Milwaukee Brewers – MLB Trade Rumors 2020-06-05T23:25:42Z WordPress Steve Adams <![CDATA[Brewers Provide Updates On Corey Knebel, Others]]> 2020-06-03T02:28:11Z 2020-06-03T02:28:11Z The Brewers had a wide slate of injured players during Spring Training — some expected to be key contributors in 2020 — and president of baseball operations David Stearns tells Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel that most are progressing well through their rehab.

Former closer Corey Knebel, who underwent Tommy John surgery last spring, is “getting pretty close” to being able to join the bullpen mix, per Stearns. He’s been on a throwing program and seemingly hasn’t had any setbacks, though Stearns noted that the final test is always to see how players fare in competitive settings with adrenaline flowing, and that obviously hasn’t been possible during the COVID-19 shutdown.

It’s easy to forget just how important Knebel was to the Brewers’ bullpen prior to his injury. Josh Hader’s breakout as MLB’s strikeout king has somewhat overshadowed Knebel, but the two form one of baseball’s best late-inning tandems when both are healthy. From 2017-18, Knebel gave the Brewers 151 1/3 frames of 2.54 ERA ball (2.74 FIP) with a ridiculous 14.7 K/9 and a 40.2 percent overall strikeout rate. He agreed to a $5.125MM salary this offseason — the same as in 2019 — and is under club control through the 2021 season.

Shortstop Luis Urias should be up to speed once play is able to resume, Haudricourt writes. Stearns notes that Urias was already close to getting into Spring Training games at the time of the league shutdown, and he’s of course now had nearly three additional months to mend from the fractured hamate bone he sustained during winter ball. Urias was acquired in the trade that sent Trent Grisham and Zach Davies to the Padres. And while lefty Eric Lauer, the other player the Brewers landed in that swap, was slowed by shoulder troubles this spring, he’s healed up and should be in the rotation competition again when Spring Training 2.0 kicks off (assuming an agreement is reached).

Both players could well hold important roles for the Brewers in 2020 and for years to come. Onetime top prospect Orlando Arcia has yet to seize the everyday role at shortstop, opening the door for Urias — a touted prospect in his own right but one who the Padres felt comfortable dealing to upgrade in other areas. The 22-year-old Urias hasn’t hit in the Major yet but did turn in a ridiculous .315/.398/.600 slash in 73 Triple-A games last year (137 wRC+).

As for Lauer, the 2016 first-rounder was a quick riser to the Major, debuting in 2018. Since that time he’s tossed 261 2/3 innings of 4.40 ERA ball with 8.2 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 1.20 HR/9 and a 38.9 percent grounder rate. He’s likely more of a mid-rotation or back-of-the-rotation arm, but for a Brewers club that uses its pitching staff in less conventional manners than many other clubs, there could be some ideas to maximize his effectiveness through the use of openers, limiting times through the order, etc. He’s controllable all the way through 2024, so whatever games are able to be played in 2020 will serve as a proving ground of sorts for Lauer. With Brett Anderson lined up for free agency in the 2020-21 offseason, there’s a clear path to innings in future seasons if Lauer or another young Brewers hurler impresses when play resumes.

Steve Adams <![CDATA[Latest News, Notes On Minor League Pay]]> 2020-05-29T21:36:05Z 2020-05-29T15:57:39Z The manner in which teams are — or, in some cases, aren’t — continuing to pay their minor league players has drawn increased attention as the end of the month draws near. Major League teams agreed back in March to pay minor league players $400 per week through the end of May, but most minor league players now face ongoing financial uncertainty. The Dodgers have already committed to continue that $400 weekly stipend through the end of June, but veteran left-hander David Price is stepping up to add a helping hand, pledging $1,000 to each non-40-man Dodgers minor leaguer, according to a report from Francys Romero (Twitter link). That includes more than 220 minor leaguers, per’s Chris Cotillo. It’s a similar gesture to the one Shin-Shoo Choo made with the Rangers back in April.

Of course, the very fact that veterans such as Choo and Price even feel it necessary to step up to help out minor leaguers speaks to the manner in which minor league players are under-compensated. While some clubs — the Marlins and Padres — are reportedly set to pay out that $400 weekly stipend through the end of the minor league season, the Athletics are cutting off the stipend at month’s end. Others have extended the stipend through June but have not committed further.

Here’s how a few other clubs are handling the matter…

  • The Mets, Rays, Brewers, Cardinals, Giants and Indians are all extending the $400 weekly stipend through the month of June, per reports from MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (tweet), the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Todd Rosiak (tweet), the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Derrick Goold, Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area (tweet) and Kyle Glaser of Baseball America (tweet). “This money right now, especially for guys who aren’t as well off, this is a huge deal,” Rays minor league catcher Chris Betts tells Topkin. “…I’m beyond excited about it, and I’m honestly just more stoked and proud that the organization I play for took this route more than anything.”
  • The Athletics have, unsurprisingly, drawn a wide array of harsh criticism for their wide-ranging furlough and the full cutoff of minor league payment, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. Slusser notes that owner John Fisher repeatedly used the word “family” in his letter to fans explaining the cutbacks, but many impacted by the cuts don’t feel the effects of that word. “It’s very hard to preach family and then not act like it when times are difficult,” Class-A pitcher Aiden McIntyre tells Slusser. Triple-A outfielder Jason Krizan added: “…[I]t hurts to see the Marlins continue to pay their players when they made the least in baseball last year,” though he noted he’d rather remain an Athletic and receive benefits than otherwise. Other players, past and present, voiced similar criticisms to Slusser, as did a big league agent and an executive with another club. Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein writes that termination of the stipend saves the Athletics an approximate $1.3MM.
Steve Adams <![CDATA[Latest On Furloughs, Pay Cuts Among MLB Clubs]]> 2020-05-28T00:08:21Z 2020-05-27T23:09:46Z 6:09pm: The Rangers have committed to $400 a week for their minor leaguers through at least June, Levi Weaver of The Athletic was among those to report. The same goes for the Braves, per David O’Brien of The Athletic, as well as the Diamondbacks, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic adds.

12:59pm: The Padres will also pay their minor leaguers the $400 weekly stipend through the end of August, Dennis Lin of The Athletic tweets.

12:34pm: Most of MLB’s 30 organizations agreed a ways back to pay their employees through the end of May. There were instances of lengthier commitments, but May 31 was broadly used as an initial endpoint, at which time fiscal matters would be reassessed. Minor league players have been receiving $400 weekly stipends during this time, but that arrangement is also only promised through the end of May. As you’d expect, clubs have begun to inform employees (both on the business and baseball operations side) and minor leaguers of their next steps. And, as you’d expect, in some instances it’s not pretty.

Yesterday was a particularly dark day in the Athletics organization, as ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that the team informed minor league players they will no longer be paid their stipend as of June 1. Robert Murray of The Score shares the email that was sent to Oakland minor leaguers — one which was signed by GM David Forst rather than managing partner John J. Fisher. (Forst, of course, is being asked to play the messenger in this instance and is not the one making the decisions.)

Minor league players are generally undercompensated as a whole, and the $400 weekly stipend they’ve received over the past two months will now seemingly go down as the only baseball-related compensation they’ll receive in the calendar year. Their contracts, which are in a state of suspension but not terminated, bar them from “perform[ing] services for any other Club” and also render them ineligible for unemployment benefits, per The Athletic’s Emily Waldon (Twitter link).

As for the operations side of the equation, Athletics front office personnel will be either furloughed or see their pay reduced effective June 1 and running through the end of October, The Athletic’s Alex Coffey reports (Twitter thread). She adds that the maximum cut is 33 percent, and those determinations are based on seniority. Scouts aren’t considered front-office personnel, but they’ll be hit hard as well; USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets that A’s amateur and pro scouts alike will be furloughed from June 16 through Oct. 31. Fisher did write a letter to the club’s fanbase confirming the dramatic cuts (Twitter link via the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser), emphasizing the pain that went into the decisions and his “deep commitment to the long-term future of the A’s.”

Those cutbacks are similar to the substantial cuts the Angels put in place earlier this month, but other L.A. club isn’t taking such rash measures. The Dodgers have informed all employees earning more than $75K that they’ll be subject to pay reductions beginning June 1, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN (Twitter thread). The extent of the reductions is dependent on overall salary — larger salaries get larger percentage cuts — and will be capped at 35 percent for the most part, although that they could be greater for the team’s very top executives. Those measures are being taken in an effort to avoid the type of large-scale furloughs being put in place in Oakland and Anaheim.

Across the country, the Nationals have implemented a series of partial furloughs both in baseball ops and business ops, Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post reports (Twitter thread). The Nats are still covering full benefits and haven’t made any layoffs, but they’re implementing a sequence of 10 to 30 percent reductions in pay and total hours. The Brewers, meanwhile aren’t making any baseball ops furloughs but are furloughing some business operation employees, Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel tweets.

It’s not yet clear how every organization plans to handle the minor league pay dilemma, but Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser has heard from at least three clubs that plan to continue varying levels of compensation. The Phillies will keep paying their minor leaguers through at least June, but likely at less than the current $400 stipend. The White Sox are paying $400 per week through the end of June, and the Marlins have committed to paying their minor leaguers the full $400 per week through August — the would-be conclusion of the 2020 minor league season. The Marlins already informed players earlier this month that about 40 percent of the baseball ops department will be furloughed on June 1.

Tim Dierkes <![CDATA[Which 15 Players Should The Brewers Protect In An Expansion Draft?]]> 2020-05-26T21:13:45Z 2020-05-27T14:00:53Z In a few weeks, we’ll be running a two-team mock expansion draft here at MLBTR – just for the fun of it!  Currently, we’re creating 15-player protected lists for each of the existing 30 teams.  You can catch up on the rules for player eligibility here.

So far, we’ve covered the RedsCubsDiamondbacksRockiesDodgersPadresGiantsRangersMariners, Athletics, Angels, Astros, Twins, Royals, Tigers, Indians, White Sox, Rays, Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Orioles.  The Brewers are up next.

First, we’ll remove free agents Ryan Braun, Brett Anderson, Justin Smoak, David Phelps, Eric Sogard, Jedd Gyorko, and Brock Holt from consideration.  Many of those players have club options for 2021, but we won’t make the Brewers use a protected spot on them.  Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain will make the list by virtue of their no-trade clauses.  In total, we’ll protect 11 players out of the gate:

Christian Yelich
Lorenzo Cain
Keston Hiura
Brandon Woodruff
Josh Hader
Omar Narvaez
Eric Lauer
Adrian Houser
Luis Urias
Freddy Peralta
Josh Lindblom

That leaves four spots for the following 17 players.  Click here to review contract statuses and team control.  Assume the expansion draft is taking place in November 2020.

Orlando Arcia
Ray Black
Corbin Burnes
Alex Claudio
David Freitas
Ben Gamel
Avisail Garcia
Ryon Healy
Corey Knebel
Jacob Nottingham
Manny Pina
Ronny Rodriguez
Brent Suter
Tyrone Taylor
Bobby Wahl
Devin Williams
Eric Yardley

With that, we turn it over to the MLBTR readership! In the poll below (direct link here), select exactly four players you think the Brewers should protect in our upcoming mock expansion draft.  Click here to view the results.

Create your own user feedback survey

TC Zencka <![CDATA[Coronavirus Notes: Upcoming Negotiations, Furloughs, Angels, Brewers, KBO]]> 2020-05-23T16:06:44Z 2020-05-23T14:15:24Z It’s make-or-break time for MLB and the MLBPA on forging a path to baseball in 2020. With some significant negotiations looming this week, ESPN’s Jeff Passan runs through some of the biggest questions facing the league. The battle between players and owners is rife with potential roadblocks, and it’s not just the conditions of 2020 that are at stake. With the CBA renegotiation still in the (what-now-feels-like distant) future, both sides are aware of the impact any concession can make to the bigger picture. The way this week’s negotiations are handled could reveal the potential the two sides have of forging an effective working relationship moving forward. One would think now would be an ideal time for opposing sides to come together, and yet it’s just not as simple as that when billions of dollars are at stake. There are countless people and opinions to take into account on both sides of the aisle. While we await a loaded week of negotiations, let’s check in on how teams are handling their non-player-and-coach employees…

  • Teams are taking a variety of approaches when it comes to their employees in the wake of COVID-19, but the Angels have come under fire for taking a more drastic approach than most, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. The Angels will be furloughing employees from nearly every department, including, in the words of Rosenthal, “weakening its amateur scouting department heading into the draft.” The optics aren’t great here for the large-market Angels, especially when clubs like the Brewers, Giants, and Phillies have made commitments to retaining their staff at least through October. The Blue Jays also recently made the decision to keep employees’ on their full-time salaries through October 1, tweets John Lott, a frequent contributor to The Athletic. The Brewers have been the most aggressively pro-employee, per Rosenthal, committing to keeping their staff on through the entirety of the baseball season. The pro-employee approach is laudable, though not necessarily all that shocking coming out of Milwaukee. The Brewers have increasingly stepped into the spotlight in recent years as a progressive organization, from the supportive atmosphere provided players to making special efforts to get Milwaukee residents in to see games to their very team-building approach. The Angels, meanwhile, might find tough sledding ahead when it comes to signing undrafted amateur players. Without their typical scouting infrastructure in place, those relationships will be harder to build in an open market, and it’s possible the decisions being made by ownership today will have far-reaching consequences for the organization’s future.
  • The Rays, meanwhile, are readying to return to the field. Camp will re-open on Monday for a small collection of 15 to 20 players, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Those players involved will still be keeping a separation of six feet from other players, and workouts will be limited. Still, it’s a positive sign to see players start to congregate again around a playing field. It’s also, no doubt, a risky proposition, but so long as safety precautions are followed and we don’t see a breakout of cases among these players, these workouts could be a harbinger of more baseball to come.
  • Baseball is back already in some places of the world, of course. The KBO is about 17 games into their 2020 season, and they’re about to get a lot more popular. A new deal was announced for ESPN to become the English-language home of KBO games set to broadcast around the world, per ESPN’s Santa Brito. Play-by-play announcers will continue to provide commentary while social distancing. ESPN will soon be broadcasting KBO games “throughout Canada, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean (including the Dominican Republic), Europe, Middle East, Africa, and parts of Asia.”
Steve Adams <![CDATA[Scooter Gennett On Why He Didn’t Sign Anywhere This Winter]]> 2020-05-22T19:00:02Z 2020-05-22T16:45:36Z Former Reds, Brewers and Giants second baseman Scooter Gennett remains unsigned, and the 2018 All-Star chatted with Doug Fernandes of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune this week about his decision not to accept an offer over the winter. Gennett details that he did receive some offers, but they were either non-guaranteed or not to his liking from a financial standpoint. The top offer he received was a $1.5MM guarantee with incentives, but he’d been targeting a deal in the $5MM range. That offer also came from a club with an everyday second baseman, it seems, so he’d likely have been viewed as a bench piece.

Many fans will bristle at Gennett’s candid comments on free agency and compensation, particularly given the current economic crisis that has been brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Gennett, though, has earned more than $19MM in his career to date and has clearly set a personal valuation both on his abilities and the level of compensation he’d require to spend another season on the road and away from his wife and family, as any player would. “You’re 220 days away from your family,” says Gennett.

The 2019 season was a tough one for Gennett, who tore a muscle in his groin during Spring Training and now acknowledges that he came back before he was ready. That was his own decision, he emphasizes, and his results clearly suffered. After hitting a combined .303/.351/.508 with 50 home runs for the Reds in 2017-18, Gennett limped to a .226/.245/.323 slash in 139 plate appearances last year. The Reds traded him to the Giants just prior to the trade deadline, receiving only cash consideration in return. San Francisco released him less than a month later.

Over the winter, Gennett reportedly drew interest from as many as six teams, with the Cubs known to be one suitor. The Cubs, however, have avoided major free agent signings over the past two offseasons and were looking for more of a low-cost pickup. Not long after being linked to Gennett, they instead signed Jason Kipnis to the same type of minor league contract to which Gennett expresses aversion in his interview with Fernandes.

Gennett is still just 30, so there’s certainly time for him to stage a comeback if he chooses to play again. He’s still working out, but he’s also frank in telling Fernandes that he is “fine with not playing.” If salary is the sticking point, it’s hard to envision his earning power on his next contract being higher than it was over the winter. A club doesn’t seem likely to top that offer once play resumes, given the revenue losses throughout the league, and sitting out for a year would surely limit him to a minor league deal if he did decide he wanted to return to the game.

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Zack Greinke’s Great Hot Stove Adventure]]> 2020-05-20T15:02:13Z 2020-05-20T15:02:13Z Every player that reaches the majors has a hot-stove tale to tell. They’re drafted or signed into the pro ranks to start out. Quite a few are traded or move via free agency even before reaching the bigs. You have to be selected or signed onto a 40-man roster before you can put on a uniform in a MLB contest. And then there’s the inevitable moment when it all goes away … whether through retirement at the end of a lengthy career or, in many cases, a trip into DFA limbo.

All of these stories are etched on the pages of MLBTR. Some are more interesting than others. A few of these transactional career arcs touch upon many major elements of the hot stove league — the front office game that shapes the underlying sport that we watch on TV.

The transactional saga of Zack Greinke, the venerable right-hander whose latest stop is the Houston Astros, is certainly among the most notable in recent memory …

Professional Entry

  • The Royals took Greinke, an unusually polished high-school hurler, with the sixth overall pick of 2002 draft.

Prospect Status

  • Greinke quickly emerged as one of the game’s top prospects.
  • Baseball America rated Greinke 54th overall ahead of the 2003 season and 14th overall in advance of 2004.

Early Career

  • At just 20 years of age, Greinke turned in in 24 starts of 3.97 ERA ball in his debut season of 2004. But he struggled badly in his sophomore season.
  • Greinke battled mental health issues and was ultimately diagnosed with depression and social anxiety disorder. At the time, his outlook as a professional baseball player was of secondary concern.’s John Donovan wrote: “Greinke’s tortured story is, on the one end, a sad one, but on this side there is hope that it may yet turn out well.”


  • Greinke reemerged in 2007, then turned in a breakout 2008 season.
  • The Royals signed Greinke to a four-year, $38MM extension in advance of the 2009 season, adding two years of team control. He won the American League Cy Young Award in the ensuing campaign.

2010 Blockbuster

  • The Royals decided to entertain trade offers on Greinke, by then regarded as one of the game’s best pitchers, in the 2010-11 offseason. Greinke later indicated his desire to be traded.
  • A monumental set of Winter Meetings trade talks ensued. Royals Review has exhaustively documented the contemporaneous rumor mill. Greinke reportedly indicated he would exercise his no-trade rights to block a deal to the Nationals.
  • The Brewers eventually acquired Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt, and $2MM from the Royals for Lorenzo CainAlcides EscobarJeremy Jeffress, and Jake Odorizzi.
  • Greinke ended his tenure with the Royals with a 3.82 ERA in 1,108 innings over seven seasons.

2012 Trade Deadline Swap

  • Greinke continued to perform well in Milwaukee, but the Brewers stumbled.
  • In July of 2012, the Angeles acquired Greinke for Jean SeguraAriel Pena and John Hellweg.
  • Greinke ended his tenure with the Brewers with a 3.67 ERA in 294 2/3 innings over two seasons.

2012-13 Free Agency

  • Greinke entered the market as the top player available and drew interest from numerous big-market teams.
  • During the Winter Meetings, the Dodgers signed Greinke to a six-year, $147MM contract.
  • Greinke ended his tenure with the Angels with a 3.53 ERA in 89 1/3 innings over one season.

2015-16 Free Agency

  • Greinke opted out of his contract after a 2015 season in which he led the National League with a 1.66 ERA.
  • Expectations were that he would re-sign with the Dodgers, but the Diamondbacks suddenly entered the market with a massive offer.
  • The Diamondbacks signed Greinke to a six-year, $206.5MM contract, setting a new record for average annual value ($34.42MM).
  • Greinke ended his tenure with the Dodgers with a 2.30 ERA in 602 2/3 innings over three seasons.

2019 Trade Deadline Swap

  • After a rough initial season in Arizona, Greinke continued to produce excellent results even as he entered his mid-thirties.
  • In a last-minute agreement consummated just before the trade deadline, the Astros acquired Greinke for Corbin MartinJ.B. BukauskasSeth Beer, and Joshua Rojas.
  • Greinke ended his tenure with the Diamondbacks with a 3.40 ERA in 714 2/3 innings over four seasons.


  • Greinke’s contract runs through 2021. The Astros took on $53MM of the remaining salary obligations.
  • With the Astros, Greinke has a 3.02 ERA in 62 2/3 innings over one season.
George Miller <![CDATA[Universal DH Could Revitalize Former NL MVP]]> 2020-05-17T01:25:02Z 2020-05-16T22:18:28Z If and when the baseball season resumes in 2020, it’s expected to do so with the oft-debated universal DH implemented. With than in mind, we’re running through each NL team’s DH options . Today, we’re looking at the innovative Milwaukee Brewers, who’ve demonstrated their willingness to get creative with personnel under manager Craig Counsell.

Counsell’s club looks pretty well-positioned to adapt to the rule change, though it seems like they won’t need to rely on just a single player to handle the DH duties; rather, they’ve got a host of capable players at their disposal, and should be able to adjust their lineup on a matchup basis.

The first name that comes to mind for Milwaukee is Ryan Braun. With the addition of Avisail Garcia, Braun has likely been pushed out of a regular role in the outfield. And with Justin Smoak on the roster, he probably won’t see too much time at first base, either—though a platoon is possible. So it make sense that Braun should get first dibs on DH at-bats in Milwaukee, and it’s a timely development for him given his fall down the defensive spectrum. He’s still a solid hitter (.849 OPS last year), but the rise of Christian Yelich and acquisition of Garcia has rendered him somewhat marginal in the Brewers’ plans.

Keston Hiura, who’s encountered concerns about his defense in his brief career, would be a fine DH on days where he needs a rest from the field. But the new rule shouldn’t impeach on his role as the everyday second baseman; despite the defensive concerns, it would probably be unwise to abandon hope for him as a passable defender so early in his career—especially if the universal DH doesn’t wind up a permanent change.

Jedd Gyorko is maybe the next-best option after Braun, though he frankly doesn’t offer much that Braun can’t do himself. Both he and Braun are righties, which isn’t a bad thing, but both perform considerably better against left-handed pitchers. Logan Morrison was brought aboard on a minor league deal, so he lurks as a possible lefty DH candidate. But the fact of the matter is that Morrison is more than two years removed from reliable production, failing to muster even a .700 OPS in either of the previous two seasons. Still, depending on the maximum roster allowance this year, Morrison might be worth rostering in a pinch.

Otherwise, Omar Narvaez is noted for his reputation as one of the stronger offensive catchers in baseball, but he lacks the defensive chops to make him a top-flight catcher. On days when Manny Piña suits up behind the dish, it might not hurt to give Narvaez, a lefty hitter, some run in the DH role. He tallied an .813 OPS last year, which is right about on par with the other Brewers we’ve mentioned, so Counsell could still enjoy Narvaez’s offensive output without sacrificing anything on the defensive end. Narvaez should get plenty of looks against right-handed pitching, which makes up for some of the aforementioned overlap between Braun’s and Gyorko’s skillsets.

In addition, the Brewers have a host of versatile infield options that can rotate in and out of the lineup. Between Gyorko, Brock Holt, Eric Sogard, and Luis Urias, the Brewers accumulated a number of utility-type players in the winter. Those acquisitions might seem a bit redundant, but they should combine to offer much-appreciated versatility. In a vacuum, none of those names are particularly ideal candidates to fill the DH role, but their availability will allow Counsell to optimize his defensive alignment while maintaining his offensive firepower. Neither Gyorko nor Sogard owns a particularly robust defensive track record, so look for them to assume DH duties as needed.

All things considered, the Brewers look to be in good shape should MLB move forward with the universal DH, and they could get creative with the way they deploy their catchers and infielders. Ryan Braun will get his fair share of at-bats as probably the best bench bat on the roster, but others like Jedd Gyorko, Eric Sogard, Omar Narvaez, and even Keston Hiura could get a crack. If anyone falters, the Brewers will have a wealth of alternatives to whom they can turn.

This post is the latest in an ongoing series on MLBTR in which we examine every National League team’s designated hitter options. Previously, we looked at the Cardinals, Reds, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Nationals, and Braves.

Connor Byrne <![CDATA[When CC Sabathia Put A Team On His Back]]> 2020-05-09T05:19:00Z 2020-05-09T05:19:00Z We’re 12 years removed from one of the highest-impact trade deadline deals in recent history. On July 7, 2008, the Indians parted with homegrown star and pending free agent CC Sabathia, sending the left-hander to the Brewers for first baseman/outfielder Matt LaPorta, southpaw Zach Jackson, righty Rob Bryson and a player to be named later who became outfielder Michael Brantley. In hindsight, it may have been a win-win transaction.

When the Brewers made the bold move to acquire Sabathia, they were mired in a seemingly interminable playoff drought that went back to the early 1980s. But the team and then-general manager Doug Melvin saw a way out when they picked up Sabathia, who joined a roster that was 49-40 at the time. There were some terrific players on that club – Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Mike Cameron, J.J. Hardy and Ben Sheets were among them – but Sabathia became the face of the franchise down the stretch and all but willed the Brewers to the postseason.

Already a three-time All-Star and the reigning AL Cy Young winner when he became a Brewer, the 28-year-old won 11 of his 13 decisions and posted a 1.65 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 after heading to Milwaukee. His workload was enormous, too, as Sabathia amassed 130 2/3 innings across 17 starts in Milwaukee and piled up seven complete games in the process. Sabathia’s final complete game of the year came when he pitched the Brewers to the playoffs in their regular-season finale with nine innings of one-(unearned) run ball in a victory over the Cubs (here are Bob Uecker and Brian Anderson’s calls of that triumph for Milwaukee).

The Cubs did take the National League Central with ease, finishing with 97 wins to the Brewers’ 90, which set the Brew Crew up to face the Phillies in the NLDS. That proved to be the end of the line for the Brewers, who were no match for the eventual World Series winners and fell in four games. As excellent as he was during the season, Sabathia had nothing left against the Phillies, who battered the workhorse for five earned runs in 3 2/3 innings in Game 2 – his lone appearance of the series. That proved to be the final Brewers outing for Sabathia, as he left for a far bigger payday than they were able to offer in the next offseason. Sabathia signed with the Yankees for seven years and $161MM, and the now-retired 39-year-old further continued to make a resounding Hall of Fame case while wearing pinstripes.

While Sabathia wasn’t a Brewer for long, they don’t regret his magical run in their uniform or the long-awaited return to respectability he helped provide as a member of the team. That’s not say they came away from the trade unscathed, though. None of LaPorta (a once-promising prospect), Jackson or Bryson were impactful in the majors, but Brantley has been outstanding for the most part. A seventh-round draft pick of the Brewers and now a soon-to-be 33-year-old member of the Astros, Brantley has put together a lifetime line of .297/.354/.439 in 5,120 plate appearances. The majority of the damage has come in an Indians uniform, but they weren’t contenders in 2008 and weren’t going to re-sign Sabathia, so selling him for the best possible return made sense.

Losing Sabathia certainly hurt for Cleveland, but getting several productive seasons out of Brantley made for a nice consolation prize. Conversely, it must have stung the Brewers to see what Brantley turned into, but neither they nor their fans will ever forget what Sabathia gave them over a couple incredible months.

Steve Adams <![CDATA[Eric Lauer Hires CAA Sports]]> 2020-05-06T21:55:51Z 2020-05-06T21:55:51Z Brewers lefty Eric Lauer has hired CAA Sports to represent him moving forward, per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (Twitter link). He’d previously been with Meister Sports Management (Lauer’s initial agency, Pro Star Management, merged with Meister Sports back in November).

Lauer, 25 next month, was acquired by the Brewers alongside shortstop/second baseman Luis Urias in the November trade that sent outfielder Trent Grisham and right-hander Zach Davies to the Padres. He’d been competing with Freddy Peralta and Corbin Burnes for the final spot in the Milwaukee rotation during Spring Training. Brandon Woodruff, Adrian Houser, Josh Lindblom and Brett Anderson were slated to occupy the first four spots of a starting staff that is light on proven names but has its share of upside.

A first-round pick of the Padres back in 2016 (No. 25 overall), Lauer made his MLB debut as a 22-year-old in 2018 and has since racked up 261 2/3 innings at the big league level. In all, he’s pitched to a 4.40 ERA with 8.2 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 1.20 HR/9 and a 38.9 percent ground-ball rate with the Friars. He’s just 12 days shy of two years of Major League service time, which proved the difference between him being controlled through the 2023 season (had he accrued those 12 days) and the 2024 season (as he is now). He’s on track for arbitration eligibility as a Super Two player next winter.

Lauer’s change in representation has been updated in MLBTR’s Agency Database, which contains representation info on a few thousand players. If you see any omissions or players in need of an update, please let us know via email:

Connor Byrne <![CDATA[An Under-The-Radar Brewers Hurler]]> 2020-04-22T00:39:25Z 2020-04-22T00:39:25Z For the sake of this discussion, let’s say a 2020 Major League Baseball season will occur. If it does, the Brewers will enter the campaign with a relatively anonymous group of starters. That’s nothing new for Milwaukee, though, as the team and its ace-less staffs managed to clinch playoff berths in each of the previous two seasons. However, just because the Brewers may not have a Cy Young-type starter on their roster, that doesn’t mean they’re devoid of capable options.

Brandon Woodruff had a terrific 2019 and seemed to be turning into a front-line type before injuries cut him down. The hope is that offseason pickups Brett Anderson and Josh Lindblom (the latter dominated in Korea before returning stateside in the winter) should at least be able to competently eat innings. Eric Lauer, who joined the Brewers in a November trade with the Padres, has shown himself to be a passable big league starter. And then there’s Adrian Houser, who has demonstrated rather promising signs of late.

A second-round pick of the Astros in 2011, Houser joined the Brewers in a blockbuster 2015 trade – one that also delivered star reliever Josh Hader to Milwaukee. In regards to Houser, MLBTR’s Steve Adams wrote at the time: “Houser has a 5.10 ERA split across two levels (Class-A Advanced and Double-A) this season, and he’s worked as both a starter and a reliever. He’s averaged 8.5 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 this year, and rated him 21st among Houston prospects prior to the trade. Their scouting report praises his mid-90s fastball and ability to generate grounders but notes that the 22-year-old’s control has plenty of room for improvement.”

Houser is now 27 years old, and while not a ton has changed about his profile since the deal, he has bettered his control. He walked fewer than two batters per nine across 21 1/3 Triple-A innings last season and posted a respectable 2.99 BB/9 over a major league sample of 111 1/3 frames.

Houser divided his first extensive year in the majors between the Brewers’ rotation and bullpen (35 appearances, 18 starts, including work as an opener), and the results were encouraging. He parlayed a 94 mph-plus fastball into 9.46 K/9, a 3.72 ERA/3.88 FIP and a stellar 53.4 percent groundball rate. Out of 130 pitchers who amassed 100 innings or more, Houser finished eighth in grounder rate, 37th in strikeouts per nine (Clayton Kershaw and Eduardo Rodriguez were in a similar vicinity), and FanGraphs graded his fastball as the 14th-best of its kind, placing him between Max Scherzer and Chris Paddack. Moreover, Statcast was a big fan, ranking Houser at least above average in hard-hit rate, strikeout percentage, mean fastball velo, expected weighted on-base average and average exit velocity, among other categories.

There’s plenty to like about Houser, though concerns exist. Mainly, it’s in question whether he can go deep in games, as he only exceeded the five-inning mark four times last season; plus, his numbers were much better as a reliever. Regardless of role, Houser has at least developed into a useful contributor for the Brewers, and the fact that he has two more pre-arbitration years left and five seasons’ control remaining makes him even more of an asset for the low-budget franchise. Maybe Houser will never make the type of impact Hader has, but he has turned into a nice piece for the Brewers – one who still may have some untapped potential.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Quick Hits: Metrics, Wilmer, Draft, Short Season]]> 2020-04-14T02:06:33Z 2020-04-14T02:06:33Z Even in the absence of baseball, there are plenty of interesting things being written about the game. Here are a few recent favorites …

  • Defensive metrics are now widely circulated, but we lack broad-based understanding of how to value them. At Baseball Prospectus, Jonathan Judge and Sean O’Rourke provide an interesting examination of the relative strengths and weaknesses of varying systems. The BPro FRAA measure turns out quite well in measuring outfielders, while Statcast’s OAA metric performs best in the infield. It’s not for the statistical faint of heart, but you’ll want to read the whole article (or at least its full conclusion section!) to gather up the necessary nuance.
  •’s Anthony Castrovince provided a fascinating oral history of the 2015 trade deadline swap that would’ve sent Carlos Gomez from the Brewers to the Mets for Zack Wheeler and Wilmer Flores — an agreed-upon trade that fell apart in controversial and very public fashion. It’s essential reading for any hot stove aficionado, featuring a trove of recollections of many of the key actors. By happenstance, we recently did our own examination of the butterfly effects of that non-trade.
  • The MLB draft will go forward in 2020, albeit in a modified form. It remains to be seen just how many rounds will be held, but there are sure to be less players chosen than usual. And with amateur spring sports cut short, teams haven’t had recent looks at many prospects. That makes prior scouting assessments all the more important to teams looking to navigate a one-off amateur intake situation. Baseball America has released its updated top-400 ranking of draft prospects, featuring all the names that have moved onto and up the board most recently.
  • We don’t yet know whether we’ll have a season or what one would even look like, but there’s no question the 2020 campaign will be shortened if it’s held at all. At Fangraphs, Craig Edwards examines the volatility of relief pitchers and how that could play into a ~half-season campaign. While it’d be tougher than ever to predict performance, Edwards notes that it may actually be even more important to carry a slate of highly capable relievers in a short-season format, particularly if the postseason tournament is expanded as part of the (sure-to-be) unusual schedule that is ultimately arranged.
Jeff Todd <![CDATA[NL Central Notes: Yelich, Burdi, Moore]]> 2020-04-11T04:06:27Z 2020-04-11T04:06:27Z Brewers star Christian Yelich is drawing plaudits for his charitable efforts during the coronavirus pause, as Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writes. He’s playing an active role in both Milwaukee and his native California, with the latter effort an extension of prior work in his home state. “We’re in a fortunate position,” Yelich says of he and his partners in the California Strong foundation (including teammate Ryan Braun). “Not everybody has the ability to have the same reach. We understand that. In tough times, people understand if they can help, they should and they will.”

More from the NL Central:

  • While he’s a total health wild card at this point, Pirates reliever Nick Burdi had shown some signs of a rebound in camp, as Mike Persak of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. His eye-popping fastball has returned after his latest rehab effort — occasioned by surgery that followed a hard-to-watch mid-game injury. Burdi may benefit from an extended layoff, though it seems he was largely back to full strength. The Pirates will have plenty of flexibility in utilizing him once the season gets underway. Burdi still has options remaining and it’s likely that we’ll see temporarily expanded rosters regardless, so he can be handled with care. If the season ends up being wiped out, the 27-year-old will get a full season of service and quality for arbitration, though he’d also have limited earning capacity given his thin MLB track record (just ten innings).
  • The work stoppage has presented an unusual situation for everyone, but it’s actually a continuation for one pitcher. Andrew Moore had thrown remotely after signing a minors deal with the Reds, as Steve Mims of the Register Guard writes. The plan was for the 25-year-old to show up later in spring before heading to one of the top Cincinnati affiliates. Moore is instead continuing to send in his video and other data to the club. You won’t be surprised to learn that he has prior experience with Reds pitching coordinator Kyle Boddy, who has links with many of the hurlers that the organization has inked this winter. Moore is a former second-round pick of the Mariners. He has thrown 63 2/3 total innings of 5.51 ERA ball in the majors with the Seattle club, but was left searching for a career reset after a brutal 2019 showing in which he bounced between multiple organizations and compiled an 8.02 ERA in 101 upper-minors frames.
Steve Adams <![CDATA[Mark Reynolds Announces Retirement]]> 2020-04-10T01:24:04Z 2020-04-09T20:30:33Z Veteran slugger Mark Reynolds, who enjoyed a 13-year big league career split between the Diamondbacks, Rockies, Orioles, Indians, Cardinals, Nationals, Yankees and Brewers, announced in an appearance on Mad Dog Sports Radio on SiriusXM that he’s officially retired (Twitter link, with audio).

Mark Reynolds | Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

“I’ve moved beyond that,” Reynolds said when asked if he planned to seek another contract once MLB’s transaction freeze has been lifted. “I’ve retired. … I’m really enjoying time with my family, and it’s time for me to move on and find something else to do.”

The 36-year-old Reynolds spent the majority of the 2019 season in the Rockies organization, serving as a part-time first baseman and a bench bat until he was cut loose on July 28. He’d enjoyed a quality season with the Nationals a year prior in 2018, but Reynolds struggled to the lowest offensive numbers of his career with the Rox last year.

Originally a 16th-round pick of the Diamondbacks out of the University of Virginia back in 2004, Reynolds made his big league debut less than three years after being drafted. Reynolds was never considered one of the organization’s premier prospects — his No. 7 ranking on Baseball America’s list of D-backs prospects prior to the ’07 campaign was the only time he broke their top 30 — Reynolds hit the ground running. He was promoted to the big leagues in mid-May and closed out the remainder of the season as a regular in the lineup, hitting .279/.349/.495 with 17 home runs.

By 2008, Reynolds was Arizona’s everyday third baseman. His power was unquestionable, although the same could be said of his questionable contact skills. Reynolds became one of the game’s quintessential boom-or-bust players, regularly headlining home run and strikeout leaderboards alike. From 2008-11, he averaged 35 big flies per season  but also led his league in strikeouts each year along the way. At that time, a player who was punching out in roughly a third of his plate appearances was an alarming anomaly; the league average strikeout rate back in Reynolds’ first full year was 17.5 percent — a full six percent lower than 2019’s mark.

Reynolds had a rough year in 2010, prompting the D-backs to trade him to the Orioles in return for reliever David Hernandez and prospect Kam Mickolio. He bounced back with the Birds and helped them to the postseason in 2012, but Baltimore declined an $11MM club option over Reynolds’ final arbitration year that offseason and non-tendered him, making him a free agent for the first time in his career.

Reynolds would bounce from Cleveland to New York to Milwaukee to St. Louis to Colorado to D.C. and back to Colorado on a series of one-year and minor league deals from that point forth. He delivered some productive seasons along the way and even popped 30 homers for the 2017 Rockies before giving the Nationals an absurd 5-for-5, two-homer, 10-RBI day in 2018 (video link).

Reynolds will conclude his playing career with a .236/.328/.453 batting line over the life of 6243 plate appearances and 1688 Major League games. In that time, he belted 298 home runs, 253 doubles, 14 triples and stole 64 bases while also scoring 794 times and knocking in 871 runs. The slugger took home nearly $30MM in career earnings while providing a litany of tape-measure home runs on which we can all fondly look back. Best wishes to Reynolds and his family in whatever lies ahead.

Connor Byrne <![CDATA[These Players Can Exit Their Contracts After 2020]]> 2020-04-09T05:54:00Z 2020-04-09T05:54:00Z No matter if a Major League Baseball season takes place in 2020, there are certain players who will be in position to decide whether to exit their current contracts next winter. Whether it be by way of an opt-out clause or a mutual option, here’s a look at the players who will be able to choose to take their chances in free agency…


Back when the Marlins extended outfielder Giancarlo Stanton on a historic pact worth $325MM over 13 years in 2014, they included a one-time opt-out for next winter. Stanton has put up at least one phenomenal season since he signed that deal – he won the NL MVP and hit 59 home runs in 2017 – but injuries have hampered him on a regular basis. He’s now a member of the Yankees, who acquired him in a December 2017 deal, but Stanton played in just 18 games last season. He’ll still be owed $218MM for seven years after this season, and for at least the time being, it’s very tough to think of Stanton leaving that money on the table to test free agency.

Designated hitter J.D. Martinez, a member of the Yankees’ archrival in Boston, will have two years and $38.75MM remaining on his contract after this season. He’ll be 33 then, and will continue to be someone who’s known as a defensive liability, so should be opt out? It’s up for debate. The big-hitting Martinez remains an offensive standout, but his production last season fell (granted, he did still slash .304/.383/.557 with 36 home runs in 657 plate appearances). He subsequently chose not to opt out after last season, as doing so would have cost him his $23.75MM salary for this year.

One of Martinez’s former Tigers teammates, outfielder Nicholas Castellanos, will also have to choose whether to revisit free agency next offseason. Castellanos is another defensively challenged slugger, one whom the Reds guaranteed $64MM over four years this past winter. He’ll be 29 by the time the 2021 season rolls around, and by saying goodbye to his Reds pact, he’d be leaving $48MM on the table (including a $2MM buyout in 2024). It’s not easy to determine whether that will happen; some of it depends on how well Castellanos fares in 2020, if a season occurs. Carrying over the tremendous production he posted late last season after the Cubs acquired him from the Tigers may make Castellanos more inclined to try his luck on the market again, but his output at the plate has been more good than great throughout his career.

Mutual Options

For the most part, mutual options don’t get picked up. Either a player’s so effective that he opts for free agency or he’s not useful enough for his team to exercise the option. Rockies first baseman Daniel Murphy and reliever Wade Davis are among those who have mutual option decisions waiting after the season, but they’ve struggled in the club’s uniform so far. With that in mind, Murphy’s on track for a $6MM buyout (as opposed to a $12MM salary), while Davis figures to receive a $1MM buyout instead of a $15MM payday.

Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun ($15MM mutual option, $4MM buyout), Diamondbacks right-hander Mike Leake ($18MM mutual option, $5MM buyout) and Cubs lefty Jon Lester ($25MM mutual option, $10MM buyout) could also find themselves looking for new contracts next winter. The same goes for Mets reliever Dellin Betances, though it’s tougher to say in his case. The former Yankee barely pitched at all season on account of injuries, and if there isn’t a season in 2020, would he turn down a guaranteed $6MM in 2021? And would the Mets buy him out for $3MM? That’s one of the many interesting questions we could face next offseason.