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Trade has domino effect for Gennett, Brewers

MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Are Scooter Gennett's days numbered as the Brewers' starting second baseman?

It appeared so Tuesday after the Brewers began Day Two of the Winter Meetings by trading reliever Tyler Thornburg to the Red Sox in a swap that had a domino effect on the rest of the roster.

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Are Scooter Gennett's days numbered as the Brewers' starting second baseman?

It appeared so Tuesday after the Brewers began Day Two of the Winter Meetings by trading reliever Tyler Thornburg to the Red Sox in a swap that had a domino effect on the rest of the roster.

Hot Stove Tracker

Besides the two and perhaps three prospects headed to Milwaukee in the deal -- there is a player to be named later or cash -- the Brewers received infielder Travis Shaw, a left-handed hitter expected to make a majority of starts at third base.

That pushes Major League stolen base leader Jonathan Villar to a more natural fit at second base, and leaves Gennett, a starter for the past three-plus seasons, in a state of limbo.

Brewers get Shaw, two prospects from Red Sox

Meanwhile, Thornburg's departure marked the fourth closer-type that general manager David Stearns has traded for prospects in 12 months, putting the Brewers in the market for late-inning relief. Stearns said he was equally open to filling that need via free agency or future trades, and had discussions Tuesday afternoon on both fronts.

Beyond that, Stearns & Co. continued discussions with other teams on left fielder Ryan Braun -- there's been no progress or slippage on that front since the Winter Meetings convened, Stearns said -- and on the Brewers' available starting pitchers.

"There are no defined, set-in-stone roles on this team right now," Stearns said. "We are going to have a lot of competition."

Video: CIN@MIL: Gennett takes hit away from Barnhart

Though he wasn't involved in Tuesday's trade, Gennett stands to be impacted by it, as he appears to be the odd man out, especially since the Brewers' new front office and coaching staff prizes positional versatility.

Gennett, a .279/.318/.420 hitter over parts of four years in the Majors, is limited to second base. Shaw can play both infield corners, and Villar is a switch-hitter who can play second, third and shortstop. The Brewers have 22-year-old Orlando Arcia at shortstop, and also have the supremely-versatile Hernan Perez, who can play all over the infield and outfield and is coming off his best season at the plate.

Where does that leave Gennett?

"I think Scooter comes into camp in a role where he is going to have to fight for playing time," Stearns said. "He is going to have to fight for his ABs [at-bats]."

Gennett has a Minor League option remaining, though he would be an expensive Minor Leaguer. He signed last week for $2.525 million, avoiding arbitration. If the Brewers keep him, it would be as insurance against an injury to Arcia or Villar, or for the event Arcia struggles again at the plate.

Gennett spent the past few years batting away the same scouting report that has followed Shaw: He has not hit left-handed pitching. Shaw attributed that fact in part to opportunity, saying he got only limited exposure to lefties last year after the Red Sox acquired Aaron Hill from the Brewers and installed a third base platoon.

"I knew they wanted to give [third baseman Pablo Sandoval] another chance, that my role in Boston was going to be a little different this year if I was still there," Shaw said. "So I knew there was a possibility of me going somewhere this offseason. Thankfully it's here in Milwaukee, where I'll have a chance to hopefully play every day and make an impact in that lineup."

As for the ninth inning, the Brewers are not players for top free agent closers Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen, but there are other available relievers with late-inning experience: Santiago Casilla, Neftali Feliz, Greg Holland, Sergio Romo, Fernando Salas, Drew Storen, Koji Uehara, Brad Ziegler are all free agents, as is Joe Blanton on the heels of a career year as a setup man for the Dodgers. Stearns did not rule out signing a reliever to a multi-year contract, using his three-year agreement with first baseman Eric Thames as an example that the Brewers are open to signing free agents, even while rebuilding.

The Brewers also like some of their internal closer candidates, including hard-throwing youngsters Corey Knebel and Jacob Barnes, and savvy veteran Carlos Torres.

Video: MIL@COL: Knebel retires Blackmon to end the game

"We've seen examples where that ninth-inning profile isn't always the stereotypical closer who's coming out throwing 95 [mph]," Stearns said. "There are guys who've had some success in that role throwing softer. We think we have some players who have the makeup to do that, and we'll bring in some outside influence, as well, to round out the back end of our pen."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Milwaukee Brewers, Scooter Gennett