With 10 days left in the month, the MLB hot stove is heating up, folks! Ha ha get it, that’s just a little kitchen appliance humor for you all. The Brewers have already kicked off their second in-season trading bonanza, sending Aaron Hill to the Red Sox for a pair of prospects. Their rebuilding effort is far from complete and the Brewers have tons of attractive pieces, so you can be assured that Milwaukee will be one of the most active sellers over the next week and a half. In light of that, let’s explore five(ish) names that could definitely be on the move soon.
1) Literally the entire bullpen
The chances that at least one member of the Brewers bullpen will be moved are right around the chances that a random Donald Trump supporter is white: it’s an virtual certainty. Relievers fly off the shelves in July and August because they tend to have affordable contracts and they usually don’t cost a ton in human capital. Of particular interest to teams with be the Brewers two-handed back of the bullpen, Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress. Ideally some team will come in and scoop them both up together, because they seem to be pretty good pals and it feels right for a man named Will Smith to have a sidekick with Jeff in his name. Also likely to draw interest is Tyler Thornburg, who quietly ranks 10th among relievers with a 34.5% strikeout rate (minimum 30 IP).
Where’s the fit?
Anywhere and everywhere. There has never been a contender than looked at their bullpen and said, “Mmm, nah. We’re set here.” A couple of teams have specifically been mentioned as looking for relief help or have been linked to Brewers players, however. The Giants have been connected to both Smith and Jeffress, among others, and Henry Schulman reports that Brewers scouts have been spotted in Sacramento. The Cubs are also looking for bullpen help, and although they’ve already added Mike Montgomery from Seattle, they have plenty of chips to cash in if they want to continue to add pieces.
2) Jonathan Lucroy
If you’re the sentimental type that is going to have trouble letting go when Lucroy plays his final game for the home team at Miller Park, it’s time to begin mentally preparing yourself, as the Brewers’ most valuable trade chip looks more and more likely to be wearing someone else’s laundry when the calendar flips to August. Lucroy has proven that last year’s tough year was an injury-induced fluke, hitting .305/.362/.492 with 12 home runs. He has one of the most team-friendly contracts in the league: he’s owed about $1.75 million the rest of this season, and has a hyper-cheap $5.25 million team option for next year. His high end talent and cheap contract makes him extrodinarily valuable, but his age — he turned 30 last month — makes him an unlikely candidate to be seen as a long-term member of the Brewers rebuild.
Where’s the fit?
The obvious answer is Cleveland, as rumors have already begun to swirl that the Brewers and Indians are in talks about a deal for Lucroy. The Indians, who are running away with the AL Central, have gotten next to nothing offensively out of the catcher position this season. The team’s backstops are slashing .172/.219/.299 this season, and that was before starter Yan Gomes went down with an injury last week that will cost him at least two months. The Indians have previously stated their intentions to roll with in-house options behind the plate, but recent activity seems to indicate there’s been a change in that thinking, at least as it regards Lucroy. The question now is whether the Indians are willing to pay the price to get him. Despite Dan O’Dowd’s subtle attempt at humor on MLB Network on Tuesday, a package for Lucroy is probably going to have to start with one of Cleveland’s two top outfield prospects: Bradley Zimmer or Clint Frazier.
Though the Indians are at the center of the most recent rumors, the Rangers have been and probably remain the front-runner to win the sweepstakes for Lucroy’s services. The Rangers have the pieces in the top of the minor league system to afford him, and Lucroy would represent a major upgrade for Texas behind the plate. With the news that Prince Fielder’s season may be over, the Rangers have an even stronger need for another bat in the middle of the lineup.
3) Junior Guerra and Jimmy Nelson
After spending the first month of the season threatening to become the worst starting rotation in Major League history, the Brewers have improved enough to move into the middle-third of the league this season. A large part of that jump can be attributed to Guerra, who is leading the Brewers rotation with a 3.06 ERA in 14 starts. A 31-year-old rookie is a hard commodity to attach a price too, but the Brewers would be silly not to listen if teams come calling with a significant offer. Nelson’s peripherals give the lie to his tidy 3.39 ERA, but he’s still over a year removed from arbitration eligibility and will remain a cost effective piece through 2020. If the Brewers are ready to move on from Nelson as a part of their future, there are plenty of teams that will come calling.
Where’s the fit?
Again, pretty much everywhere — most contenders would love to upgrade their rotation if the price is right. We’ll return to the Rangers, who have stated that they are looking for starting pitching and have a dearth of talent behind co-aces Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels. A pair of American League contenders have team rotation ERAs over five, so the Royals and Orioles will also be seeking to upgrade their pitching staffs. The Miami Marlins, who are sitting on the fringe of the NL Wild Card race, could also be looking to add to their rotation. Finally the Dodgers, who just lost another starter to long term injury with Alex Wood set to miss 8-12 weeks, have the resources to acquire whatever they need as well.
4) Scooter Gennett
I wrote about Gennett’s sudden ability to hit lefties last week, which has raised his stock as a potential trade chip somewhat. Gennett could be on the block based on the Brewers current personnel situation, with Orlando Arcia’s promotion imminent and Villar needing a place to play once that happens. If the Brewers manage to score an MLB-ready middle infielder in a trade — for instance, if Jurickson Profar is part of the return for Lucroy — Gennett’s place on the Brewers’ roster will be in serious question.
Where’s the fit?
It’s hard to find a specific fit, as a team that was looking to add Gennett would probably not be planning to use him as a full-time starter, despite his new found ability to hit lefties this season. Gennett could be moved in a smaller deal to any team team looking to add a left-handed bench bat who has the track record to be able to play everyday, if needed.
5) Ryan Braun
A Brewers trade rumors article isn’t complete without mentioning Braun, though I’m more than skeptical that he’ll actually be moved this season, or at any point before his contract expires. Braun is having a stellar season, hitting .316/.373/.512 with 13 home runs, which is APPARENTLY NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR THE ALL STAR GAME. Braun is a tough player to move because of his contract, not because it’s higher than it should be, but rather because it’s just about right — trade value is generated not from simply being a good player, but rather being a good player who is wildly underpaid (see Lucroy, Jonathan).
Where’s the fit?
Pretty much any team that has been connected to Jay Bruce would certainly rather have Braun, because Bruce is literally the devil incarnate. That means the Giants, Indians, Dodgers and Blue Jays could be interested. Perhaps the best fit for Braun, however, would be in Washington. The Nationals outfield has performed well below what is required for a contending team, with the notable exception of Bryce Harper. The question, of course, is whether the Nationals — or any other team — would be willing to part with the prospects it would take for the Brewers to consider parting with their star.