The Milwaukee Brewers have acquired Jordan Lyles from the Pittsburgh Pirates in a surprise move Monday afternoon.
We know Milwaukee Brewers GM David Stearns generally makes trades that no one has caught a whiff off and catches the general public by surprise. That held true with this move. No one saw this coming except Stearns and Pirates GM Neal Huntington.
With Jordan Lyles back in the fold, this should help the Brewers bullpen, and not the rotation, however.
What was the trade?
In return for Lyles, the Brewers sent RHP Cody Ponce to the Pirates. Ponce was the Crew’s second round pick in 2015 and was once considered one of the team’s best prospects. But he stalled out in Double-A.
After posting a 3.14 ERA in 25 starts in 2017 split between High-A Carolina and Double-A Biloxi, Ponce struggled in 2018, posting a 4.36 ERA and moving to the bullpen. This year, Ponce pitched exclusively out of the bullpen, making 27 appearances and posting a 3.29 ERA.
Ponce was going to be Rule 5 eligible this winter and the Brewers weren’t likely to have a spot for him. So rather than potentially lose him for nothing in December, they trade him to Pittsburgh for Lyles, a familiar face.
The Return of Jordan Lyles
The Brewers acquired Lyles last year in August from the Padres in a waiver claim. He pitched exclusively out of the bullpen for the Brewers and did an admirable job, posting a 3.31 ERA and 2.49 FIP in 16.1 innings of work.
This year, he signed with the Pirates and joined their rotation, because he had wanted to become a starter. That has not panned out. Lyles has a 5.36 ERA this season in 17 starts. He started off fine, but has since fallen off a cliff, posting a 15.00 ERA in four starts in the month of July.
Lefties are crushing Lyles this year, to the tune of a .321/.403/.603 slash line. That’s a 1.006 OPS by left handed hitters. On the other side, righties are hitting just .237/.294/.454 against Lyles.
He’s going to the bullpen, right?
If Jordan Lyles ends up starting any games for the Brewers, something has gone seriously wrong. Sure he is a starter this year and the Brewers have a hole or two in their rotation, but he’s best as a bullpen piece. He can fill in the roles that have been filled by Taylor Williams and Burch Smith and others in that bullpen carousel.
The Brewers clearly like Lyles, having traded for him twice now, and their analytics department is among the best in baseball, which could perhaps find some way to make Lyles effective. He’s been effective out of the bullpen in the past and has proven that he can’t be consistently decent in the starting rotation.
This is a low level move that could have some impact on the big league team, but is far from the difference making, needle moving trade that Stearns is looking to make. It’s doubtful that this is the only move the Brewers make prior to the deadline.
Overall, it’s an okay trade. Cody Ponce‘s value has fallen a bit farther than most of us may have thought, but he was due for Rule 5 protection in the winter, and likely wouldn’t get it. So they get something for him now, a pitcher they’re familiar with that can help out the bullpen.
The Milwaukee Brewers have more moves ahead of them if they’re going to make a serious run at the playoffs.