Deadline Grade: D+
David Stearns added a solid reliever to a deep bullpen…and a pair of square pegs for round holes. Schoop OR Moustakas alone makes sense, but both together make little sense for the Milwaukee Brewers.
However, this grade is more for a failure to add a bonafide starter to the rotation. Jimmy Nelson isn’t coming back at 100%. Zach Davies is a tall, skinny question mark. The idea of sending Wade Miley or Freddy Peralta out for an important game in September or October is terrifying. They needed to do better.
My criteria for the grading is rather simple. Did the Brewers get better? The answer has to be a resounding yes. I wrote a piece on Monday about the blueprint for winning games late in the year, and that is all predicated on the back end of the bullpen. Joakim Soria will have a tremendous impact, as he already has in his first week. He could end up being bigger than the Anthony Swarzak move, which turned out quite well.
The 2nd part of this is the cost. We all know that small market baseball is a bit different, as you are unable to throw money at your mistakes. The big market teams can essentially get mulligans, but you have to play straight up in Milwaukee. The future is coming early and you want to take advantage, but Stearns correctly reasoned that going absolutely all-in now would not be prudent. He did not pay the steep cost the Pirates did for Archer, and I think most people can see that was the smart move.
Stearns did trade away some talent to upgrade the roster with the last 3 trades, but nothing that should mortgage the future. Brett Phillips was blocked, Kodi Medeiros was likely going to only be a bullpen arm, Jonathan Villar wore out his welcome and was also not in the long term plans, and Luis Ortiz was not exactly a hot name any longer.
The Brewers also had the “problem” of having too many prospects, in that they could not protect them all on the 40-man roster this offseason. These trades helped alleviate that glut.
Finally, we need to talk about the infielders they obtained in Moustakas and Schoop. They certainly do not fit the roster exactly at first glance, just as Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich seemed to do for the outfield. There will be days that everyone will not play, but depth is not a bad thing. It helps with rest, double switching, pinch-hitting, and injury protection. There were times this year that the lineup got dramatically worse when Counsell brought in a reliever and made the double switch. Not anymore.
The roster will also balance itself out next year when Moustakas likely leaves. Shaw can move back to 3rd base and Schoop can play 2B for at least the one season he has left. Keston Hiura would likely be ready in 2020, if not before. At the end of the day, this lineup on a day-to-day basis is much improved, even when somebody gets a day off.
Overall, I give them an B+ only because they did try and procure a top of the rotation arm and did not get that done…yet. I am not sure there was an ace to be had once the Mets and Twins pulled out from selling their top arms. The other Wild Card teams also improved, so that is not taken lightly either.
I do take issue with some national talk that the Brewers will now have to win a lot of high-scoring games. The pitching staff has been the 2nd best in the National League and the defense will not fall THAT far to make something like that happen. I do agree that in a playoff scenario, they may not have enough frontline pitching. That is fair, but as I wrote, their bullpen can help mitigate some of that.
Starting August they are tied for 1st place and in great position to make the postseason, partly because of the 3 new additions Stearns made to bolster the team this week. To boil it down, I am focusing on what they did, rather on what they missed out on. It will be fascinating to see how this turns out.