The trade deadline has come and gone, and the Milwaukee Brewers added a few key pieces to their bullpen. Even with the new additions, a few key questions remain. How will the team divide the workload for the next two months?
We’ve already broken down the state of the starting rotation. Let’s take a look at the current bullpen options.
The Established Guy
Corey Knebel is the Milwaukee Brewers closer from now until forever. He’s converted 18 saves in 23 attempts with a 1.68 ERA and 85 K’s in 48 1/3 innings of work. This is what an elite closer looks like. They’re also the hardest part of the bullpen to find. Sadly, other than Knebel, there isn’t much in terms of established bullpen roles.
The New Guys
Anthony Swarzak and Jeremy Jeffress were added to function as a bridge from the starting pitcher to Corey Knebel. Swarzak is in the middle of a career year, but allowed a run in his first appearance with the Milwaukee Brewers. He rebounded with a quality effort his second time out, but needs to rack up a few more scoreless outings before he’s the obvious choice as the eighth inning guy.
Jeffress is in the middle of a rough year. If he didn’t have a track record of success in Milwaukee, he probably wouldn’t have been a trade target. His velocity is down a few ticks and he owns a 29:19 K:BB ratio in 40 2/3 innings. He may capture the old magic in his first appearance in Miller Park, or he may continue to struggle.
The Other Guys
Talk about your motley crew. Jacob Barnes, Oliver Drake, Jared Hughes, Paolo Espino, and Wei-Chung Wang occupy roles in the Milwaukee Brewers bullpen. Barnes, Drake, and Hughes were solid in the early months, but were overused and have struggled recently. Perhaps the addition of Swarzak and Jeffress can allow them to catch their breath and return to form?
Chung and Espino probably shouldn’t be occupying roster space on a team that has playoff aspirations. Chung earned a promotion by working his way through the Minor League system and finding a few extra ticks on his fastball. He has a chance towork his way into a role as a LOOGY, but he can’t stay out there for long stretches.
Espino is a career journeyman who should be rounding out a rotation in Triple-A. He would be a nice story on a bad team. He’s probably not long for Major League roster.
The Wild Card
You thought we left out Josh Hader? All Hader has done since he arrived on the Milwaukee Brewers roster is rack up K’s, walks, and zeroes. He’s only surrendered runs twice in 14 appearances. Hader has walked 12 in 20 innings, but there’s also the 24 K’s. He adds a power lefty arm in the late innings, and appears to be working his way into higher leverage situations. It wouldn’t be a huge shock to see Hader become a legitimate setup option for a contending team. However, his future lies in the starting rotation.
The Milwaukee Brewers have attempted to strengthen their bullpen with a pair of low cost moves, but ultimately, the relief corps other than Knebel may be their undoing. Drake, Hughes, and Barnes need to continue to eat up innings. However, their recent struggles required the team to add arms at the deadline. Brad Hand or Addison Reed would have solidified the bullpen, but they also would have come at a much higher cost. The Milwaukee Brewers have a few options they can trust. Only time will tell if they have enough to win a division title.