Taking stock of Brewers' trade needs as Deadline approaches

July 6th, 2022

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers followed their most uplifting victory of the season on Monday with an 8-3 loss to the Cubs at American Family Field on Tuesday that ended with infielder Mike Brosseau on the mound. It was a reminder that they are a good team but by no means a perfect team.

And the MLB Trade Deadline is precisely four weeks away.

“We’re having some conversations, but the way the calendar works now, we’re also working on the Draft,” Brewers GM Matt Arnold said as the calendar flipped to July. “It’s all at once. The calendar is crammed for our front office and our scouts and our staff ... But that’s OK. It keeps us busy.”

Arnold described the current talks as laying groundwork, but that doesn’t preclude deals. Wednesday, for example, marks one year since the Brewers traded for first baseman Rowdy Tellez, whose two-run home run in the first inning was his 10th consecutive extra-base hit, matching Milwaukee’s franchise record.

Is it the time of year at which players start to wonder about potential moves?

“I try to not play GM,” Tellez said. “We're in first place, we're three games up. We have a really good team. A team that clicks. When you're in the clubhouse, you see how we all gel. You see the banter back and forth.

“It's not my job to sit here and say we need to make moves. If we make moves, we have to trust everything that's done. But we're a really good team.”

Tuesday’s loss was illustrative of where the Brewers could look to add at the Deadline, which is Aug. 2 at 5 p.m. CT.

Could the Brewers seek to acquire…

Starting pitching was regarded as one of the team’s strengths going into the season but injuries have taken a bite out of the rotation.

Four starters have spent time on the injured list so far, and while Brandon Woodruff and Aaron Ashby returned to action on the last road trip, Freddy Peralta (shoulder) and Adrian Houser (forearm) are down. Those absences have meant starts for prospect Ethan Small, waiver claim Chi Chi González and Jason Alexander, a Minor League pick-up last winter who had fared well since joining Milwaukee’s Major League rotation on June 1 at Wrigley Field, but stumbled in a rematch on Tuesday.

It marked the first time Alexander faced a team a second time, and the Cubs won this battle. He surrendered eight hits and was charged with seven runs (six earned) on two walks with two strikeouts and one home run -- Seiya Suzuki’s two-run shot down the left field line on a sinker that was way off the plate inside in the fifth inning. In the sixth, the Cubs added four more runs.

“There were just a lot of unlucky things that happened,” Alexander said. “A lot of ground balls that were just a little bit out of reach or out of pace to where we couldn't make a play, but that just happens.”

Said manager Craig Counsell: “We didn’t play good enough defense to keep some runs off the board early. We sent him back out there for the sixth and unfortunately that inning fell apart on us a little bit. We were short bullpen-wise.”

The deficit grew to 8-2 before the first three Brewers hitters walked in the bottom of the sixth. But that rally produced no runs. The Brewers had one hit from the start of the third inning through the end of the eighth.

So, might they add…

A bat?
Saying the Brewers could use a bat is oversimplifying. It wouldn’t hurt to add a hitter or hitters who also possess a good glove.

The Brewers are 11th of 30 Major League teams in defensive runs saved (22), but 21st in outs above average (-9) and Fangraphs’ “defense” metric (-4.6). Second baseman Kolten Wong, a Gold Glove Award winner, is 267th of 268 defenders rated by Statcast’s outs above average metric at -9. Another Brewers infielder, Luis UrÍas, is 256th at -6.

Again, personnel losses have played a role. The Brewers are currently without right fielder Hunter Renfroe, who possesses one of baseball’s best outfield arms and is on the IL with a calf injury. Jace Peterson, a solid infield defender, has been making some starts in right field to cover that absence. In center, Tyrone Taylor and Jonathan Davis have been starting since veteran Lorenzo Cain was cut loose last month, and while they have each had stellar moments, Brewers center fielders are 27th of 30 teams in fWAR.

The Pirates’ Bryan Reynolds, Cubs’ Ian Happ, Royals’ Andrew Benintendi, Orioles’ Anthony Santander, D-backs’ David Peralta and A’s Ramón Laureano are among the outfielders most-discussed in trade rumors. Among infielders, the Reds’ Brandon Drury is a controllable, attractive option who unfortunately plays in the NL Central. And Nationals DH Nelson Cruz is a good bat who unfortunately does not have a position.

Asked on Tuesday whether he believes the Brewers’ defense has underperformed this season, Counsell replied flatly, “No.”

On Tuesday, however, it left something to be desired.

“[Alexander’s] pitching style is pitch to contact and we kind of left him down as a defense today,” Tellez said. “We should have been out of some situations that allowed more runs. He pitched a good game but all in all, the defense let him down.”