In a low-risk, high-reward move, the Dodgers acquired reliever Corey Knebel from the Brewers on Wednesday in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations.
Knebel, who is eligible for salary arbitration after making a prorated portion of his $5.125 million deal in 2020, missed all of the '19 season following Tommy John surgery that April. Now, after pitching for Milwaukee since '15, he's heading to Los Angeles.
“I will say, that’s really exciting,” Knebel said of joining the Dodgers. “If there’s a team to go to, it’s the World Series champions. I enjoyed my time in Milwaukee. I love Wisconsin, love the fans. It’s been awesome. Of course, I always had a lot of respect for the Dodgers and now, I’m on their side. I’m really excited for this new chapter I’m starting.”
There was speculation that the Brewers would have non-tendered Knebel had a trade not been worked out, but Milwaukee general manager David Stearns declined to comment on that.
“In the offseason, you’re always gauging interest in players,” Stearns said. “In this particular case, this is something that popped up today that we were able to work through with the Dodgers and ultimately get to a spot that made sense for both sides.”
Had the Brewers non-tendered Knebel, he would have become a free agent and the Dodgers would have been competing against other clubs for his services.
Los Angeles has had success in the past in picking up relievers coming off down years following injuries, such as Brandon Morrow in 2017, and Blake Treinen last year.
Knebel appeared in 15 games for the Brewers this past season, posting a 6.08 ERA. While his fastball velocity was down from where it had been pre-injury, it began to tick up as the year went on and he built back his arm strength.
If Knebel comes close to the form he showed in 2017 and '18, the acquisition will be a bargain for the Dodgers.
An All-Star in 2017, Knebel appeared in a National League-high 76 games that season, recording 39 saves and posting a 1.78 ERA.
In 2018, Knebel was a big reason the Brewers chased down the Cubs for the NL Central crown in September. In 16 appearances that month, he did not allow a run while walking three, striking out 33 and holding opponents to an .096 average over 16 1/3 innings.
Knebel continued to come up big for the Brewers in the 2018 postseason, as he allowed one run over 10 innings. The Dodgers got to see that firsthand, as seven of those 10 innings came in their seven-game NL Championship Series matchup against the Crew.
“Corey had a tremendous career as a Brewer,” Stearns said. “He pitched in some of the biggest games in the history of this franchise, and he pitched incredibly well. When you think about the stretch run in 2018, what he did in September and October, you can make the argument that those were two of the more impressive months of performance for any reliever in recent memory. Corey’s meant a lot to this franchise. He’s earned the respect of a lot of people around the Brewers, and we wish him very well.”