The Milwaukee Brewers, in all likelihood, are still on the search for improvements to the starting rotation. Could their search turn them to Arizona next?
On Sunday afternoon, it was announced that the Arizona Diamondbacks signed free agent Madison Bumgarner to a five year contract. Bumgarner was thought to be a possible option for the Brewers this offseason, but a five year deal was likely to be too long for GM David Stearns’ liking.
Shortly after the deal was announced, many speculated that this signing meant the end of fellow southpaw Robbie Ray‘s time in Arizona. With Bumgarner, Merrill Kelly, Mike Leake, and Luke Weaver also in the rotation, and under control for multiple years, Ray is looking like an obvious trade candidate.
The Milwaukee Brewers should be all over a potential Robbie Ray trade.
Why Robbie Ray?
The Brewers showed previous interest in Robbie Ray back at the July Trade Deadline, and there’s plenty of reasons to like him. At just 28 years old, Ray has averaged at least 12 strikeouts per nine innings each of the past three seasons.
Ray had a breakout 2017 campaign that ended with a 2.89 ERA in 162 innings with 218 strikeouts. Since then, his ERA has climbed, but his peripheral stats say he wasn’t as bad as his 4.34 ERA in 2019 would indicate.
He had a 3.76 xFIP in 2019, and suffered from the “juiced” baseball last season, allowing 30 home runs. If MLB can fix the wide variance in seam height on baseballs next year, Ray should see that number decrease, even in the hitter-friendly Miller Park. If the Brewers can figure out a way to limit his hard-contact rate, he’ll be even better going forward.
Primarily a strikeout pitcher, Ray gets ground balls more often in his career than fly balls, with 41% on the ground and 36.6% in the air. However, Ray also has a pretty high line drive rate at 22.4% over his career.
As a left-handed power pitcher, Ray should eat up left-handed power hitters, and not give them any sort of advantage of being in Miller Park.
Ray averages 94 MPH on his fastball and works in a 92 MPH power sinker. He also has a slider and a curveball to give him a solid four-pitch mix.
What Could Ray Cost In A Trade?
Robbie Ray is entering his final year of arbitration before free agency. He’s projected to be due $10.8MM in 2020.
Given what two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber just fetched in a trade, which wasn’t much, the Brewers should easily have what it takes to land Ray in a trade, and it shouldn’t cost any cornerstone prospects to get him. Although Kluber was mostly a salary dump trade, the price for Ray shouldn’t be too high.
It’s just one year of Ray before free agency, which drops the asking price, and his relatively high $10.8MM projected salary will also lower the prospect return. Perhaps one of the young outfielders who are blocked and a pitching prospect will be enough to land Ray from Arizona.
With the way the free agent pitching market is working out, it’s not leaning in favor of the Brewers trying to land one of the top remaining guys. The trade market is a more likely path at this point, and Ray could be one of the best out there.
If the Brewers are able to land Ray, they’ll have a year to determine if they want to sign him long-term with an up close and personal look. He’ll enter free agency as a 29 year old, and could be well sought after with a huge contract year.