Since non-tendering Manny Parra, the Brewers have been on the lookout for left-handed relievers. Only two left-handed pitchers occupy spots on the 40-man roster: Chris Narveson and Miguel De Los Santos. On Friday, the Brewers signed left-handed reliever Travis Webb to a minor league deal. He won’t be on the 40-man roster, but he did receive an invitation to spring training. Presumably, he’ll get a chance to win a spot in a bullpen that has very few spots nailed down.
The 6’4″ Webb was an 8th-round pick of the Cincinnati Reds in 2006 out of Washington State. At 28, he’s never played in a major league game, and on the surface his minor league numbers leave something to be desired. Over six seasons, Webb carries a 4.13 ERA in 549.1 innings. There’s nothing too special about his career strikeout rate and his walk rate is a bit high. Missing the 2008 season after Tommy John surgery, his career as a starter fizzled.
So, yeah, you’re probably wondering, “why the hell did the Brewers sign this guy?”
Well, a move to the bullpen seemed to do him some good. By 2011, the Reds finally gave up on him as a starter. Working mostly out of the bullpen that year (37 appearances, only 5 starts), Webb improved his K/9 rate from 7.4 to 11.4. At Double-A Carolina that year, he struck out 28.7% of all batters he faced. In 2012 at Triple-A Louisville, he struck out 26.1% of batters.
It would appear that Webb is one of those guys who has been able to really cut loose coming out of the bullpen, to say the least.
The walk rates are a little concerning — his BB/9 was a career-high 5.3 in 2012, but was much better against left-handed batters. Lefties hit just .186/.273/.279 against him last year, and Webb’s ERA against those like-handed batters was just 2.59 (compared to .244/.372/.480 and 6.42 against righties).
Granted, these are in some small samples (only 99 plate appearances against left-handed batters, for example), but it would appear the Brewers will at least have themselves an intriguing LOOGY option in camp this spring.
With more well-known free agent LOOGY options like Sean Burnett and Randy Choate signing relatively lucrative deals, the Brewers may have to get creative in their search for lefties. Guys like Webb — the kind of scrapheap reliever Doug Melvin has had success in finding in the past — would fit that bill. If Webb is a hit, the Brewers just found another reliever for peanuts (which would be big if they’re planning on eventually making a free agent splash). If he fizzles in camp, he’ll at least fill Mitch Stetter’s old spot in the Brewers’ system.