As we approach July 31, we will preview what each team is projected to do in advance of the non-waiver trade deadline. For a complete listing of our previews, click here.
Milwaukee Brewers, 50-41, 1st in the NL Central
What moves have they made so far?
GM David Stearns is a staunch proponent of improving his team via the waiver wire and the minor trade market, and he’s used both extensively during the first half of 2017. Shortly after the regular season began, the Brewers claimed utility man Nick Franklin off waivers from the Rays. He contributed off their bench for three months, but they designated him for assignment on June 27 and dealt him to the Angels for a player to be named later on June 30. The Brewers also claimed catcher Stephen Vogt off waivers from the Athletics on June 25, and the former All-Star has formed a strong tandem with Manny Pina.
Milwaukee traded reliever Damien Magnifico to the Orioles for an international signing pool slot on April 13. A day later, they acquired reliever Oliver Drake from Baltimore for cash. They traded their first-round pick in 2012, outfielder Victor Roache, to the Dodgers on May 4 for cash. They lost two veteran members of their bullpen on the waiver wire within a span of two weeks, losing lefty swingman Tommy Milone to the Mets on May 7, then losing Jhan Marinez to the Pirates on May 19. They released former All-Star Neftali Feliz, who began the season as their closer, on June 14.
Are they buyers or sellers?
The Brewers are definitely buyers, it’s just a matter of how much of their highly-regarded farm system they’ll be willing to sell off in order to upgrade for the stretch run. Recent rumors have connected them to Athletics right-hander Sonny Gray, and even if they don’t go out and trade for a pitcher of that caliber, it’s likely that they’ll try to upgrade their rotation, since two of their key starters, Chase Anderson and Junior Guerra, are currently on the disabled list.
Who will they target?
If they don’t land Gray, other back-of-the-rotation starters who could be available include Francisco Liriano, Marco Estrada, Andrew Cashner, Jaime Garcia, R.A. Dickey, and Jhoulys Chacin.
While the Brewers have gotten surprisingly good work out of closer Corey Knebel and veteran Jared Hughes, who they picked up at the end of spring training, they would also be wise to upgrade their bullpen for the stretch run. While big-name closers like David Robertson and AJ Ramos are on the market, they’re probably more likely to go after middle-inning guys like Pat Neshek, Justin Wilson, Alex Wilson, Sean Doolittle, Santiago Casilla, and Ryan Madson while allowing Knebel to retain the ninth-inning duties.
The Brewers’ lineup obviously has been very instrumental in getting them to where they are right now, and they’ve arguably got the best bench in the majors with both of their catchers playing well and Hernan Perez, Jesus Aguilar, and Eric Sogard having career seasons. They don’t have any glaring position-player needs, though it might make sense for them to get a more defensively-adept veteran outfielder such as Rajai Davis to back up Ryan Braun, Keon Broxton, and Domingo Santana, as their current options behind the starters are Perez, who was exclusively an infielder until last year, and Eric Thames, their primary first baseman. With that said, they could easily plug top prospect Lewis Brinson into that role for the stretch run as long as they feel comfortable throwing him into high-pressure situations with just 14 big-league games under his belt.
Despite the Brewers’ unexpected success this season, it would still be surprising to see them part with a load of prospects to acquire a front-of-the-rotation starter like Gray before the deadline. Both pitchers have been unspectacular this season, and if Milwaukee is going to part with a load of impressive prospects to acquire one, they’re going to want to be sure they’re getting a pitcher that can vault them into serious World Series contention.
Because of the injuries to their starters, there’s a decent possibility that the Brewers will find a veteran back-of-the-rotation starter on the trade market, even if it’s a guy like Liriano or Estrada who has been bad this season but has a past history of success. Both of those pitchers are free agents at the end of 2017, so they’re very low-risk options, and the Brewers have a history with Estrada, who pitched for them from 2010-14.
They could also stand to boost their bullpen, though every contending club is trying to do that at this point of the season, and since there aren’t a ton of intriguing relievers on the market this year and Milwaukee seems somewhat reluctant to part with prospects, the Brewers may be left on the outside looking in when it comes to picking up an impactful bullpen arm.