It’s the mystery every Brewers fan has been trying to solve since 3:00 p.m. on August 1: Who is the Player to Be Named Later in the trade between the Texas Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers? It’s what could turn the Brewers’ return for Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress from good to great. Already, the Brewers have brought back consensus top 100 prospects in Lewis Brinson and Luis Ortiz, but who is the mystery player coming back later in the year? Let’s start with what we know about the player.
First off, despite multiple reports — and even a gaffe of my own — we know that it won’t be a prospect from the 2016 draft. The Washington Nationals snuck Trea Turner into their system through a Player to Be Named loophole that allowed them to bypass the required waiting time for a player to be traded after being drafted. The MLB and the MLBPA have since changed the rule so recent draftees can be traded after the World Series but can’t be dealt as a Player to Be Named later in the season they were drafted in. So, that can rule out a few of their top prospects.
Next, we can safely assume it’s not one of their remaining top prospects. It’s pretty safe to say that any of these would have been included right away instead of holding off until later. Not only are they all perfectly healthy and trade-eligible, but the haul would get insanely good if the Brewers got another top 100 prospect. I think it’s safe to say that it could still be a top prospect, but not one that’s being kept in the “elite” status.
Finally, we know that he is a minor leaguer coming to the Crew after the end of the minor league season. That can be attributed to a conversation Haudricourt had with Stearns after the trade was made.
Based on the very little information we know about the trade, I am going to make a simultaneously educated and random guess that the player coming back is Michael Matuella. Matuella was at one point considered to be the best player in the 2015 draft. Matuella fell from that pedestal after Tommy John surgery the April before the draft and the discovery of spondylolysis, a manageable defect of the vertebrae in the lower back. He has an astonishingly low three innings pitched for his career in the season and a half he has been signed after he was shut down with an elbow sprain the Rangers do not believe will require surgery.
Now on to why I think it will be Matuella. By all reports, this trade came along quickly. Multiple reporters said that the Brewers were still exchanging medicals right up until the deadline. Not only would Matuella be a medical you want to overlook extensively, but Brinson and Ortiz are both coming off injuries of their own. It’s possible the Brewers didn’t have time to give Matuella’s report a thorough look and asked if they could have more time, and the only way to do that would be to add on a PTBNL.
Not only would the Brewers want more time to investigate Matuella’s medical history, but they’d ideally like time to see how he recovers from his elbow sprain. Investing in a pitcher with only three professional innings in nearly two years is risky enough, especially when that player is coming off TJS. If you liked the skillset, you’d wait until the player is as healthy as possible to make a decision to acquire them.
On top of the benefit of waiting, the PTBNL system makes it so the Brewers can have a fallback. If the minor league season ends and Matuella is just too much of a risk, the Brewers could just choose another agreed upon player. That’s the type of protection you would really want if you had the time to look over Matuella and his injury history.
If the Brewers were to acquire Matuella, they’d be getting one of the biggest boom-or-bust candidates in the minors. Matuella has all the tools to be an ace but the injury history to make sure he never makes it past A-ball. I would be very interested to see how he could do if the Brewers acquired him. If they don’t acquire him, you can bet David Stearns has someone low in the minor league system line up who he sees having a gigantic ceiling. Maybe a Jose Almonte or Tyler Phillips?