston Gainey is back in the organization after inking a minors deal. An 11th-round pick in 2012, the 27-year-old Gainey is presently working back from Tommy John surgery but will perhaps be nearing readiness by the time camp rolls around. Meanwhile, the Milwaukee organization released two other right-handed hurlers. Cody Martin, not to be confused with the former MLB pitcher by the same name (as I originally did), was cut loose after missing all of the 2018 campaign due to injury. (Hat tip for the correction to Jim Goulart of Likewise, 22-year-old Daniel Missaki was cut loose amidst ongoing health problems.  McCalvy notes that Missaki — who came to the org as part of the 2015 Adam Lind swap — has yet to return to game action after undergoing a second Tommy John procedure in advance of the 2016 campaign.
    Brewers, San Antonio Missions Announce Triple-A Affiliate Agreement Tue, 18 Sep 2018 16:19:38 +0000 In something of a surprise move, the Brewers and San Antonio Missions have announced today that they’ve line up on a two-year player development contract. This will be the first year that the Missions will function as a Triple-A club after the Colorado Springs SkySox decided to move their operations there.

    Ultimately, then, the Brewers will have the opportunity to tap into a big new market while continuing to work with the same minor-league outfit that had hosted their highest-level affiliate in Colorado. While the San Antonio organization’s ballpark is still in need of some upgrades, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel tweets that there are plans in place to get the stadium up to full speed.

    This news brings the affiliation matching dance down to just two teams on either side. Among major-league clubs, the Rangers will now place their top affiliate outside of Texas, while the Nationals are also still without a mate. Those two organizations will surely prefer Nashville — which lies just under 700 miles between both Arlington, TX and Washington, DC — to far-off Fresno, California.

    How’d we get to this point? Nashville, of course, had been the site of the Brewers’ Triple-A club for some time before the minor-league outfit terminated the relationship. With an appealing setup, including a new park, the Sounds ended up lining up with the Athletics. But now the Oakland club is going to Las Vegas, which had been abandoned by the Mets when they bought the Nats’ former Syracuse affiliate. As for Fresno, its relationship with the Astros ended when the Houston club saw a chance to link up with former Rangers’ affiliate Round Rock.

    Five Teams Set For Potential Triple-A Affiliate Changes Mon, 17 Sep 2018 14:16:13 +0000 The majority of clubs throughout Major League Baseball have already announced that they’ve renewed their player development contracts with their Triple-A affiliates, but there are still five clubs that don’t have a clear plan in place just yet. Notably, the Astros and the Fresno Grizzles announced yesterday that they will not be renewing their partnership. As’s Brian McTaggart writes, that should pave the way for the ’Stros to land in Round Rock (where they previously had their Triple-A club for a decade). Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan said a return to Round Rock is “at the top of our list,” McTaggart notes, adding that the Ryan family owns the Round Rock Express.

    That move, of course, would leave the Rangers searching for a new affiliate, though Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News wrote over the weekend that the Rangers could well end up in San Antonio, where a Triple-A franchise will be added as Colorado Springs loses its Triple-A designation (a move that’ll leave the Brewers, currently in Colorado Springs, looking for a new home as well). As Fraley explores, the facilities to which the Rangers could relocate in San Antonio are currently lacking, which could potentially prove detrimental in pursuing minor league free agents. However, sticking in Texas would come with greater marketing opportunities and a preexisting fan base from which to draw.

    The Brewers, Nationals and Athletics are the three other clubs that are yet undecided on next year’s affiliations. The Nats will be seeking a new partner following the post-2017 announcement that the Mets had purchased the Syracuse Chiefs (securing a much-needed geographic upgrade over their current home in Las Vegas). The Athletics, in similar fashion, would reap significant geographic benefits by moving from their current home in Nashville to either Fresno or Las Vegas.

    Betsy Helfand of the Las Vegas Journal-Review notes that the Nationals have expressed interest in moving to Nashville, while Bryant-Jon Anteola of the Fresno Bee suggests that the A’s would likely have their pick between Fresno and Las Vegas, as both would prefer to partner with the Athletics for geographic reasons, giving Oakland the advantage. That’ll present the A’s with the decision of whether to play in California or move to a newly constructed facility Vegas and seems likely to leave the Brewers with an even larger gap between their big league club and their top minor league affiliate, though they’ll be moving into improved facilities either way.

    NL Notes: Harper, D-Backs, Buchholz, Senzel, DeGrom Fri, 14 Sep 2018 05:31:33 +0000 As ever, there’s plenty of water-cooler chatter about the eventual destination of Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, who — had you not heard? — is set to become a free agent at the end of the season. Particularly for fans of a Nats organization that is just weeks away from wrapping up a brutally disappointing campaign, it’s a subject of much attention. So eyebrows were raised recently at comments from Harper and, especially, club president of baseball ops/GM Mike Rizzo that could be interpreted as hinting at a reunion. In an appearance on MLB Network (Twitter link), Harper at least acknowledged a reunion is possible, saying that “it’s going to be an exciting future for the Nationals, and we’ll see if I’m in those plans.” Innocuous enough, to be sure, but perhaps the line could be interpreted as a wink toward contract talks. As for Rizzo, Chris Lingebach of 106.7 The Fan rounded things up. Those interested in parsing the words fully should click the link, but the key phrase at issue from Rizzo is his statement that he “won’t discuss [negotiations with Harper’s camp] until there’s something to announce.” Did the tight-lipped, hard-nosed GM tip his hand? It’s at most an arguable point.

    From this vantage point, there’s enough here to make you think, but hardly a clear indication as to how Harper’s fascinating free agency will turn out. Here’s the latest from the National League:

    • The Diamondbacks had held a strong position in the postseason race for much of the season, but as Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes, they’re now left hoping for a memorable late-season comeback to get in. “[B]reakdowns occurring in every facet of their game,” Piecoro writes, have spurred a ghastly 4-16 run that has reversed the team’s fortunes. Unfortunately, odds are that the Arizona club will head back to the drawing board at season’s end — while watching two significant players (A.J. Pollock and lefty Patrick Corbin) hit the open market. Still, it’s notable that the club has largely followed up on its successful 2017 campaign, as the thought in some quarters entering the year was that there wasn’t really enough talent to keep pace.
    • As is also covered in the above-linked piece, the D-Backs suffered an unwelcome blow in advance of tonight’s loss when they were forced to scratch righty Clay Buchholz. The veteran hurler has been an immense asset for Arizona, throwing 98 1/3 innings of 2.01 ERA ball since joining the club in mid-season as a minor-league signee. He’s now headed to Phoenix for testing, though the hope still seems to be that he’ll return this year. Regardless, it’s unfortunate news for the team but even more disappointing for the 34-year-old, who has dealt with plenty of health problems of late and will be reentering the open market at season’s end.
    • It has long been wondered what the Reds Baseball America points outwill do when they are ready to call up top prospect Nick Senzel, who’s blocked at his natural position of third base. We may be seeing the hints of an answer; as , Senzel is listed as an outfielder in the organization’s instructional league roster. That hardly guarantees anything, of course, but it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see Senzel — who’s opportunity for a late-2018 callup was taken by a finger injury — come into camp in 2019 looking to crack the roster in the corner outfield. Just how it’ll all play out, though, remains to be seen.
    • Speaking of top prospects … among his many notes today, Jon Heyman of Fancred writes that the Mets took a targeted approach to discussions with other teams regarding ace righty Jacob deGrom. As Heyman puts it, the New York organization “focused” on the handful of clubs it deemed to have assets worth haggling over. When those teams weren’t willing to give up their best young assets, talks sputtered. Heyman cites “the Blue Jays, Braves, Padres, Yankees, and perhaps to a lesser extent the Brewers” as clubs that were engaged. But the ultra-premium prospects and young MLB players in those organizations simply weren’t on offer. It’s hard to argue with the Mets’ rationale; deGrom reached a new level this season, after all, and certainly shouldn’t be parted with by a major-market club for less than a compelling return.
    Latest On Jimmy Nelson's Recovery Sun, 09 Sep 2018 01:15:01 +0000
  • As Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel points out, it was a year ago Saturday that the Brewers lost budding No. 1 starter Jimmy Nelson to a major right shoulder injury – one that will end up shelving him for all of this season. Brewers general manager David Stearns offered an encouraging update Saturday on Nelson on the first anniversary of his injury, saying that “Jimmy is nearing a really positive phase of his rehab here.” However, while Nelson will continue working toward an early 2019 return over the next several months, Stearns isn’t certain if he’ll be ready to slot into the Brewers’ season-opening rotation. As a result, the club will “continue to have contingency plans.” To the credit of the Stearns-led Brewers, they’ve found a way to overcome Nelson’s absence this year en route to an 80-62 record and a 1 1/2-game lead on the NL’s top wild-card spot.
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