Brewers Trade Deadline Evaluation & Future

The trade deadline has come and gone, and the Milwaukee Brewers made major news on the trade front, pulling off four different trades involving five players on their major league roster in the span of a week. How do these trades affect the direction and the future of the franchise?

What They Did:

  • On July 23, the Brewers struck an inter-division trade with the Pirates, trading third baseman Aramis Ramirez to the Pirates, his original team, in exchange for minor league pitcher Yhonathan Barrios. Barrios, a relief pitcher and converted infielder, is a hard thrower, and has seen minor league save opportunities in the Pirates system.
  • On July 30, the Brewers traded center fielder Carlos Gomez and pitcher Mike Fiers to the Houston Astros in exchange for four prospects: OF Brett Phillips, OF Domingo Santana, P Josh Hader, and P Adrian Houser. This trade came a day after the Brewers nearly sent Gomez back to his original team, the Mets, in exchange for Zack Wheeler and Wilmer Flores. However, many actually consider the Brewers return from the Astros to be far better than what they would have received from the Mets. Phillips is now the #2 prospect for the Brewers, and the #39 ranked prospect in all of Major League Baseball. A center fielder, many scouts project Phillips to be an All-Star caliber player in the Major Leagues. Santana has also cracked MLB’s top 100 prospects, and projects to be a very good major league player. Hader and Houser figure to project as middle to late rotation options in the future.
  • On July 31, the Brewers traded outfielder Gerardo Parra to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for pitcher Zach Davies. Parra, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, was actually approached by the Brewers after the Gomez trade to gauge interest in a possible contract extension. Parra’s agent declined, noting that Parra wanted to test the market. Therefore, Parra was shipped to Baltimore, where the Brewers were able to receive the Orioles’ #3 prospect in return. Davies is very close to being Major League ready, and could even make the Brewers rotation in 2016.
  • On July 31, the Brewers made one more inter-division trade, trading reliever Jonathan Broxton to the Cardinals in exchange for minor league outfielder Malik Collymore. The Brewers acquired Broxton last August in a trade with the Reds, and were hoping that he’d become an elite set-up man to closer Francisco Rodriguez. However, Broxton underwhelmed many throughout his tenure as a Brewer. Over the past month, he has been relegated to early inning relief duty and mop-up duty. Collymore, only 20 years old, is playing in Single-A, and scouts coin him as a “young, raw, athletic player”.

What Else They Could Have Done:

Although two of their top prospects are shortstops, the Brewers decided to hold on to shortstop Jean Segura for the near future. The Brewers had been rumored to be interested in dealing Segura, but presumably never found the right deal to pull the trigger. Segura has not been able to repeat his All-Star form from 2013 these past two seasons, where he hit .294 with 12 home runs, 49 RBI, and 44 stolen bases. He is still only 25 years old, and does not hit free agency until 2019. With the emergence of prospect Orlando Arcia, the #14 prospect in all of Major League Baseball, Segura’s control of the shortstop position may be ending relatively soon. The Brewers may look to deal Segura this offseason in the hopes of getting a better return for him. They may also be internally discussing a position switch for Segura, as well. Third base is a question mark for the Brewers going forward.

The Brewers also were rumored to be interested in moving first baseman Adam Lind, but never did so. Lind has had a great first season for the Brewers in 2015, and has a team option on his contract for the 2016 season, so the Brewers did not need to necessarily move him at the deadline. Over the next few weeks, the Brewers need to evaluate whether or not Lind is worthy of being the Brewers full-time first baseman over the next few years. Already 32 years old, Lind has been in the Majors for awhile and has put up some good numbers, but he has also struggled to remain healthy, at times. He could be an August trade option for the Brewers, as well as an offseason trade candidate, unless if the Brewers look to extend his contract.

The Brewers were unable to find takers for the contract of Kyle Lohse, which should not be a surprise to anyone. Lohse has had a miserable season in 2015, as he has struggled to get on any sort of roll. He is currently 5-12 with a 6.24 ERA in 21 starts. Lohse will be a free agent at the end of the year, so some wondered if a contender would take a waiver on Lohse for the final two months of his contract, especially considering that he has postseason experience on his resume. However, it looks like nobody was too interested in a trade. If Lohse pitches well in his next two or three starts, I expect teams to start calling the Brewers for his services.

The Present Future:

Having traded away their starting third baseman, starting center fielder, and starting left fielder, the Brewers now have a chance to see what they have out of some of their lesser-known players over the next few months.

Third base is perhaps the biggest question mark moving forward, as the Brewers have very few attractive options in their farm system at the position. Hernan Perez has seen the bulk of the time at third base over the past week, but has done little to impress the Brewers in that role thus far. Hector Gomez and Elian Herrera, who have both struggled mightily for the Brewers this season, also figure to see some time at the hot corner in 2015. The Brewers also have Jason Rogers, who is tearing the cover off of the ball in Triple-A, but he projects more as a first baseman although he has seen plenty of time at third base throughout his minor league career. They also claimed Matt Dominguez off waivers over a month ago from the Astros. Dominguez hit 21 home runs for the Astros during the 2013 season.

Center field seems more certain moving forward than it did a few weeks ago, as Brett Phillips, the top prospect that the Brewers obtained from Houston in the Gomez/Fiers trade, could be an All-Star center fielder in the future. However, Phillips is only in Double-A, and may not be Major League-ready until mid-2016 or 2017. The Brewers will fill the position throughout the rest of the season with Shane Peterson, Logan Schafer, and perhaps Herrera. Peterson has impressed the Brewers thus far, but he projects as more of a corner outfielder rather than a center fielder. Schafer has really disappointed the Brewers throughout his career, and he always came attached with high expectations. I expect the Brewers to go after a short-term center field option in free agency this offseason.

Left field will simply go back to Khris Davis, who got demoted from the position after being injured for 6 weeks along with the emergence of Parra. Davis has power in his bat that has translated nicely to the Majors, but only carries a career .248 batting average in the Major Leagues. He is also very average defensively. The Brewers are hoping for some more consistency out of Davis over these next two months.

The starting rotation has come around nicely for the Brewers. Wily Peralta has finally returned from injury, and had a nice start in his return for the Brewers a few days ago in San Francisco. Taylor Jungmann has been great since being called up to the Major Leagues. Jimmy Nelson is also coming around, as his era is now below 4.00, after really struggling over the first half of the 2015 season. Matt Garza is signed for two more years, so the Brewers hope he can get his act together soon. Davies figures to be an option in 2016, and the Brewers may look at some offseason free agent acquisitions to round out their rotation.

The Distant Future:

While a lot is in limbo for the Brewers moving forward, there are a few things that are for certain. Ryan Braun is signed through 2020, and Jonathan Lucroy is signed through 2017, although the Brewers will soon look to extend his contract. One would figure that the Brewers will look to build their lineup around those two players moving forward.

Also, while they may have struggled as of late, the Brewers bullpen is stockpiled with some young, controllable arms that could play a prominent role in the years to come. Will Smith, Jeremy Jeffress, Corey Knebel, and Michael Blazek have all been fantastic this season, which is extremely encouraging moving forward. Contending teams always need a strong back end to their bullpen, and the Brewers seem to be in the process of developing one of the National League’s strongest bullpens.

2016 will be a trying year for the Brewers, but that is to be expected. Third base and center field will be big question marks in 2016, but the positions should ideally be fully addressed by the beginning of the 2017 season. Their rotation is also young, and a young pitching rotation deals with growing pains. The National League Central Division is getting better each and every year, with the Cardinals always in the running for the crown, and the Pirates and Cubs steadily improving each and every year. The Brewers need to do a complete rebuild of their farm system and use some patience. Let’s take a look at the Cardinals as an example. The Cardinals compete year in and year out, but still possess one of, if not, the strongest farm systems in all of baseball. The Brewers need to get to that level—succeed in the Big Leagues while continuing to grow their system from within.

I would give the Brewers a B grade for their trade deadline moves. We will be talking about the trade with Houston for years, as I was incredibly impressed by the haul the Brewers were able to obtain for a player that has a had a down year and will be a free agent in a year and a half, in addition to a 30-year old starting pitcher with only a year or two of sustained success in the Major Leagues. The Brewers were also smart to rid themselves of Ramirez and Broxton, who obviously were not part of their future. I would have loved to see the Brewers make one or two more trades. The decision to hold on to Segura was interesting, as they may think that the return for Segura could be far greater this offseason.

Overall, this was an interesting few weeks for the future of the Brewers franchise. 2016 could be a challenging year for Brewers fans, but I urge all to remain patient. There are brighter days ahead of us.

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