Brewers recall Hiura, option Shaw, DFA Perez

June 29th, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- For weeks, ever since the Brewers decided to send top prospect back to the Minor Leagues, the question was how much longer they could stick with slumping Travis Shaw while Hiura was tearing it up at Triple-A.

The official answer finally came on Friday.

Hiura and utility man Tyler Saladino bid farewell to their Triple-A San Antonio teammates on Thursday night and were recalled to the Majors, where they are replacing two of the Brewers’ slumping hitters. The team optioned third baseman Shaw to San Antonio and designated Hernan Perez for assignment.

The Brewers also placed Jimmy Nelson on the 10-day injured list with fluid build-up in his right elbow and recalled right-hander Corbin Burnes. All of the moves were official Friday afternoon, ahead of the team’s 7:10 p.m. CT series opener against the Pirates.

The pitching move had to be made, manager Craig Counsell said. But the decision to demote Shaw and cut ties with Perez, whom the Brewers expect to lose once he hits the waiver wire, came after a long period of discussion. Shaw topped 30 home runs in each of the previous two seasons. Perez was as versatile on the field as he was popular in the clubhouse, the team’s third-longest tenured player behind Ryan Braun and Jimmy Nelson.

“There's no black and white line there,” Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns said. “There's a lot of grey area. [The decision on Shaw] is something that we've talked about for a long time, it's something that we've been monitoring for a long time. When you get to the halfway point of the season and we just haven't seen the level of production that we'd hoped to see or that Travis that would have liked to have seen, we just thought it was time.

“We think it's the right move. We think it's time to hopefully inject a little more consistency in our lineup on an everyday basis. And frankly, we also expect Travis to go down there, produce and be back. We've said this before and it remains the truth: we are our best team when Travis Shaw is producing here.”

Stearns was asked whether he believes the Brewers followed the proper process when it came to the question of Shaw vs. Hiura.

In other words, did they wait too long?

“I believe giving a player who has been a really important part of this organization every chance to succeed here is the right decision,” Stearns said. “I wish it had worked. I wish that we had gotten Travis going at the Major League level. I don't regret for a second giving him an opportunity to succeed here.”

Said Counsell: “Ultimately, we got to a point where I think we all felt like we gave him every shot we could and we just had to try something different.”

Hiura, Milwaukee’s top prospect and No. 12 in all of baseball according to MLB Pipeline, already made his Major League debut in a 17-game stretch from May 14-June 2 and slashed .281/.333/.531 with five home runs in 69 plate appearances. The Brewers bucked fan sentiment on June 3 and sent Hiura back to San Antonio in order to offer a second chance to Shaw after Shaw recovered from a wrist injury, but he has gone 8-for-48 with 19 strikeouts since and is hitting .164 with a .568 OPS on the year as he heads back to the Minors.

The Brewers exercised extreme patience with Shaw because he was a key player for them in 2017 and ’18, topping 30 home runs in each season. But Shaw has not been able to get going in 2019, and he had an option remaining.

Hiura, meanwhile, continued to hit. He has a 1.088 OPS and 19 home runs in 243 plate appearances at San Antonio this season.

“The goal is to obviously to get back here and be able to stay here,” Hiura said. “My stint here, I was very fortunate just getting the opportunity. When they originally told me it was going to be a temporary thing, I just told myself, ‘Make the most out of it.’ Get the feet wet a little bit, know what to expect and next time you get back up here, kind of know what to do.”

Does this stint feel more permanent?

“I’ve always told people that wherever they send me to play, I’ll play,” Hiura said. “Obviously, I’d like to stay here and contribute to this team going forward with the season.”

With Hiura back at second base, Mike Moustakas will shift to third for the Brewers. Saladino will split time at shortstop with Orlando Arcia, who also was slumping before he connected for a three-run home run in Thursday’s win over the Mariners. Saladino will also be a backup all over the infield and outfield.

Perez, the versatile infielder/outfielder/sometimes pitcher, has slipped into his own hitting slump of late. He was 7-for-43 at the plate since June 2.

But he was more than that to the Brewers, a manager in waiting who bridged the various factions in the clubhouse. Counsell noted that Perez was the Brewers’ first acquisition after he took over as manager in 2015; he’d been claimed off waivers from the Tigers.

When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster. Within seven days of the transaction (had been 10 days under the 2012-16 Collective Bargaining Agreement), the player can either be traded or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.

A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter ran into Perez as he departed Miller Park on Friday afternoon, and Perez was emotional.

"Really, I was surprised. I wasn't expecting this," he told the newspaper. "It's hard. It's really hard. Let's see what the future holds."

Saladino referred to Perez as “one of a kind” and said he helped during Spring Training as Saladino entered the year in a utility role. Jesus Aguilar, himself slumping and out of Minor League options, politely declined to talk about his friend’s departure.

“I don’t want to talk about that,” Aguilar said.

“Those are very tough guys to lose,” Counsell said. “And he’s a friend to all these guys -- a good friend that cared about them and the right things. He brought a positive attitude every single day, brought great energy every single day, and every single day he wanted the Milwaukee Brewers to win. So it’s tough to lose people like that. Very tough.”