PITTSBURGH -- The Brewers continued a bullpen makeover late Monday with a trade for hard-throwing Rangers right-hander Matt Bush.
The Brewers sent left-handed pitching prospect Antoine Kelly, their No. 16 prospect per MLB Pipeline, and utility man Mark Mathias to Texas for the 36-year-old Bush, the former shortstop and No. 1 overall Draft pick who has a troubled past but is excelling this season as a high-leverage reliever. He will augment a Brewers bullpen that will have quite a different look on Tuesday night against the Pirates.
Out is All-Star closer Josh Hader, who was traded to San Diego earlier Monday, and in are relievers Taylor Rogers and Dinelson Lamet from the Padres and Bush from the Rangers. Bush has posted a 2.95 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 36 2/3 innings this season, and the Brewers anticipate him fitting into a late-inning, high-leverage mix that includes Rogers, Devin Williams, Brad Boxberger and Trevor Gott.
"From a pure stuff perspective, Matt possesses as good of raw stuff right now as any reliever who is going to change hands at this deadline,” Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns said. “It's electric. He’s having a lot of success with it, and we think he’s in a spot where he’s going to help our bullpen and pitch in leverage spots for us.”
Notably, Bush has two more seasons of contractual control beyond 2022. That contributed to the cost, including a high-ceiling pitching prospect in Kelly who has 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings through his first 19 starts this season at High-A Wisconsin.
“Antoine is a very good pitching prospect. Mark is someone who has impacted our Major League team,” Stearns said. “It is always tough to part with younger players, to part with prospects, but we also know that this is part of the deal this time of year.”
Bush was selected with the No. 1 overall pick by the Padres in the 2004 MLB Draft as an infielder before transitioning to pitching in '07. But then, he had a wave of off-the-field issues through his time in the Minors from 2009-12, including multiple alcohol-related arrests before he was sentenced to 51 months in prison following his involvement in a near-deadly crash with a motorcyclist.
After making his comeback as a pitcher, he underwent surgery to repair a partially torn UCL in his right elbow in '18 but the "repair and reinforcement" procedure didn't work, so Bush had to undergo Tommy John surgery in ‘19 before signing another rehab contract with the Rangers. He entered Spring Training in '20 intending to make a comeback before the COVID-19 shutdown. In ’21, he made the Opening Day roster only to suffer a a right flexor tendon injury that limited him to four appearances.
Finally, this season, he has reestablished a foothold.
His four-seam fastball is averaging 97.3 mph this season, according to Statcast, and he’s also throwing a curveball and a cutter. His fastball spin rate is in the 98th percentile, per Statcast, and his velocity is in the 84th percentile.
“A little shocked,” Bush said Monday after learning of the trade. “Definitely wasn't expecting it, but I guess [it's] just a bittersweet moment. It's really hard to say goodbye here. This has been home for me for quite a while. My family and I have been treated so well here. I feel like the organization has always taking care of myself first and then baseball. It's also really exciting to go to the Brewers; a team that's really winning right now and has a chance to go into the playoffs and do big things. So I'm excited about that.”