On the morning of July 31st 2016, the Milwaukee Brewers had a deal in place to trade Jonathan Lucroy to the Cleveland Indians.
Unfortunately, Jonathan Lucroy exercised his veto power and brought that deal to a halt. The Milwaukee Brewers would have received four prospects from the Indians, three of which are still ranked in their updated top 10. Although, only one is ranked in the current MLB top 100.
Instead, the Brewers pivoted and swung a deal with the Texas Rangers before the trade deadline passed. They added Jeremy Jeffress to the deal, along with Lucroy, for three highly regarded prospects. Two of those prospects are currently ranked in the MLB top 100. Let’s take a look at which deal would have been better for the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Cleveland Indians trade
Francisco Meija is a highly regarded catching prospect. Currently, he is the number one prospect in the Cleveland system and 16th overall in the MLB top 100. Meija hits well and has a plus arm from behind the plate. He was definitely the prize of the trade. While a team cannot have enough catching depth in the organization, the Brewers have found a diamond in the rough with Manny Piña this season. The need for a catcher isn’t as dire as it once seemed.
Yu-Cheng Chang is currently fourth in the Indians top 30, and is no slouch himself. A smooth swinging shortstop, Chang provides solid glove work as well. Even though opinions differ on his arm strength, he seems capable of playing multiple positions in the infield. He would have only added to an already crowded middle-infield for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Greg Allen, currently eighth in the Indians top 30, is a center fielder in the mold of Billy Hamilton. Through his minor league career, he has been known for his excellent speed and defense. With low strikeout numbers and a high walk rate, he is a prototypical lead-off hitter. He was awarded a Minor League Gold Glove in 2016. Allen definitely would have helped Milwaukee in the future. However, he would not be in a position to help the team right now.
Shawn Armstrong was the final player in the trade. The right-handed pitcher posted great strikeout numbers coming out of the bullpen in the minor leagues. However, he hasn’t wowed anybody in his brief time at the Major League level. While the Milwaukee Brewers need bullpen help, they need help in the rotation more.
The Texas Rangers trade
Without question, Lewis Brinson was the prize of this trade. He combines tremendous speed with a great ability at the plate. His speed allows him to play an above average center field, while making him a serious threat on the basepaths. He is far and away the top prospect in the Milwaukee Brewers system, he is also 15th overall in the MLB top 100. The Brinson Era hit a blip when he suffered an injury recently, however he figures prominently into the Milwaukee Brewers future.
Not far behind Brinson is the right-handed pitcher Luis Ortiz. He is the Brewers third overall prospect and 78th overall in the MLB top 100. Ortiz has shown good command of the strike zone throughout his Minor League career. He combines an above average fastball, with an easily repeatable delivery for consistent success. Ortiz has the makings of a possible top of the rotation starting pitcher in the near future for the Milwaukee Brewers. As is the case with Brinson, Ortiz figures prominently into the Milwaukee Brewers future as well.
Ryan Cordell ended up as player acquired by the Milwaukee Brewers as the PTBNL in this deal. While Cordell wasn’t as decorated as Brinson, he too has a lot of potential. He has shown his versatility while playing all over the field through the minors. Cordell proved useful for the Brewers, not on the field, but as trade bait. He was traded to the Chicago White Sox for reliever Anthony Swarzak at the deadline this year.
Which deal was better?
The Milwaukee Brewers would have acquired a stud at catcher in Meija from the Indians. Allen also projects to have a successful Major League career. Chang and Armstrong would have most likely been lost in the shuffle. There is little doubt this trade would have helped the Brewers, however the trade with the Rangers provides more upside.
Brinson and Ortiz will be part of the foundation for the future of the Milwaukee Brewers. Had Brinson not injured his hamstring, he would be with the Big League club down the stretch this season. Ortiz has a chance to solidify this rotation in the near future, while Cordell was traded for a high-leverage reliever to help the bullpen down the stretch. Although they had traded Jeffress as part of that package, he struggled in Texas, and has since returned to the Brewers.
The trade with Texas set this team up for the now, and the future. The need for starting pitching throughout the Brewers system far outweighed the need for a catcher. The Milwaukee Brewers are still in the playoff hunt this season, Ortiz and Brinson will help keep the team in contention for the foreseeable future.