The Milwaukee Brewers made a trade that at first was surprising, but makes a ton of sense upon closer look.
Going into this offseason, the Milwaukee Brewers were starting to get fed up with Orlando Arcia‘s production, or lack thereof, at the shortstop position. With holes popping up on the roster at third base, first base, and catcher, the ability to spend money to upgrade shortstop seemed minimal.
But that didn’t mean that there wouldn’t be a way to address the shortcomings at the position. So GM David Stearns set to work and he finds Padres GM AJ Preller willing to deal one of his former middle infield prospects in Luis Urias. Now here we are.
What Was The Deal?
The full deal, as Ken Rosenthal first reported, has the Brewers sending outfielder Trent Grisham and starter Zach Davies to the Padres in exchange for infielder Luis Urias and left handed pitcher Eric Lauer.
Plus, the Brewers could be getting the always fun Player To Be Named Later.
— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) November 27, 2019
Why Give Up Davies and Grisham?
Davies was entering his second year of arbitration and was projected to be due close to $5 million in 2020, while simultaneously not having a guaranteed rotation job next year. With Jimmy Nelson, Corbin Burnes, Brent Suter, Freddy Peralta, and Adrian Houser all as candidates to fill out the rotation behind Brandon Woodruff (and possibly a FA or trade acquisition), Davies was starting to look like the odd man out.
Grisham, meanwhile, had seen his value skyrocket in 2019 due to a change in his grip on the bat to the way he swung in high school. After struggling for the past three seasons, Grisham finally was living up to his potential as a first round pick. He also didn’t exactly dominate in the big leagues, hitting just .231 with a .738 OPS in 51 games this season. That’s not an insignificant sample size, and now he’s going to a pitcher-friendly park in San Diego.
Tell Me More About Who The Brewers Are Getting Back
Luis Urias was ranked in the Top 20 of MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 prospects list heading into the 2019 season, before graduating during the year. His hit tool, which is something the Brewers very much covet in their prospects, was graded as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. That’s the same grade Keston Hiura had on his profile.
Urias has a career .308/.397/.433 slash line in the minor leagues. While he struggled in his initial stints in San Diego, Urias could see his offensive numbers tick up with a move to a more hitter-friendly stadium like Miller Park. Similarly, Christian Yelich was putting up good, not great numbers in Miami, a pitcher-friendly park, and vastly improved since joining the Brewers. While this does not mean Urias is the next Yelich, it means that we could see a lot of improvement.
David Stearns on getting Luis Urias: “Look, we did not have good SS production last year, and we have been open about that. For us to ultimately do what we want to do … production from that position has to improve. Having competition at that position is not a bad thing.”
— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) November 27, 2019
Urias is far from a finished product either. Still just 22 years old, Urias has less than half a full season’s worth of at-bats in the big leagues and there’s so much potential to unlock with his ability. He has a very high upside.
The other player in this deal, Eric Lauer, is a left handed pitcher, which is something the Brewers have placed a recent emphasis on getting more of, thankfully. He’s pitched in 30 games for the Padres, starting 29 of them, and has a career 4.40 ERA in 149.2 innings. He runs with a four-pitch mix with a fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup.
His slider is his best pitch, grading as “above-average” according to Fangraphs. Lauer’s fastball is normally just under the 92 MPH mark, so he’s not a hard thrower, similar to Davies, but can get a few ticks higher than Davies, who rarely hits above 90.
Scouts are split on whether Lauer can remain in the rotation, with some having him pegged for the bullpen as his most effective role. But he’s a 6’3″ left handed pitcher that was a former first round pick of the Padres in 2016 and, again, there’s a lot of upside to unlock there.
Lauer flew through the minor leagues, posting a 2.03 ERA in 10 starts after getting drafted in 2016. In 2017, he had a 3.30 ERA in 22 games across High-A and Double-A. In 2018, he made only five starts in the minor leagues with a 2.22 ERA in Triple-A, then getting called up to the big leagues just in his second full season as a pro.
For the most part, Lauer keeps the ball on the ground, but his early struggles aren’t exactly thrilling to see. But in all likelihood, David Stearns and the Brewers front office found something that they think they can change with him to unlock his potential. They’ve done it before with guys like Wade Miley and Jordan Lyles, so why can’t they do it again?
If they can make the changes to Lauer to get him back to his dominant self he was in the minor leagues, they’ll have made out like bandits in this deal. There’s a lot to be excited about with both Lauer and Urias.
There’s a lot to like about this trade from the Brewers perspective. Urias is an exciting young player that can play all over the infield and will probably get a chance to play every day in 2020, whether at shortstop or third base, and Lauer is a left-handed pitcher that has a lot of potential left to unlock.
After each player went through parts of two seasons with the Padres, they apparently deemed them not to be a part of their core for the future. San Diego has a great farm system with a lot of prospects close to being ready to go, all at similar positions. The Friars need to jettison some away to make room and that’s the camp Urias and Lauer fit into.
For the Brewers, as stated above, Davies was getting more expensive and there’s a solid chance he wouldn’t have been one of the best five starting pitchers on this roster heading into Opening Day. No reason to pay him as much money as he would’ve gotten if he’s not going to start. He’s a fly-ball pitcher with little velocity or deception. It’s best he goes to a pitcher’s paradise like San Diego.
Grisham, while he came up in key spots down the stretch, didn’t put up overwhelming numbers in the big leagues and this is the perfect time to sell high on him. He would’ve been back on fourth outfielder duty next year, the at-bats wouldn’t be as often, and his value would go down.
I really like this trade for the Brewers, with there being the potential to love it. Urias is a stud that can keep the Brewers young, upgrade the infield and the offense, while giving the Crew flexibility. Lauer adds a left-handed starter to the mix along with Suter, and could turn into a gem if they can find the right way to get his ERA down, which I believe they already have a plan for.
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The hot stove is cooking, and the Brewers have gotten their first meal. The second course is coming, we just don’t know when it’ll hit.