Brewers: Should the Crew re-sign Jordan Lyles for 2020?

The Milwaukee Brewers got solid production out of Jordan Lyles after re-acquiring him from the Pirates mid-season, and now he’s a free agent.

This has been a hot topic of discussion since Jordan Lyles had his tremendous mid-season turnaround after joining the Milwaukee Brewers.

With the Pirates, Lyles was 5-7 with a 5.36 ERA in 17 starts. His final 10 starts were particularly egregious, and frankly, expectations were quite low for him after he was acquired by the Brewers in July. He was the only starting pitching acquisition made by the Crew, which left many underwhelmed.

But give Lyles credit, he performed better than every other starting pitcher traded that July in terms of ERA, finishing with a 2.45 ERA in 11 starts with the Brewers. He proved many fans wrong, including us, and became a key performer down the stretch.

With Lyles on the free agent market once again, should the Brewers look for a reunion?

Is There Interest In A Reunion?

According to reports from back in September, the Brewers were starting extension talks with Lyles and his agent, and there was mutual interest between Lyles and GM David Stearns.

It’s extremely rare for the Brewers to initiate extension talks with players mid-season, so they clearly like him.

Given the interest on both sides, there’s a good chance that Lyles could come back to Milwaukee in 2020.

Should They Bring Him Back?

This is the bigger question. Lyles, for as well as he performed, vastly out-pitched his peripheral and expected statistics. His 2.45 ERA was paired with a 4.42 FIP and 4.91 xFIP, that was buoyed by a unsustainably low .225 opponent BABIP. Expecting a similar ERA in 2020 is a poor bet.

His hard-contact percentage jumped up to 40.6% after joining the Brewers and also had a 41.3% medium-contact percentage.

While typically a ground ball pitcher, with his career average at 48% on the ground, he saw a huge spike in fly balls since rejoining the Brewers last year.

His success was a mystery that’s hard to explain with numbers, but Lyles has personally attributed a lot of his success to Yasmani Grandal being his catcher behind the plate. With the way he calls the game and frames pitches, Grandal helped make Lyles what he was.

So should the Brewers bring back Lyles? That probably depends on if they’re able to re-sign Grandal. The question with Grandal is a bit easier. Yes, they should bring back Grandal, and they’re going to try to, but it’s not a guarantee he returns. If Grandal does return, bringing back Lyles as well likely would prove fruitful once again.

If Grandal leaves in free agency, it’s probably best if Lyles signs elsewhere. The numbers don’t suggest he can keep up this level of play over a full season, and he probably won’t keep up those numbers with Manny Pina, even though Pina is a highly qualified defensive catcher.

I like Lyles, but I’m not trusting him to perform up to the same level of play in 2020, especially if he doesn’t have Grandal behind the plate. He would be solid depth in the rotation picture, probably being the No. 4 or No. 5 starter, but depending on him to be anything more than that is asking a little too much.

If they do re-sign Lyles, the Brewers likely would only go for one year, with a possibility of going for two years at a lower AAV.

While Lyles was solid in the rotation in 2019, it’s probably in the Brewers best interest to try to have a rotation where Lyles isn’t among the top five starting pitchers. In other words, they should be shooting a little higher to upgrade their rotation.

Next: Should the Brewers try to sign Cole Hamels?

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Bottom line, if Grandal does re-sign, bringing back Lyles could be really good for both sides. If he doesn’t, depending on Lyles to continue to pitch important innings and deliver big starts is a tough bet to place.

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