When the dust settled at 3 pm yesterday afternoon, one of the wildest non waiver trade deadlines in recent memory had finally come and gone. After months of buildup for a restless fanbase, the Milwaukee Brewers finally got their rebuild under way: five MLB players were moved, adding seven new prospects (including five that moved into the team’s top 30, according to MLB Pipeline) to a rapidly improving minor league system. While Brewers’ fans have now said goodbye to Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Gomez, Mike Fiers, Gerardo Parra, and Jonathan Broxton, Milwaukee’s GM Doug Melvin still has work to do this season.
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While players can no longer be traded with as much ease as before the non-waiver deadline, August brings with it the waiver trade deadline, which comes on the 31st. A player must be placed on “trade waivers,” and if they clear waivers without being claimed, the Brewers are free to negotiate with any club that may be interested in said player’s services. However, if that player is claimed, then the Brewers have two days to negotiate exclusively with that club in order to strike a deal. If no trade can be agreed upon, the Brewers can either let that player go and be claimed for nothing (except for the claiming team absorbing his salary), or they can pull that player back off waivers and keep them in the organization. If a player is pulled back off waivers, then should the Brewers decide to place that player on trade waivers a second time, they do not have the option of pulling them back if he is claimed (and it’s therefore unlikely any team would place the same player on trade waivers twice). As long as any player is on a major league roster by August 31st, that player is then eligible for postseason play. That all makes sense, right?
The Brewers didn’t move all their major league pieces before yesterday’s non-waiver deadline, leaving them several players who could be on the move in August. While some are more likely to go than others, we should definitely see at least one more deal done before all is said an done this season. Here are all Brewers August trade candidates, and my prediction on whether they stay or go:
LHP Neal Cotts
Milwaukee signed Cotts to a one year, $3 mil deal prior to the season to serve as an additional left hander out of the bullpen. After a rough start to the season, Cotts has settled into his role nicely: a 3.51 ERA and 41.7% ground ball rate in 41.0 innings pitched, striking out 43 hitters while holding lefties to just a .245 wOBA. He has struggled a bit with home runs (1.54 HR/9), but is walking batters at roughly a 2% lower rate than his career average. His DRA of 3.66 reflects he is pitching in accordance with his talent level, and a 94 cFIP- predicts an above average performance going forward. Cotts is unlikely to be claimed on waivers due to his relatively high salary, but lefties are always a desirable commodity around the league.
Prediction: Cotts is almost certain to be traded.
RHP Kyle Lohse
Lohse had been the Brewers most consistent performer since signing a three year free agent contract before the 2013 season, but his bottom line numbers have greatly regressed in 2015. Though he hasn’t seen a significant change in his walk or strikeout rates and maintained his fastball velocity, Lohse has seen his line drive rate increase four percent over last season and his hard hit rate against is nearly four percent higher than his career average. Home runs have been Lohse’s Achilles heel all season long, giving up 24 long balls in 21 starts this season. A 6.24 ERA, 5.21 DRA, and 114 cFIP- are all pretty ugly, but Lohse does have a long track record of success and is a well respected clubhouse presence. He is still owed more than $3 mil this season before the end of his contract, so it’s a near certainty that he will go unclaimed on waivers. I do think that there still might be a club out there that could see him as a bounceback candidate, though Milwaukee won’t get much more than salary relief or a non-prospect in return.
Prediction: I think Lohse gets moved this month, but if he doesn’t then he’s a strong DFA candidate before September call-ups.
RHP Matt Garza
The Brewers (ahem, Mark Attanasio) signed Garza to a four year, $50 mil deal with a vesting option prior to the 2014 season. After a solid first season in Milwaukee, Garza has experienced the worst season of his career in 2015: a 5.20 ERA and 45.2% ground ball rate in 110.2 innings pitched with his lowest strikeout rate of his career. Garza has been stung by the long ball as well this season, giving up 17 home runs in 18 appearances this season, and a 5.33 DRA and 115 cFIP- say he may even be outperforming how bad he has really been this year. Garza is still owed more than $4 mil this season and the Brewers are on the hook for another $25 mil over the next two seasons (not including his vesting option for 2018). Matt has looked slighly better in his last two starts since a short DL stint, giving up three runs in his last 11.2 innings.
Prediction: Garza won’t get claimed, and unless the Brewers eat nearly all of his deal, he won’t be moved, either. Milwaukee will probably continue to give him starts, hoping he can bounce back in the last two months of the season. If Garza can find his form and re-establish himself as a useful back-end starter, he could then be moved this winter or prior to next season’s trade deadline.
RHP Francisco Rodriguez
After signing Rodriguez to a series of one year deals since acquiring him back in 2011, the Brewers and K-Rod agreed to a two year, $13 mil (with a team option for 2017) deal before this season. Frankie has re-established himself as a premier closer this season, posting a 1.50 ERA in 36 innings on the year, going a perfect 23-23 in save opportunities. He has bumped up his strikeouts (10.0 K/9), his ground ball rate (48.2%), and decreased his walks (2.25 BB/9) and home run rate (0.50) since last season. His 1.96 DRA ranks 31st in the MLB this season (min 5 IP), and his cFIP- of 76 ranks t-33rd.
Prediction: K-Rod’s relatively high financial commitment will probably scare teams off from claiming him, and his history of domestic violence will probably ensure that he finishes 2015 wearing a Brewers’ uniform.
1B Adam Lind
When GM Doug Melvin flipped non-tender candidate Marco Estrada to the Blue Jays for Adam Lind, there was a collective eye-roll from a significant segment of the fanbase. With a history of back issues and a significant amount of games at DH over the past few seasons, many were not sold that Lind would be the solution to Milwaukee’s first base woes. Those people could not have been more wrong. Lind has remained healthy and been in the lineup almost everyday this season, and he has thrived while batting mostly cleanup in Milwaukee: a .276/.355/.482 line with 16 home runs, 20 doubles, and a 10.9% walk rate. Adam has been surprisingly adept in the field as well, putting up an above average 3 DRS and a 0.2 UZR to this point in the season. All together, it has added up to an extremely useful 1.7 fWAR all for the bargain price of $7.5 mil. Many were surprised that Lind wasn’t moved before yesterday’s non-waiver deadline, but given Lind’s production this season and his more than reasonable $8 mil club option ($500k buyout) for next season, the asking price was understandably high.
Prediction: If the Brewers were to put Lind on waivers this month, he would no doubt be claimed. If the Brewers weren’t able to find a good enough offer before yesterday’s non-waiver deadline, it’s a near certainty that they wouldn’t get enough value this month, either. The Brewers will likely end up holding on to Lind through the end of this season, then picking up his contract option and moving him either this winter or before next year’s deadline.
It’s important to remember that a rebuild doesn’t happen in a day; even the Cubs and Astros took several seasons to move ALL of their MLB assets. Just because controllable players like Lind, Jonathan Lucroy, or Jean Segura haven’t been moved this season doesn’t mean they won’t get moved in the winter or next year, it just means that Doug Melvin wasn’t able to find a deal that he felt was strong enough to justify moving that specific player at the time. Melvin has already acknowledged that the Brewers are in “rebuild mode” – even using the word rebuild specifically while softer terms like “reboot” or “retool” have been bandied about by other teams. The front office appears to be set on a course to overhaul the franchise from top to bottom, so our job at this point is to simply be patient and enjoy dreaming on the prospects, waiver claims, and buy-low veterans that will be trying to make their mark in Milwaukee during the next few years.