Brewers get 3 Phils prospects for Phelps

August 31st, 2020

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers dealt a reliever just before Monday’s Trade Deadline, but it wasn’t Josh Hader.

Instead, the Brewers sent reliable right-hander to the Phillies for three players to be named, while coming up empty in a parallel effort to add a bat. A source told that the Brewers will get three right-handers: Brandon Ramey, who turned 20 on Monday, and 19-year-olds Israel Puello and Juan Geraldo.

By rule, those players cannot be named because they are not in Philadelphia’s 60-man player pool, but the deal conjures comparisons to the trade that sent Adam Lind to the Mariners in December 2015 for three teenage pitchers, including Freddy Peralta, who grew into a big leaguer and signed a five-year extension this spring.

Brewers get:
Three PTBN (RHPs Brandon Ramey, Israel Puello and Juan Geraldo, per source)
Phillies get: RHP David Phelps

At the time the Brewers made the Lind deal, they were rebuilding. Today, they are coming off consecutive postseason appearances and sitting one game out of the 2020 postseason picture going into Monday’s game against the Pirates.

“David Stearns found a deal he thought he couldn't pass up, that he felt like was important for the franchise to make,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "I don't think it says anything about the future of the team. We have to go out there and win a baseball game today. That’s how the guys in there are going to treat it.

“You lose players at times. Guys get hurt. Guys get traded. That doesn't stop you from trying to win the baseball game that day. We're sitting a game out of the playoffs right now. We know we have to play better to get there, but we're not in a bad position at all. We feel like it’s in front of us.”

Stearns, the Brewers' president of baseball operations, was trying to add to the offense prior to Monday’s 3 p.m. CT Deadline at the same time he was subtracting from the bullpen. He was in talks with a number of teams about acquiring a hitter to help a Milwaukee offense that entered Monday scoring the fewest runs per game in the National League, but in some cases, those hitters went elsewhere, or were not traded at all.

“Probably up until 2:55, I thought we were going to add a bat,” Stearns said. “I thought we were close to doing so. Sometimes, it doesn’t work, and this was one of the cases where we just couldn’t get one over the line.”

Phelps, 33, signed with the Brewers last winter for one year plus a $4.5 million club option in 2021, and he has shined so far in '20, his second season back from Tommy John surgery. In 12 appearances for Milwaukee covering 13 innings, he struck out 20 batters to pair with two walks while posting a 0.69 WHIP.

Phelps ranks in the 95th percentile or better in hard-hit rate, strikeout rate and exit velocity allowed, according to Statcast. Two weeks ago, he talked about his return to form from Tommy John surgery in 2018.

“It's as close to being back to how I felt pre-surgery in a long time,” Phelps said.

With Phelps out, the Brewers will have to find another reliable setup man to pitch alongside the lights-out duo of Hader and right-hander Devin Williams.

“I’ll list our eight relievers as options for those. Every one of them’s an option,” Counsell said. “We’re just trying to get 27 outs. It’s going to work differently every day. We’d gotten into a little more of a pattern with the guys we had. We’re probably going to abandon that a little now. We’ll see.”

Supak, Topa promoted to Majors
To replace Phelps and Brandon Woodruff (paternity leave) on the active roster, the Brewers promoted 2019 Minor League pitcher of the year Trey Supak from the alternate training site along with a surprise: 29-year-old Justin Topa, who wasn’t in the Brewers’ initial 60-man player pool and has never pitched above the Double-A level.

Brewers assistant director of scouting Brian Gale led an effort to sign Topa out of independent ball prior to the 2019 season after he’d remade himself as a reliever. He possesses an electric duo of pitches: a 97-99 mph two-seamer with heavy sink and a frisbee slider.

Topa walked 10 and struck out 41 in 40 innings last season between Class A Advanced Carolina and Double-A Biloxi. The Brewers added him to the player pool in Appleton, Wis., at the end of July.

“Although it’s been an odd season for everybody else, I think Justin’s really performed in these scenarios,” Counsell said. “He’s pitched in [the Cactus League] for us. He’s been really good up in Appleton. He’s just been going the right direction for a long time now. Big velocity is something that we like. He throws strikes. Some of the offspeed stuff has improved. It’s a guy that, right now, he was ‘on it’ in Appleton, so we’re taking a shot with him.”

Knebel begins rehab assignment
One of the Brewers’ many roster moves on Monday was to formally begin a rehab assignment at the alternate training site for Corey Knebel, who has thrown off the mound at least twice since going on the 10-day injured list with a strained left hamstring. He was in the midst of working back from Tommy John surgery when the hamstring injury derailed him.

“This is very, very tough for Corey,” Brewers pitching coach Chris Hook said. “I mean, we feel for him in that aspect. He was trying to get big league hitters out, and he's still kind of going through his rehab process. This guy is an incredible warrior, and that's part of this stuff we don't kind of figure in. He's a warrior, and I think once we get him back out there, he's going to be just fine."

Stearns said the hope is that Knebel will make only “a couple of outings” in Appleton, Wis., before rejoining the club.