LAS VEGAS -- Brewers general manager David Stearns didn't board his flight home from the Winter Meetings before making the team's first big league acquisition of the offseason.Milwaukee sent its Competitive Balance Round A pick in next year's Draft -- No. 40 overall -- to the Rangers for 26-year-old left-handed
LAS VEGAS -- Brewers general manager David Stearns didn't board his flight home from the Winter Meetings before making the team's first big league acquisition of the offseason.
Milwaukee sent its Competitive Balance Round A pick in next year's Draft -- No. 40 overall -- to the Rangers for 26-year-old left-handed reliever Alex Claudio, who offers multi-inning flexibility and comes with three years of club control, plus at least one Minor League option. He filled a need after Milwaukee opted to non-tender lefties Dan Jennings and Xavier Cedeno last month.
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"If possible, we wanted to add someone in this space," Stearns said. "The most important thing as we look at our bullpen going forward, complementing the group that we have, is finding pitchers that have the ability to go multiple innings, finding pitchers who have some flexibility in terms of their role. And options, that's something that's important for us to look at. Claudio checks all of those boxes. We think he'll fit very nicely in our 'pen."
Claudio, who turns 27 on Jan. 31, owns a 3.20 ERA and 12 saves in 208 career appearances, including a pair of spot starts over five Major League seasons. Claudio led the Rangers in appearances each of the past two seasons, but he was not as effective in 2018 (4.48 ERA, 1.52 WHIP in 66 outings) as he was the year before, when Claudio posted a 2.50 ERA and a sparkling 1.04 WHIP in 82 2/3 innings spanning 70 games.
<p. claudio="" difference:="" notable="" one="" there="" was=""> "The underlying metrics were all very similar last year [to Claudio's more successful seasons in the past]," Stearns said. "He's a guy who puts a ton of balls on the ground. He has huge ground-ball rates. And every now and then, you have years when you're a ground-ball pitcher that the ground balls find holes. That's what happened to him last year." </p.>
Said Texas GM Jon Daniels: "I love Alex. He has been a great pitcher for us. Last year was an aberration of luck more than anything else. He is going to be a really good pitcher in the league, but you couldn't acquire a prospect at the level we'll hopefully be able to select in the Draft there. The chance to obtain high-end talent made too much sense for us."
Teams typically cannot trade Draft picks, but Competitive Balance selections are the exception. The Brewers were in Round A this year, which is why the pick headed to Texas was so high.
"The opportunity provided by that Draft pick is pretty significant," Daniels said. "Obviously, you have a chance to take one of the top players in the country."
The Brewers, meanwhile, were happy to augment a relief corps that was the strength of a team that made it within one win of the World Series, but Stearns said they plan to continue to blur the lines between the starting rotation and bullpen, so it's more helpful to look at the staff as a whole.
At the moment, the in-house options to start games include Jhoulys Chacin, Chase Anderson, Zach Davies and prospects Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta, who figure to make significant starts next season but could always begin the year in the bullpen or at Triple-A depending on how the pieces fit. Jimmy Nelson is a potential boost if he proves healthy after losing all of last year to injury. Junior Guerra and Adrian Houser are among the big arms who could fit as starters or relievers depending on need. And the back end of the bullpen is returning 2018 stalwarts Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress and Corey Knebel, plus Taylor Williams, Matt Albers, Jacob Barnes and others who logged innings last season.
Claudio is eligible for arbitration for the first time, so his 2019 salary remains to be determined. The Brewers still have seven players in that category.
A lot. The Brewers still need a second baseman and remain "pretty much open," Stearns said, to upgrades anywhere else on the roster. That could mean catcher, potentially third base if they find a great option there and shift Travis Shaw to second, and of course a pitching staff sure to be augmented before the start of Spring Training.
Stearns has been espousing a message of patience, but was it satisfying to pick up a player before the Meetings concluded?
"It really doesn't matter to us. I know it seems strange, but it really doesn't," Stearns said. "I'm happy we're adding a good player to our Major League team, but it really doesn't matter to me if it happens now or Jan. 15 or Feb. 15. Our goal is to build a team that's ready for Opening Day."
Rule 5 Draft
Milwaukee didn't select or lose any players in the Major League phase of the annual event, so the trio of MLB Pipeline's Top 30 Brewers prospects left unprotected (No. 10 Jake Gatewood, No. 17 Cody Ponce and No. 28 Carlos Herrera) is all safe.
The Brewers did make two picks in the Minor League phases of the Draft, plucking shortstop Julio Garcia from the Angels and catcher Alexander Alvarez from the Rays in the Triple-A phase.
GM's bottom line
"Simmering, maybe. We have a number of ongoing conversations. Frankly, similar to how we entered this week. I imagine we will keep those going in the coming weeks." -- Stearns, asked whether he left Las Vegas with any boiling pots on the proverbial Hot Stove
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.