The reasoning behind Brewers' surprise DFA of Lamet

August 6th, 2022

PITTSBURGH -- Wednesday brought a major plot twist to the Josh Hader trade: The Brewers designated right-hander Dinelson Lamet for assignment.

Lamet, who has a 9.49 ERA this season but is just two years removed from contending for the National League Cy Young Award in the shortened 2020 season, was one of four players acquired from the Padres for Hader, with left-handed reliever Taylor Rogers and prospects Robert Gasser and Esteury Ruiz. It was thought that Lamet would join the Brewers' bullpen to get guidance from a Milwaukee coaching and analytics staff that has had success with similar projects. Instead, Lamet is not part of Milwaukee’s plans.

The Rockies claimed Lamet off waivers on Friday and are responsible for the $1.6 million or so he's due for the remainder of the season. Had he cleared waivers, the Brewers would have been on the hook for that salary.

“Dinelson has a good arm and was included in the trade to help balance out the deal,” Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns said. “As subsequent transactions played out, the roster fit became a little tougher. We are hopeful we will be able to keep him in our system.”

By “balancing” the deal, Stearns may have been referring to the finances of the players involved. Hader is earning $11 million this season and Rogers $7.73 million. Teams sometimes include cash in trades to balance these matters; in this case, it appears they accomplished the same by adding Lamet to the deal.

So, why didn’t the Brewers keep Lamet and try to fix him, since they might wind up paying him anyway?

1) There were a series of roster moves following the trade with the Padres. The Brewers’ subsequent pitching adds included another trade with the Rangers for Matt Bush, who joined the Brewers on Tuesday and was added to the active roster on Wednesday, and a return from the injured list for Freddy Peralta, who started Wednesday night at PNC Park.

2) The 13-pitcher limit. Teams may only carry 13 pitchers at a time, and in the wake of the move to activate Peralta, there were no easy choices. Left-hander Hoby Milner may be optioned, but he has been a key bullpen cog this season, pitching in medium- and high-leverage situations. Essentially, the low man on the depth chart at the moment is Brent Suter, and he cannot be freely optioned. So, even though the Brewers had openings on the 40-man roster and the 26-man active roster, they still would have had to DFA Suter to reduce the pitching staff by one.

Were the Brewers to do that, Lamet would have basically taken over as the low man on the depth chart. It appears the Brewers decided that pitching him in that mop-up role, given its sporadic usage, would not be conducive to trying to get a pitcher back on track.

3) Lamet cannot be freely optioned to the Minors. This is a new development, the timing of which was unfortunate for the Brewers. Lamet has been optioned by the Padres multiple times this season, including as recently as July 11, but when San Diego’s MacKenzie Gore injured his elbow last week, Lamet was recalled and surpassed five years of Major League service.

Once a player crosses that service threshold, he has the right to reject optional assignments.

“Look, we had a difficult choice today,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “We have 13 roster spots for pitchers. That made the choice difficult. It ended up being Lamet; we chose to go in another direction.”