Brewers activate Black, DFA prospect Supak

September 14th, 2020

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers returned one reliever, , from the 45-day injured list, summoned another, Justin Topa, to serve as the extra man for a doubleheader against the Cardinals, and acquired outfield depth by winning a waiver claim for Toronto’s .

But the most surprising of a flurry of roster moves Monday may have been a subtraction.

Needing to clear two spots on a full 40-man roster, the Brewers designated for assignment utility man along with , the 24-year-old right-hander who ranked 16th on MLB Pipeline’s list of Milwaukee’s top prospects and was MLB Pipeline’s 2019 Brewers Minor League Pitcher of the Year and the Double-A Southern League’s 2019 Pitcher of the Year.

Should they clear waivers, an intriguing “if” in Supak’s case, considering he is a 24-year-old pitcher with a Minor League option remaining, the players could remain in the organization.

Supak was 11-4 with a 2.20 ERA in 20 starts for Double-A Biloxi last season, but there were hints that the Brewers did not value him as highly as the prospect-watchers. Supak’s 6.7 strikeouts per nine innings at Biloxi lagged many of the Brewers’ other young pitchers in a swing and miss era, and he fared poorly after a promotion to Triple-A San Antonio, where Supak had a 9.30 ERA in seven starts. When the Brewers made their September callups, Supak was a notable omission. He said he used the snub as motivation to get in better shape over the winter.

But Supak spent most of this season at the alternate training site. He was called up to the Major Leagues only once, on Aug. 31, then optioned back the next day without throwing a pitch in a game.

“This was really tough timing for Trey, I think, to come into this year and not have a normal Triple-A season at which to compete,” Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns said. “Trey had a really nice year at Double-A last year, did a really good job at preventing runs at that level. Struggled in Triple-A when he got the opportunity late last year in a somewhat limited showing there. So coming into this year, it was a year in which he really needed to be able to perform at Triple-A to keep his development going.

“Then, as we looked ahead to next year, and we looked at a guy who at that point would be on his final option and really be at a stage in his career that in order to remain on the 40-man as a pitcher with just one option remaining, really at a point where he was going to have to regularly contribute at the Major League level. So we made the decision that now is the right time to take him off the roster.

“Trey has worked exceptionally hard. He is still young. We understand that. But at this point, we thought it was the right decision.”

Black rejoins bullpen

After facing hitters in a series of outings at the alternate training site, Black was deemed ready to return from the right rotator cuff strain that landed him on Milwaukee’s Opening Day injured list.

“I think Ray’s recovery had probably gone about as well as we could have expected over the last three weeks,” Stearns said. “He’s gotten back to facing live hitters. He was throwing the ball well, the velocity has come back. So we thought it was time to get him back to the Major League level.

The Brewers acquired Black last July along with left-hander Drew Pomeranz in a Trade Deadline deal that sent infield prospect Mauricio Dubón to San Francisco.

McKinney acquired, assigned to Appleton

McKinney, 26, is a left-handed hitter who is already well-traveled. He was drafted by the A’s in the first round in 2013, traded to the Cubs the following year in the Addison Russell blockbuster, then to the Yankees in 2016 in the Aroldis Chapman blockbuster, then to the Blue Jays in 2018 for J.A. Happ. McKinney has 411 Major League plate appearances over parts of three seasons.

“It’s possible he sees time this year. It’s also a nod to future years, someone we think has the potential to impact our team down the road,” Stearns said. “He’s an athletic, left-handed-hitting outfielder. He can play multiple positions. He also has experience at first base. He's got impact in his bat. He has demonstrated power at the Minor League level. He has demonstrated the ability to get on base. He hasn't had a really consistent opportunity at the Major League level, but there are skills there that we think can potentially translate."

Adding to the appeal, McKinney does have a Minor League option remaining.