The Brewers took two of three from the Reds this week, pushing their lead over Cincinnati in the NL Central to a game and a half. As they try to hang onto their spot atop the division, Milwaukee looks to add in the next five days.
Jon Morosi of MLB.com tweeted earlier this week the Brew Crew were among the clubs involved in the middle infield market. That’s presumably a reflection of the middling production they’ve gotten out of the keystone. At shortstop, Willy Adames is having a down offensive year, but he’s an excellent defender and clubhouse leader. It’s hard to imagine the Brewers are considering curtailing his playing time.
That might not be the case on the other side of the bag. Milwaukee second basemen have hit .222/.300/.311 on the season. They’re 21st in on-base percentage and above only the Mariners and White Sox in slugging output.
The bulk of those reps have fallen to rookie Brice Turang. The former top prospect hasn’t hit much in his first look at big league arms. Through 259 plate appearances, he owns a meager .204/.271/.315 line with four home runs. Public defensive metrics have pegged him as a plus with the glove; he’s eight runs above average by measure of Defensive Runs Saved and two runs above par, per Statcast.
Adding at the keystone would be a means to perhaps inject some life into a mediocre lineup. The Brewers rank 25th in MLB in runs despite playing home games in the rather hitter-friendly American Family Field. Luis Urías, who opened the season at third base and has also seen some second base action, hit just .145/.299/.236 and has spent the past month in Triple-A.
Nevertheless, general manager Matt Arnold struck a balanced tone in a chat with Adam McCalvy of MLB.com before yesterday’s game. Arnold noted the front office didn’t want to deal too much of a hit to the team’s run prevention-first mentality. “I think we want to try to help this team, but we know we’re built around pitching and defense. Anytime you want to add a quote-unquote bat, sometimes those guys aren’t very good defenders,” he told McCalvy. Arnold added the club was considering ways to upgrade but noted they were to be responsible in not parting with too much young talent.
That’s a consideration every team looking for short-term help will have to weigh, of course. It’d register as a surprise if the Brewers didn’t add to the lineup in some capacity, even if it’s more of a complementary pickup than an impact bat. The Brewers had gotten very little out of the main first base/designated hitter tandem of Rowdy Tellez and Jesse Winker. Tellez has been out since July 5 with a forearm issue. The latter just joined him on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to July 25, because of back spasms.
Milwaukee has relied upon Owen Miller as its top first baseman of late. He’s probably better suited for a multi-positional infield role off the bench. The Brewers have Tyrone Taylor (hitting .159/.176/.261 in 34 games) and Abraham Toro as other options, while longtime minor leaguer Andruw Monasterio has stepped into the primary third base role with Brian Anderson out of action. Monasterio has performed well over 117 trips to the dish as a 26-year-old rookie.
There are a few different areas in which Milwaukee could look for offensive help. A right side infielder would be the most straightforward, though McCalvy notes the Brew Crew are open to upgrading the outfield as well. Rookies Sal Frelick and Joey Wiemer are taking everyday roles alongside Christian Yelich. The latter could see more DH reps if the Brewers added on the grass.
While most of the focus for Milwaukee will be on which players they acquire, there’s a possibility of dealing off the MLB roster at a position of surplus. Robert Murray of FanSided wrote last night that backup catcher Víctor Caratini is a potential trade candidate. That’d ostensibly be about cashing him in for immediate MLB depth in another area.
Caratini, 30 next month, is having a nice season in a limited role. He owns a .248/.338/.372 line with five homers through 148 plate appearances. Statcast has given him slightly above-average marks for his pitch framing and blocking. It’s not the kind of offense that’d be ideal in an extended first base or DH capacity but is strong for a #2 catcher. With William Contreras behind the dish, there’s no path for Caratini to get more consistent reps there barring injury.
The switch-hitting backstop is playing this season on a modest $2.8MM arbitration salary. He’ll be a free agent for the first time at year’s end. Contreras is entrenched as the long-term catcher, so Caratini could look for a larger role elsewhere once he hits the open market.
Perhaps another team is willing to give him more consistent reps down the stretch. There aren’t many apparent catching trade candidates this summer. Most productive backstops are already on contenders and the upcoming free agent class at the position is thin. Caratini would only appeal to other clubs with 2023 postseason aspirations — there’s little reason to trade for a rental otherwise — but teams like the Yankees, Marlins or Diamondbacks could look for short-term help behind the plate.