WASHINGTON -- "It's all hands on deck for us," Brewers assistant GM Matt Arnold said Friday, when the Brewers were the Majors' busiest team ahead of the deadline to pick up players and have them eligible for potential postseason play.
In three separate swaps before midnight ET, the Brewers traded for Nationals lefty starter Giovany Gonzalez, Blue Jays outfielder Curtis Granderson and White Sox lefty reliever Xavier Cedeno to bolster a team pushing for its first postseason appearance in seven years.
"We have a really good team here and we wanted to do everything we could to help this ballclub win all the way through September and into October," Arnold said after a 4-1 win over the Nationals gave Milwaukee its eighth victory in 11 games.
The Brewers expect all three newcomers on hand Saturday when rosters expand.
"They want it. They're doing everything they can," Gonzalez said. "They feel they have the team that's gonna take them to the next level, and I think that they do with the lineup like that, and adding Curtis to the lineup, and you have X-man [Cedeno] -- I know him, I played with him. …
"They're definitely making a push for it, and I'm happy to be on a team that wants to go the distance."
The priciest pickup, both in terms of payroll and prospects, was Gonzalez, a decorated 11-year veteran who is struggling towards the end of his contract. After finishing sixth in National League Cy Young Award balloting last season with a 2.96 ERA in 32 starts, Gonzalez is 7-11 with a 4.57 ERA, including 1-5 with a 6.55 ERA since the All-Star break and 1-4 with a 7.47 ERA in August.
Still, the acquisition cost was significant. Besides absorbing the $2 million left on Gonzalez's contract before he hits free agency this offseason, the Brewers gave up 22-year-old catcher/first baseman KJ Harrison, a third-round Draft pick in 2017 who ranked No. 29 on MLB Pipeline's list of Milwaukee's Top 30 Prospects, plus 20-year-old infielder Gilbert Lara, a onetime top Brewers prospect who signed for $3.2 million in 2014 but has a .598 OPS in four Minor League seasons.
The Brewers also received $250,000 in international slot money in the deal.
More importantly, they got help -- if Gonzalez can rediscover his former self, a la Cole Hamels with the Cubs -- for the starting rotation.
Brewers starters entered the final game of August with a 5.04 ERA for the month. Only the Padres (5.24) and Reds (5.53) had fared worse.
"I think everyone needs a fresh start now and then," Gonzalez said. "It's unfortunate I put myself in this situation, and now it's time I get myself out of it. Milwaukee took a shot with me, and I'm going to do my best to make it happen."
Gonzalez did not have far to go. News of the deal broke just as Lorenzo Cain was getting ready to step into the batter's box to begin the Brewers' three-game series at Nationals Park. Gonzalez watched the game in the Nationals' dugout, but he'll be on the other side in a Brewers uniform when the series continues Saturday.
It wasn't immediately clear where the Brewers would slot Gonzalez into the rotation -- or if they would use him out of the bullpen. Manager Craig Counsell said the Brewers' rotation was set through the end of their next series against the Cubs, but Arnold suggested there would be more conversations about that on Saturday.
"I think there's temporary struggles for a lot of guys," Counsell said. "The track record is important. The success he's had is important. We feel like we're adding a good pitcher to our staff."
In Granderson, the Brewers are adding another player with a postseason pedigree. He hit .245/.342/.430 with 11 home runs in 104 games for the Blue Jays this season -- his 15th in the Majors. While Christian Yelich and Cain are mainstays in the outfield, and Ryan Braun has played extensively since he got hot after the All-Star break, the 37-year-old Granderson could start when a left-handed bat is called for, and could be useful off the bench.
Granderson signed a one-year, $5 million deal with Toronto last winter and like Gonzalez becomes a free agent at the end of the season.
"It's going to be a good thing, having a lot of options and a lot of weapons, especially in September," Granderson said. "It gives you a lot of flexibility. I'm not there to disrupt stuff. ... I've always looked at myself as a little piece of the puzzle that just fits in. You tell me where to go and how you need me, and I'll try to adapt accordingly."
The Brewers sent 21-year-old outfielder Demi Orimoloye to the Blue Jays for Granderson and two Rookie-level Helena players -- 19-year-old outfielder Bryan Connell and 22-year-old reliever Johan Dominguez -- to the White Sox for Cedeno, 32, who will join former White Sox teammate Joakim Soria in Milwaukee's bullpen as the Brewers look to strengthen an already robust relief corps.
Cedeno is 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA and has recorded 28 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings in 2018. He has one more year of arbitration remaining, meaning the Brewers could bring him back next season, though Cedeno is out of options.
"He's been a guy we've had our eye on," Arnold said. "He has a long track record of getting left-handers out. Especially when the rosters expand, you can use this type of pitcher really effectively."
To open spots on their full 40-man roster for the new additions, the Brewers outrighted infielder Nate Orf to Triple-A Colorado Springs and designated pitchers Aaron Brooks and Jake Thompson for assignment.
When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster, and 25-man roster if he was on that as well. Within seven days of the transaction (it was previously 10 days), the player must either be traded, released or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.