OAKLAND -- Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns said he “cast a really wide net” ahead of Wednesday’s Trade Deadline in an effort to patch up a pitching staff beset by poor performance, injuries, and in more than one case, a combination of both.
If you read a trade rumor about a big-name pitcher, Stearns said, then yes, the Brewers talked to that team. They talked to teams about pitchers who never appeared in the rumors, too. And while he did not hook one of the big names on the move Wednesday, Stearns did add four arms in the hours before 3 p.m. CT that he believes will help.
"I expected prices to be high,” Stearns said, “and they were."
So Stearns went the depth route, adding veteran left-hander Drew Pomeranz and younger right-handers Ray Black and Jake Faria in trades with the Giants and Rays on Wednesday, two days after landing right-hander Jordan Lyles from the Pirates. Lyles was set to join the Brewers’ depleted starting rotation on Wednesday night. Pomeranz, a free agent at season’s end, will join the bullpen as early as Thursday. Black, who has five years of club control remaining, and Faria, who has four, were optioned to Triple-A San Antonio.
Milwaukee sent 2018 All-Star Jesus Aguilar to the Rays in a straight-up swap for Faria before sending Triple-A infielder Mauricio Dubon, MLB Pipeline’s No. 3 Brewers prospect, to the Giants for Pomeranz and Black. In a separate trade, the Brewers acquired cash from the Twins for No. 21 prospect Marcos Diplan, a right-hander who had been designated for assignment on Monday to make room for Lyles on the 40-man roster.
Stearns said his outlook to this year’s lone Trade Deadline “evolved a little bit” in the last 10 days as the Brewers’ pitching situation changed. A leaky staff sprung two more big ones when All-Star starter Brandon Woodruff and Opening Day starter Jhoulys Chacin went down with core muscle injuries that will sideline each pitcher for multiple weeks -- and in Woodruff’s case, into September. Gio Gonzalez expects to make his next start Saturday against the Cubs after his last outing ended abruptly in the seventh inning because of shoulder tightness.
“In general, when you go into a deadline, I think most clubs -- most contending clubs -- seek to add the highest-impact talent that you probably can,” Stearns said. “Often times, that's very challenging at a deadline when prices are so extreme and, in some cases, supply is diminished. In this case, we thought it was important to add to the depth of our pitching roster given the injuries and some of the attrition we've had over the last month, so we were pleased that we were able to accomplish that.”
Is he confident he did enough?
“I think we have a team that's very capable of staying in the playoff race and advancing in the playoffs,” Stearns said. “I think we have to play more consistently than we have thus far in the season and that's going to take an effort from the entire team.”
It came as something of a surprise that Stearns did not add any other starting pitchers on Wednesday. Pomeranz, 30, recently was moved by the Giants from the rotation, where he was 2-9 with a 6.10 ERA -- including a June 14 win over the Brewers -- to the bullpen, and he delivered a fourth straight scoreless outing on Tuesday night. His average fastball velocity has jumped from 92 mph to 94.5 mph since the switch. He will join the Brewers’ bullpen, but Stearns didn’t rule out a start at some point.
“I think our front office deserves the benefit of the doubt,” Ryan Braun said. “They’ve been so successful in their short time here, and if you look at their track record of success, they’ve done a phenomenal job of putting us back in the position we’ve been in the past couple of years, very quickly. Obviously, they made moves they think put us in a better position to get to the postseason. For us as players, that’s all we can hope for.”
Faria also has experience as both a starter and a reliever for the Rays. He just turned 26 on Tuesday and is 9-8 with a 4.18 ERA in 26 starts and 14 relief appearances in the Major Leagues over the last three seasons, and he has spent most of this year at Triple-A Durham, where he had a 4.07 ERA in 23 games (seven starts) and one of the highest strikeout rates of his career at 11.2 per nine innings. In the Majors, he allowed three runs on 10 hits in 10 innings over seven games this season, all out of the bullpen.
Black is a hard-throwing, 29-year-old reliever. He made 26 appearances for the Giants last season with a 6.17 ERA, but he spent most of this year at Triple-A Sacramento, compiling a 5.16 ERA in 23 appearances, including one start. He has compiled big strikeout numbers -- 13.5 per nine innings throughout his time in the Majors and 16.3 in his entire pro career.
Of the Brewers’ starting pitching depth in the aftermath of the Deadline, Stearns said, “I think we've demonstrated that we can fill innings creatively. We can have bullpen days. We certainly have guys who have the capability of starting.”
Those arms came at a cost. The Brewers parted with Aguilar to land Faria and sent Dubon to the Giants. Dubon returned from last year’s ACL surgery and an illness this spring to post a .297/.333/.475 slash line with 16 home runs among his 39 extra-base hits in 98 games for Triple-A San Antonio. He made a brief Major League debut with the Brewers in July.
The Brewers could part with Dubon thanks to their depth around the infield, starting with second baseman Keston Hiura, who was the team’s consensus top prospect before his recent graduation from that status. Replacing him was another middle infielder, shortstop Brice Turang, the 19-year-old former first-round Draft pick who is playing at advanced Class A Carolina and ranks 81st on MLB Pipeline’s list of Top 100 Prospects.
It came as little surprise that the Brewers did not seriously weigh trading Hiura to land a top pitcher.
“I think we're cautious to never make anyone completely off-limits, but it would be very challenging to trade a player of that caliber right now,” Stearns said.