The Winter Meetings are getting underway and Milwaukee Brewers GM David Stearns’ biggest priority is starting pitching. He needs to get someone to fit at the top of the rotation.
There are a couple of options on the market that the Milwaukee Brewers could pursue. Stearns has trade negotiations in progress at the moment. It’s a good bet that some of them involve frontline starting pitchers.
The free agent options at the top of the rotation are not desirable fits in the Brewers rotation and payroll. Since Stearns is unlikely to sign one of the top free agents, but still needs to acquire a top of the rotation starter, that leaves the trade market. That market has much better options for the Brewers. With a strong farm system full of quality prospects, the Crew can afford to send a few away in return for an ace without destroying the depth of the system.
With that said, here are the biggest names on the trade market the Milwaukee Brewers could pursue to put in their rotation.
Archer is the best value out there right now. He’s under control for four more years and will be due just over $6 million next year. At 29 years old, he’s younger than any of the top free agent options and is a lot less expensive.
He hasn’t looked the best lately, posting an ERA above 4.00 each of the past two years. But that’s more of a product of him being unlucky and not ineffective. His FIP last year of 3.40 shows he was actually much better than his ERA appears.
He still posts great strikeout numbers, averaging 11.1 K/9 in 2017 and has averaged at least 10 K/9 each of the past three seasons. But his strikeouts come with a fair share of home runs. He allowed 27 home runs in 2017 with 17 of them coming on the road.
If Chris Archer is anything, he’s extremely durable. He’s thrown 200 innings and has started at least 33 games each of the past three years. He fell just shy in 2014, throwing 194.2 innings in 32 starts. So, overall, Archer is a workhorse that can be put at the top of a rotation.
The Rays are set to begin a rebuild. With the Yankees adding Giancarlo Stanton and the Red Sox with a great team, there is virtually no way for the Rays to sneak into the playoffs. It would be smart for them to sell off their assets for prospects. Lewis Brinson or Domingo Santana would be almost certain to go in return, along with other prospects.
He seems to profile around the league as a change of scenery candidate. He could fit in well with Chase Anderson and a healthy Jimmy Nelson atop the Milwaukee Brewers rotation for years to come. Chris Archer would definitely be a part of Plan A for David Stearns in his hunt for a frontline starter.
Danny Duffy is probably another part of Plan A for the Milwaukee Brewers, along with Archer. The Kansas City Royals are heading for a rebuild as well and could look to move their ace. They just signed Duffy to a five year, $65 million deal last off season. He has four years and $60 million left on his contract.
Duffy has posted good numbers the past two years, with a 3.51 ERA in 2016 and a 3.81 ERA in 2017. He also allowed only 13 homers in 2017 compared to the inflated number of long balls Archer allowed. But, Duffy is nowhere near as durable as Archer. Duffy has never pitched more than 180 innings in a season and has never started more than 26 games.
But Duffy has one skill that Archer doesn’t. Duffy throws with his left hand. Adding a southpaw to this rotation would be a huge bonus on top of adding a frontline starter. He may not be a workhorse or strike out a ton of hitters, but a consistent left-handed starter is a role the Brewers have tried to fill for years.
The Royals may have to include some cash to cover Duffy’s contract to get better prospects in return. But at an average of $15 million a year for the next four years, Duffy really is not that expensive for a frontline starter if he continues to pitch like one.
Marcus Stroman is a big question mark because it’s not even a guarantee that he’s available on the trade market. The Blue Jays have not stated they intend to rebuild although the AL East is one of the most competitive divisions in baseball. It’s going to be tough to break through to the playoffs. If offers on Stroman and their other star, Josh Donaldson, are convincing enough for the Jays, they could move to rebuild.
Stroman put together a tremendous 2017 campaign, posting a 3.09 ERA in 201 innings. He’s posted 200 inning seasons the past two years and pitched two complete games in 2017. Stroman is a workhorse that would easily fit in the Brewers rotation.
Stroman is under control for the next three years as he goes through arbitration. He’s projected to earn $7.2 million next year. It would take a lot to get Stroman from the Jays especially if they aren’t convinced they need to rebuild yet. It would be nice to get him but he needs to be available first.
Gerrit Cole has done a good job as the ace of the Pittsburgh Pirates for the past few years. He had a down season in 2017, posting a 4.26 ERA with 31 homers allowed. But he did finish the year with over 200 innings and has done so two out of the last three years.
The 27 year old Cole has two more years of arbitration before reaching the open market as a free agent. He currently plays for the Pirates, who also play in the NL Central. For the Brewers to acquire Cole, the price tag would be much higher than it is for other teams because these two teams play in the same division.
Cole is an unlikely candidate to actually land in Milwaukee.
Jordan Zimmermann is an absolute backup plan for David Stearns if he’s unable to acquire any of the above options. Ever since signing with Detroit for five years and $110 million, Zimmermann has been disappointing. The 31 year old righty posted a 6.08 ERA in 2017 with 29 homers allowed in 160 innings.
He was a stud with the Washington Nationals, consistently posting sub-3.50 ERA seasons with a couple 200+ inning campaigns. He’s owed $74 million over the next three years of his contract and the Tigers will need to eat considerable money to make a deal happen.
Zimmermann is originally from Auburndale, WI, went to UW-Stevens Point. He would likely welcome a return to his home state. Coming home should help improve his performance and bring about a return to his Cy Young caliber form.
With Archer and Duffy being the top two names on the market, each with four years of control remaining, they should be the big targets for David Stearns and the Milwaukee Brewers. Stroman may not be on the market and Cole will likely not go anywhere in the NL Central. Zimmermann will cost the least in terms of prospects but he also provides the least amount of stability and certainty.