CHICAGO -- Remember back at the Trade Deadline when Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns said “geographical location” impeded his chances of acquiring a premium player at the 11th hour? It made fans wonder whether Stearns meant a player like Max Scherzer, who had the right to veto a trade if it wasn’t to his preferred locale, or whether Stearns meant a team like the Cubs, a cross-border rival with stars on the block.
Turns out, the answer was both.
A source said the Brewers made inquiries on a high-profile player with a no-trade clause -- Scherzer -- and touched base with the Cubs before the Deadline. But talks on each front went nowhere because Scherzer wanted to go to the West Coast if he was dealt and because the Cubs seemed reluctant to deal within the division.
The Chicago player in the Brewers’ sights was All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel, who could have given Milwaukee quite a 1-2-3 punch at the back of the bullpen with Josh Hader and reigning National League Rookie of the Year Devin Williams. Milwaukee officials were said to be puzzled when the Cubs instead traded him across town to the White Sox.
Stearns does not discuss the specifics of trade talks unless the deal comes to fruition, so he did not comment. But on July 30, the date the Brewers acquired relievers Daniel Norris from the Tigers and John Curtiss from the Marlins to supplement earlier trades for hitters, Stearns did respond to a question about whether he had any bigger deals in mind in the waning days of trade season.
“We did talk about a number of the more premium players that were moved,” Stearns said. “In certain circumstances, I think maybe our geographical location didn’t always help. But we were involved in a number of discussions, and really, I don’t think we had anyone that I would deem untouchable for the right player.”
Did he look at starting pitchers or was he happy with the Brewers’ in-house options?
“I would say both,” Stearns said. “We did talk about some of the starting pitchers that were out there. Starting pitchers that didn’t get moved, we did talk about [also]. But that’s the strength of our team as well, and we really believe in our core group of starters; they’ve done a tremendous job for us. They’ve carried us, and we have a lot of confidence in that group moving forward.”
Surgery likely for Curtiss
After experiencing discomfort during his outing in Game 2 of Tuesday’s doubleheader, Curtiss got grim news: He has a torn ulnar collateral ligament and “likely” requires Tommy John surgery and a long rehabilitation.
It’s a tough blow for a durable right-hander who pitched in the World Series for the Rays last year, and who came to the Brewers from the Marlins in a trade expecting to play a prominent bullpen role down the stretch -- and who is under team control for four more years. He was off to a poor start, with a 2.54 WHIP and 12.46 ERA in six outings with Milwaukee, but he had not reported any arm issues before Tuesday, according to Stearns.
“He prided himself on durability,” Stearns said. “One of the first things he told us when he walked in the door is, ‘I’m available every day. You don’t even need to ask me.’ So it’s really unfortunate. We feel awful for John. I think he was really excited to come to this team. I think he was excited to pitch in the pennant race and hopefully pitch in the playoffs again. It’s really unfortunate that didn’t work out.”
Before surgery is scheduled, Curtiss is exercising his right to a second opinion.
He’s the second Brewers reliever mulling that procedure. Veteran John Axford suffered an elbow injury in his first Major League outing in three years on Aug. 2 and is deciding whether to undergo Tommy John surgery in an effort to prolong his baseball career or to hang up his spikes.
“Look, it’s baseball,” Stearns said. “I am very confident we could not have foreseen either of those. It’s unfortunate for those two guys because both of those guys really believed they were going to contribute to this, and in various ways, felt very fortunate to go here.”
Hader due back Thursday
The Brewers expect to get healthier Thursday when Hader is eligible to come off the COVID-19 injured list. He’s already cleared re-intake testing, manager Craig Counsell indicated.
Hader was one of nine Brewers players who landed on the COVID IL during an 11-day span in late July and early August, and would be the fifth to return. Hader was asymptomatic the whole time and was only tested because he’d reported close contact with an individual who was positive.
The next player eligible to return after Hader is left-hander Eric Lauer on Friday when the team is in Pittsburgh. The Brewers currently have Brett Anderson scheduled to start that night and are TBD for Saturday and Sunday.