The Milwaukee Brewers rotation was already short a man this week with Brandon Woodruff having joined the Injured List on Monday with an oblique strain. The rotation’s picture became even less clear on Wednesday.
Jhoulys Chacin had his second consecutive rough outing against the Reds on Wednesday. The Milwaukee Brewers opening day starter threw three innings and gave up four runs (three earned), six hits, and a walk with five strikeouts. He managed only 68 pitches.
Even though Chacin was on his way to a poor start, it was still odd to see him get pulled so early expecially considering how overworked the bullpen was over the last few days. As a result, fans and writers began speculating injury. Their fears were all but confirmed after the game.
The probable loss of Chacin raises all kinds of questions for the rotation. With so many off days on the team’s current schedule, they would have been able to survive the loss of just Brandon Woodruff by using a four-man rotation for a while. With Chacin out as well, additional help is now mandatory.
Options on the 25-man roster
Adrian Houser is likely the first pitcher who comes to mind as a replacement considering he just finished covering for Gio Gonzalez‘s recent IL stint. He has had bad results as a starter, however, compiling a 7.83 ERA, 2.00 WHIP, and a whopping .360 opponent’s batting average in that time. His numbers as a reliever – 1.55 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and .189 batting average against – are much more favorable and may keep him in the bullpen.
Freddy Peralta provides the same dilemma. In his starts, Peralta has a 7.07 ERA and 1.63 WHIP with opponents hitting .301, compared to a 2.32 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and .212 batting average by opponents as a reliever. On top of that, he’s been used in more high-leverage relief situations lately, capped by his first career save on Wednesday.
Junior Guerra provides an intriguing short-term option. Guerra was moved to the bullpen late last season and has worked exclusively as a reliver in 2019. He started this year as one of the Milwaukee Brewers most effective relievers but has regressed a bit since and is without a clear role.
Guerra has had his moments as a starter. He had a 2.81 ERA in 20 starts for the Brewers in 2016 and had a 2.79 ERA through his first 17 starts last year before things went south. He would potentially not require much to stretch into a starter for a limited time.
Other internal options
The Milwaukee Brewers minor league rotation options are uninspiring to say the least. Aaron Wilkerson and Burch Smith have both spent time on the big league roster this year. Wilkerson has done pretty well with the Triple-A San Antonio Missions, currently sporting a 7-1 record and a 3.10 ERA, but has an ERA of 6.97 in limited appearances with the Brewers. Smith (6-3, 2.53 with the Missions but a 7.82 ERA with Milwaukee) is a similar story.
San Antonio’s other three main starters, Thomas Jankins (9-3, 4.26 ERA), Zack Brown (2-6, 5.98 ERA), and Bubba Derby (4-6, 5.11 ERA) haven’t done well enough this year to warrant consideration and aren’t on the 40-man roster anyway.
Double-A phenom Trey Supak is, but probably isn’t ready for big league competition and the Milwaukee Brewers are likely content to have him continue dominating for the Biloxi Shuckers so he can keep his potential trade value high.
The Brewers do have one injured pitcher currently on a rehab assignment in Jimmy Nelson. He probably is not the answer either though since he’s already been pulled from the rotation once this year and only has the one, one-inning rehab appearance against Single-A competition so far.
None of the above
In the end, the answer may end up being external. Main starting pitcher targets as well as some second-tier options have already been discussed and basically all of them remain available as there has been almost no movement between teams with less than a week before the trade deadline.
The loss of Chacin and Woodruff could not come at a worse time for the Milwaukee Brewers. Sure, there are about to be a plethora of starters potentially available within the next week to be dealt by teams who decide they are no longer in contention for 2019. But GM David Stearns is now in a terrible position leverage-wise and may have to give up even more than he would have just three days ago to get rotation help.
A decision doesn’t have to be made right away. The Brewers have an off day on Thursday, three games against the Cubs over the weekend, and another off day on Monday. With starters already announced for the Cubs series, help won’t officially be needed until Tuesday.
It’s hard to envision a world in which the answer to the gaps in the rotation doesn’t include obtaining a starter via trade before the deadline. Whichever route they go, the Milwaukee Brewers need rotation help and they need it fast.