The Brewers went down again on Wednesday night, this time 4-1 to the Phillies. The defeat marked the Brewers’ eighth loss in the last nine games. With a few exceptions, the pitching is still keeping the team in games, for the most part. It’s the offense that has slowed down considerably, averaging a mere 2.6 runs per game over the recent losing skid.
Watching the Brewers’ right-hand-heavy lineup struggle to make hard contact against Drew Huchison, Homer Bailey, and Mat Latos once again underscored the fact that the team could surely benefit from adding a left-handed power bat or two as the deadline approaches. The continued struggles of Brandon Kintzler and Rob Wooten leave the Brewers with few reliable late inning options from the right hand side, at least until either Tyler Thornburg or Jim Henderson are able to return.
The NL Central race is tightening up, with the Cardinals, Reds and Pirates all above .500. Even though they don’t have major obvious deficiencies, the Brewers could use some help in keeping their distance from the rest of the pack in the division. In that spirit, let’s take a look at some potentially creative solutions for the Brewers to plug some of the admittedly small holes they have in their roster.
Trade Wei-Chung Wang
This idea was broached by our own Vineet Barot on last week’s Disciples of Uecker Podcast, and it’s one where the more you think about it, the more sense it makes. The Brewers have kept Wang on the roster all year in hopes that he can someday provide value to the team. The standard line of thought on that was that this value would come in the form of him performing for the Brewers somewhere down the line. That might be too limited a way of looking at his value, though.
According to major league baseball rules, teams are allowed to trade rule 5 picks, though the team they trade him to must abide by the same rules as far as keeping the player on the roster all year as the drafting team. For a team that is out of contention by the end of this month, trading for Wang could make quite a bit of sense. For a team already out of the running, spending a roster spot on a not-yet-major-league-ready Wang is hardly a major imposition. Every team is also allowed to expand rosters as of September first, at which point having him around becomes basically a non-factor for the roster.
On the Brewers’ side, they can accomplish several goals by moving Wang. If they find the right trade partner, they can potentially add a useful bench bat or relief pitcher to help them down the stretch. They can also clear Wang’s roster spot, giving them more flexibility to add a player who might have been too limited in use to justify a roster spot when Wang was taking up one of the twenty-five. Depending on what sort of player comes back for Wang, there are quite a few possibilities that could open up, such as calling up Caleb Gindl or Jeremy Jeffress.
Trade For Adam Dunn
Ok, hear me out on this one.
Yes, he’s basically a DH at this point, doesn’t hit for contact and offers nothing on the basepaths. That’s all true, but he’s also still able to do two very important things at the plate: he slugs the ball and knows how to control the zone to help draw walks. The difference between him and Overbay at the plate is quite large.
The other factor working in their favor here is that they’re not replacing a plus defender in Overbay. Despite the fact that his reputation is good, he’s actually been somewhere between average to below average for quite a while according to various defensive metrics. Given that Dunn would be limited to starting only against right-handed pitchers and could be pulled late for defensive purposes on a regular basis anyway, some of the defensive limitations would be mitigated.
The White Sox would have to pick up most of his salary for the remainder of the year and accept a minimal return in the prospect department, but that shouldn’t be a huge problem if the Sox are actually serious about trying to move him. This isn’t an ideal solution, but it would at least constitute an upgrade to the current roster. That’s the name of the game this season: trying to find reasonably priced, small targeted upgrades.
Look For A More Long-Term Solution To A Problem
Major League Players traded in the summer tend to fit into a pretty limited category when it comes to service time, namely: they are most often in the last year of their current contract and will be free to hit the open market in the offseason. Sure, lots of prospects and a few players with limited service time will move, but those are generally a deal from the players’ “buyers” to “sellers” in order to get help for now as opposed to players that could help a contender now and down the line as well.
It makes sense that these would be the sorts of transactions would dominate the deadline, but that doesn’t mean they are the only kinds that can happen. Sellers may not be looking to deal more long-term assets, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll turn down a good offer if it comes along. The Brewers currently lack immediate and long-term solutions in a couple of areas, most notably at first base and utility infielder. They could also probably use a left-handed-hitting outfielder with a little pop and the ability to play all three positions. If they were to pick up someone who plays one of these positions and had a few years of service time left, they wouldn’t be blocking anyone of significance, at least for a while.
As for who this might actually be, that’s tougher. We could talk names and invent scenarios where they make sense in deals, but those would almost certainly be wrong. The point here is more the general idea of broadening the search for upgrades from the names that show up constantly on MLB Trade Rumors this time of year and considering players that aren’t even really mentioned as trade candidates.
None of these things is likely to happen, but the goal wasn’t to talk about things that are likely. Rather, the point was to think more out-of-the-box. Something much more ordinary and predictable is probably going to happen, and it’s going to be a reasonable upgrade to the roster but it will hardly be exciting. To pull out of the current funk they’re in, the current roster is going to need to get back to doing the things they did so well over the first three months, not rely on outside help anyway.