Struggling to find their way again, the Milwaukee Brewers have been absolutely taking hit after hit in terms of their postseason goals. While having an other world performance by Christian Yelich yet again this season, combined with Mike Moustakas looking to make the All-Star team for the first time as a member of the National League, and this team is hitting its way into contention.
Pitching, on the other hand, is the team’s crutch, as they currently rank 19th in the entire MLB in team ERA at 4.69, putting them way above the NL average of 4.36 and the MLB average of 4.44. With left-hander Josh Hader earning the closing opportunities this year with Corey Knebel out with Tommy John surgery and Jeremy Jeffress not fully back to his dominant self, Hader has seen an uptick in his usage as well as his home runs allowed.
The team’s starting rotation is the biggest issue, however, as the unit is still looking for its bonafide ace as we draw closer and closer to the All-Star break.
Zach Davies looked to be the part (and still is very much in the running) but his numbers have fallen off a bit. Jhoulys Chacin has had an awful year compared to his first season with the Brewers last year.
Corbin Burnes was demoted to the minors, back up into the bullpen and was just sent back to the minors after having a very up and down 2019 season. Chase Anderson has worked his way back into the rotation after bouncing around in the bullpen, but his campaign has been nothing special.
Jimmy Nelson, who finally completed his long road back from dealing with a serious shoulder injury at the end of the 2017 season, has not looked himself yet and has been pushed into the bullpen as this team looks for answers.
Starting pitching is the biggest area of need that the deadline can help improve, so here are three surefire targets that general manager David Stearns and his front office would be smart to focus in on soon.
Matthew Boyd – SP, Detroit
One of a few young, controllable starting pitching arms that seem to be on the table this year, Matthew Boyd would be a huge get for this Brewers team. Badly needing to add a healthy left-handed starter to the mix to pair with the rest of its stable of right-handers, Boyd’s low usage numbers and solid stats makes for an intriguing opportunity for a deal to be made.
Boyd is controllable for three more seasons due to only having a little bit more than two seasons of accrued playing time in the MLB, which means that the prospect package in return for Boyd must be immense.
Keston Hiura, the highly-touted second base prospect who had a cup of coffee earlier this year with Milwaukee, is known to be coveted by many teams, so thinking that he would be included in this deal is a foregone conclusion, until it isn’t. Stearns is on record saying that the lone prospect who has untouchable floating around him is Hiura, so moving the potential phenom would be a tough pill to swallow.
Needing to conjure up a big prospect grouping that does not include Hiura is very tough, but the Brewers have enough pieces to potentially make it work. A potential package of Corey Ray/ Mauricio Dubon/ Joe Gray Jr./ Jesus Aguilar would at least be a solid starting point, with the potential to add an arm (Aaron Ashby, Zach Brown, etc.) into the mix to sweeten the pot.
Marcus Stroman – SP, Toronto
Continuing the theme of acquiring starting pitchers, adding a player like Marcus Stroman to a beleaguered rotation would be the jolt they would need. Stroman’s swagger, combined with his history and usage, would be a nice get for the Brewers, who have been rumored to have been interested in him in the past.
Getting Stroman would take a decently-large prospect haul, but not one that would rival that of acquiring Boyd. Pairing two proven minor leaguers together, like Tristen Lutz and Lucas Erceg, with a high-upside player, like Braden Webb or Trey Supak, and the rough outlines of a deal starts to come together.
Stroman has been a player who has been rumored to be wanting out of Toronto for some time, and the 2019 deadline is the best time to go out and get him. Not having to travel very far for Stroman, the Brewers would be a great landing spot for him as he looks to help bring this team back to the playoffs.
Will Smith – LHP, San Francisco
The final piece to this list is a bullpen arm and an old friend too, as Will Smith was, at one point, a member of the Brewers. Traded from the Kansas City Royals to the Brew Crew, Smith thrived in his role as shutdown arm out of the pen, combining with Jeffress to make a deadly 1-2 punch to close out games.
Currently suited up in a San Francisco Giants uniform, which he has been in since the Brewers traded him there, Smith would be an excellent piece to the bullpen juggling puzzle that manager Craig Counsell has had to deal with this year. Smith is obviously familiar with the team and what not, so his acclimation process would be very short, a great help for this team.
Needing to send a decent prospect package back to the Giants, attaching Corbin Burnes with a lottery ticket (Nate Orf, Tyler Saladino, etc.) could potentially be enough, although there would probably need to be one more prospect added, someone that just is outside of the Brewers top-30 prospect rankings.
Trading away Burnes would be a steep price to pay, but the Giants should be asking a lot for Smith and the Brewers may be willing to move on from a high-upside piece that has had issues putting it all together this season. Needing a spark in their bullpen, Smith’s contributions would be a great help for this team, especially if their starting rotation continues to have issues.