Norris, Curtiss deals deepen Crew's bullpen

July 31st, 2021

ATLANTA -- Like clockwork, the Brewers' bullpen got deeper at the Trade Deadline.

The Brewers acquired left-hander from the Tigers and right-hander from the Marlins for prospects on Friday, adding to a relief corps that was depleted in earlier trades to help Milwaukee's offense. The moves completed an active week in which the Brewers also acquired veteran D-backs infielder , who joined the team on Friday and was batting cleanup against the Braves.

"I don't know that we had necessarily a goal on the number of transactions we wanted to make," Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns said, "but we were trying to stay engaged with as many players as we possibly could, as many players as we thought could make our team better, make our organization better, and what got over the line got over the line.

"There was a point this morning where I didn't think we were going to make any transactions, and then by the time we got to the Deadline, we had two. Certainly, we're pleased we were able to add both Norris and Curtiss, two arms that we think are going to help our 'pen, make us better, make us deeper, which is a big part of the goal this time of year."

High-A starter Reese Olson went to Detroit in the Norris deal and Triple-A catcher Payton Henry went to Miami for Curtiss. Henry was MLB Pipeline's No. 19 Brewers prospect.

Both of Milwaukee's bullpen acquisitions are 28 years old, but Norris is a rental and Curtiss has a Minor League option remaining along with four and a half years of club control.

Curtiss has a 2.48 ERA and 40 strikeouts versus nine walks in 40 innings this season for Miami. Over his last 16 appearances, Curtiss has a 1.00 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP.

“This player gives us a ton of flexibility with our roster,” Stearns said. “We believe he can be part of our bullpen for years to come.”

Norris, a free agent at season's end, has a 5.89 ERA in 36 2/3 innings this season but has long been tough on left-handed hitters, even while pitching primarily as a starter for the Blue Jays and Tigers from 2014-19. He converted to a reliever in the shortened '20 season, and this year, he's held lefties to a .200 average and a .555 OPS, compared to a .333 average and a .932 OPS for right-handed hitters.

Over his past 12 outings, Norris has a .184 opponents' average and a 3.48 ERA. He hasn't allowed a hit in his past six appearances.

“Well, I think they’re both talented guys. That’s No. 1 what you’re eager to add,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “Norris, I’ve always thought of him as a really talented pitcher. We look at more than the surface stuff, and there’s some things to be excited about from that perspective. I think left-handedness, we’re a little shallow there in the organization. So, I thought it was important to have another piece there.”

The Brewers began the day with two left-handers in their bullpen: All-Star closer Josh Hader and versatile swingman Brent Suter. Stearns has a history of getting relief help at the July Deadline, usually with positive results. He acquired Anthony Swarzak and Jeremy Jeffress in 2017, Joakim Soria in '18 and Drew Pomeranz in '19.

Together, Norris and Curtiss will help cover the departures of late-inning arms J.P. Feyereisen and Drew Rasmussen to the Rays in a May trade for Willy Adames and Trevor Richards, and a July trade that flipped Richards for Rowdy Tellez and pushed the Brewers "to the precipice of our depth from a relief pitching perspective," Stearns said last week. He did acquire Hunter Strickland from the Angels and Jandel Gustave from the Pirates in minor trades, and Milwaukee's bullpen held its own to the tune of a 3.61 ERA entering Friday -- seventh-best in the big leagues.

Olson, 21, was a 13th-round Draft pick in 2018 who was 5-4 with a 4.30 ERA in 14 starts at High-A Wisconsin this season.

Henry, 24, was blocked in the Brewers' system by No. 5 prospect Mario Feliciano, whose shoulder injury earlier this year opened a spot for Henry at Triple-A Nashville. Henry was slashing .297/.372/.390 between Double-A and Triple-A in 2021.

With the Trade Deadline in the rear-view mirror, the only players who can be traded are those on Minor League contracts. Teams can also acquire players via waiver claims and free agent signings.

Stearns said the Brewers did look at adding another bat or a starting pitcher, though nothing else got close on Friday.

“It will probably take me a little time to digest and assess what we’ve seen here over the last 24 hours,” Stearns said. “Someone will run the numbers, but I imagine it’s been about as active a Trade Deadline as we’ve had in quite some time. It certainly seems like we’ve had as many big names, premium names change hands as we’ve ever had in a Deadline.

“I think part of it is purely due to circumstance. We had a couple of teams with very notable players, particularly the Cubs, who were looking to move some players. The Nationals clearly as well. That’s a little unusual. And part of it probably is we’ve got some competitive races, we don’t have expanded playoffs, certainly teams recognize there isn’t the August waiver period. That adds to all of it. We saw a very, very active couple of days.”

Here is an accounting of all of the Brewers' trades since Opening Day that acquired Major League players:

April 6: Acquired RHP Chad Sobotka and RHP Patrick Weigel from Braves for INF Orlando Arcia.

May 2: Acquired C Jacob Nottingham from Mariners for cash.

May 21: Acquired SS Willy Adames and RHP Trevor Richards from Rays for RHP J.P. Feyereisen and RHP Drew Rasmussen.

June 12: Acquired RHP Hunter Strickland from Angels for cash.

June 25: Acquired RHP Jandel Gustave and OF Troy Stokes Jr. from Pirates for C Samuel Escudero.

July 6: Acquired 1B Rowdy Tellez from Blue Jays for RHP Trevor Richards and RHP Bowden Francis.

July 28: Acquired INF Eduardo Escobar from D-backs for OF Cooper Hummel and INF Alberto Ciprian.

July 30: Acquired LHP Daniel Norris from Tigers for RHP Reese Olson.

July 30: Acquired RHP John Curtiss from Marlins for C Payton Henry.