WASHINGTON -- Two hours before the Brewers played their series finale in Philadelphia on Sunday, a reporter extended a notepad and pen to assistant general manager Matt Arnold and asked whether he was willing to share every proposal under consideration by the club with the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline about a week away.
"How much time do you have?" Arnold said with a smile. "We might be done around the eighth inning."
It is a busy time for the Brewers, and a pivotal one. Arnold returned to Milwaukee on Sunday night to join GM David Stearns and the rest of the team's top decision-makers for the stretch drive to next Monday's Deadline.
At the same time, manager Craig Counsell and his players enjoyed a day off in Washington D.C. amid their worst stretch of a surprising season, ahead of the toughest week on their schedule to date. The Brewers have lost seven of their past eight games as Zach Davies prepares to take the mound Tuesday for the start of a three-game road series against the National League East-leading Nationals, who have the third-most wins in the Major Leagues.
Then it's back home to Miller Park for three games against the surging Cubs, who won again Sunday night to pull into a virtual tie with the Brewers atop the NL Central. It snapped Milwaukee's run of 46 consecutive days alone in first place.
The day after the Cubs series comes a milepost: The non-waiver Trade Deadline is July 31 at 3 p.m. CT.
"A lot of things are happening right now, and we're staying on top of it. I wouldn't say anything is close at this point," Arnold said.
Just as Stearns said the Brewers would not overreact to winning 11 of 13 games in the runup and immediate aftermath of the All-Star break, Arnold said team would not let decisions with long-term implications be unduly impacted by the recent fall. The Brewers' primary focus remains pitching, though they are equally engaged on starters and relievers, Arnold said, and they may not be as focused on players under contractual control beyond this season -- i.e. the A's Sonny Gray -- as has been suggested.
If so, that would open the possibility of a two-month rental like the Braves' Jaime Garcia if the deal is right.
Gray, an accomplished if injury-prone right-hander under club control through 2019, is considered the best of the clearly available starters. The Brewers remain interested. The relief market is a bit more muddled, with Tigers closer Justin Wilson leading the way. He has one year of control beyond this season.
At the same time they explore outside options, Milwaukee has some of its own players inching back from injuries to consider. The Brewers' No. 8 prospect, right-hander Brandon Woodruff (hamstring), is back pitching for Triple-A Colorado Springs and could be an option to start for Milwaukee very soon. Right-hander Chase Anderson, the Crew's best starter before he sustained a strained left oblique in June, is "a little bit ahead of schedule" in his comeback, Arnold said, though he has yet to throw off a mound.
And the Brewers just got infielder Eric Sogard back from the DL on Saturday. If Sogard can resume his pre-ankle injury production, the Brewers' reported interest in Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler would probably diminish.
"We have some really interesting guys coming back," Arnold said. "Those are pretty impactful acquisitions on their own."
Are the Brewers' incumbent players keeping tabs on the "what ifs"?
"To say it's not there -- it's there," manager Craig Counsell said. "It's the Trade Deadline. It's there for young players in a different way, older players in a different way. For me, it's one of the stresses players have to deal with. They understand it's part of the job."
That's true, Davies said.
"You always hear it, but we got this far with the team we have, and we're confident with the guys we have," he said. "It's not like we're hoping for [a trade]. If it happens, it happens."
The landscape has changed quickly for the Brewers. In the span of eight days, they went from leading the NL Central by 5 1/2 games to being tied with the Cubs.
The skid adds another layer to the big decision facing Stearns and Arnold.
"Just because something changes one day doesn't mean we're going to have a knee-jerk reaction to anything," Arnold said. "We're not going to try to overcorrect. That's one thing we have to be aware of in all of this, is to make sure we don't overcorrect to short responses."