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Inbox: Are Brewers targeting starter in trade?

Beat reporter Adam McCalvy answers questions from Milwaukee fans
@AdamMcCalvy
June 24, 2019

Is this the year general manager David Stearns makes a significant trade for a starter? -- @rod2518 on Twitter If not this year, then when? It’s hard to trade for an impact starter, and even harder to pick the guy who will actually make a difference. For every CC Sabathia

Is this the year general manager David Stearns makes a significant trade for a starter?
-- @rod2518 on Twitter

If not this year, then when? It’s hard to trade for an impact starter, and even harder to pick the guy who will actually make a difference. For every CC Sabathia or Justin Verlander, there are a handful of examples of teams giving up premium prospects for a starter and wishing later that they could take it back. But here are some factors to think about this year:

1. The Brewers have already gone through most of their in-house depth after Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta and Jimmy Nelson didn’t pan out, and with the Opening Day curse having bitten Jhoulys Chacín.
2. There’s a degree of “the chips are in” this season with Yasmani Grandal and Mike Moustakas on one-year deals and performing well enough to be finalists to start the All-Star Game.
3. There should be some financial flexibility after opting not to spend on Dallas Keuchel or Craig Kimbrel in order to preserve room to maneuver.

Remember, this year July 31 is a hard Deadline. No more waiver trades in August. The next five weeks are going to be big.

Did the coaching changes in the offseason have any effect on the current record?
-- @craigsharkus on Twitter

I think you mean performance instead of record, because the record is fourth-best in the National League. But it’s undeniable that the pitching has underperformed, as have several key hitters whom the Brewers were counting on. Is that because of Derek Johnson and Darnell Coles? It’s impossible to know. I do know that a Major League coach’s primary duty is to prepare players to succeed, and that not one player has suggested feeling underprepared. Chris Hook and Andy Haines are extremely organized and hard-working. It’s up to the players to perform.

Any talks of them re-signing Moustakas or Grandal to multi-year deals this offseason?
-- @cam2win on Twitter

Moustakas will be an interesting case. Keston Hiura will surely be the starting second baseman next season unless he’s traded for a pitcher next month (Lord help my Twitter mentions if that happens), so that leaves open the question of third. Will the Brewers stick with Travis Shaw? If they don’t, then you could see a fit for Moustakas.

How many “untouchable” prospects do the Brewers have, after Hiura, going into the Trade Deadline?
-- @jkudman75

I’ve never heard Stearns talk about a player as untouchable. There are players who are painful to trade, and Hiura surely would be in that category. But if you really want a difference-maker of a pitcher, you know that other teams will start with Hiura and have a very hard time moving off him. I don’t know that anyone in the organization is truly untouchable.

Will Mauricio Dubon play for the Brewers at the MLB level, or is he strictly trade bait at this point?
-- @Gin0nTheRocks on Twitter

Ask me again in five weeks. Because if teams start with Hiura in trade talks and Stearns says no, Dubon would be a logical next ask. I think we would be talking a lot more about Dubon’s Triple-A season if Hiura wasn’t getting so much attention.

Can you sum up the Super 2 Rule for all of us and what the Brewers’ strategy is with Hiura?
-- @platygoaty on Twitter

Typically, players earn salaries around the Major League minimum until they surpass three years of MLB service, at which time they enter a three-year period of higher salaries via arbitration. But this being the MLB, there is always an exception. A group of players on the high end of two-plus years of service -- the top 22 percent -- qualify for an extra year of arbitration. It doesn’t impact how many years a club controls a player, but it does impact that player’s cost. Check out the MLB.com glossary for examples: http://m.mlb.com/glossary/transactions/super-two

Anyway, this is no longer a factor for Hiura. The Brewers are safe to call him up at this point and he won’t get enough service to qualify as Super 2.

Why did Houser get the nod over Aaron Wilkerson for Wednesday? Wilkerson has had big time success in AAA and is stretched out.
-- @RyanKing702 on Twitter

We will get a chance to ask Craig Counsell more about this on Tuesday, but typically his answer to an A vs. B question like this is: “We feel like Player A gives us the best chance to win the game.” Adrian Houser is electric, he throws four pitches, and with the team coming off an off-day in which Josh Hader warmed up but didn’t pitch, the bullpen is in good shape to absorb innings after Houser exhausts his limited pitch count. Aaron Wilkerson, who has been fantastic in the Minors, hasn’t yet shown he can do it at the MLB level consistently.

How long would it take to stretch out Houser to the point that he could potentially go 100 pitches every time he starts?
-- @markstrot on Twitter

I’m guessing he’s good for 50-60 pitches Tuesday, then maybe 75 pitches next time. That would put him at 90-plus after the All-Star break if he remains a starter.

If Jimmy Nelson truly declines an optional assignment, can the Brewers void his contract and make him a free agent? Would they be on the hook for the remainder of his 2019 salary?
-- @djoctagone on Twitter

Nelson has five-plus years of MLB service, which means he has earned the right to decline an option to the Minors. Any player can be designated for assignment and ultimately released, but yes, in that case, the team is on the hook for a player’s salary. I don’t think anyone wants it to get to that point. Let’s see how he fares in relief. This entire process has required patience, and it’s worth exercising a little more.

Adam why didn't they win every game this month.
-- @TheLachMan on Twitter

Obviously, they didn’t try hard enough.

When are they going to call up Ethan Small?
-- @Brewerssnail on Twitter

He has to sign first. Small, the Brewers’ first-round Draft pick, took to social media last week and bid farewell to Mississippi State. So he’s going to sign. And the Brewers typically do that during a homestand so they can bring the player in and introduce him. Add that up, and I’m guessing we get to meet Mr. Small sometime in the next six days. If he has a press conference, I’ll be sure to ask him when he thinks the Brewers should bring back Keston Hiura.

Adam, what is the latest on Brent Suter's recovery from Tommy John surgery?
-- @coasterfreak04 on Twitter

Brent Suter is five weeks shy of one year since undergoing Tommy John surgery. Here’s the answer straight from Suter:

“I’m throwing bullpens three times a week and I’m feeling great,” Suter said. “I’ll face hitters in three weeks and then I’ll be in rehab mode shortly after that.”

So, good news there. Suter has a chance to help the Brewers in late August or September.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and like him on Facebook.