In an absolute stunner, the Brewers have traded Corey Knebel to the Dodgers.
Who saw that coming? The non-tender deadline this year everyone knew was going to lead to a record number of free agents becoming available, but no one predicted this. The Brewers ended up trading their All-Star reliever Corey Knebel to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a player to be named later or cash.
Knebel was projected to earn $5.125MM in arbitration this year, his final year of arbitration before becoming a free agent. For a Brewers team looking at a tight budget, that’s a heavy price to pay for a reliever coming off the year he had in 2020.
Knebel posted a 6.08 ERA this year, struggling in his initial return, but performing better down the stretch. Next year, when he’d be another year removed from his Tommy John surgery, he’d likely be closer to his old self.
Still, it would’ve been a risk to bring him back at that salary, not knowing for sure if he’d be back to his old self especially, again, with a tighter budget. The emergence of Devin Williams as well as the presence of Josh Hader also makes losing Knebel a little easier to bear. Knebel can close games, he is a closer, and the Brewers wouldn’t need him to. $5.125MM for a setup man is a heavy price.
So a non-tender was the widely expected move. In fact, it was a widely reported move. Numerous sources said that Knebel would be non-tendered and the decision was final.
Why Was Corey Knebel Traded?
With Knebel slated to become a free agent, numerous other teams were going to be salivating at the chance to sign him to a cheap deal. The Dodgers knew that, and wisely put in a phone call to David Stearns about trading for Knebel. It’s unclear if other teams tried to do so as well.
The Dodgers offered a player to be named later or cash and Stearns took it. Knebel was going to lost for nothing in return otherwise, so might as well make it a trade and get a player back.
It makes sense from the Brewers perspective to trade a valuable commodity instead of non-tendering him for nothing. It made sense for the Dodgers to give up a minor league player they probably won’t end up needing to avoid trying to fight through all the other teams trying to get Knebel.
What’s surprising is that no one else reported on this or mentioned it as a possibility earlier. It took until the Brewers Twitter account announced the trade that any other reporter had any clue what was going on.
Was this a good deal for the Brewers?
As for the return, typically, PTBNLs are chosen from a list of players provided at the time the trade is agreed upon. Who is on that list? Only the Brewers and Dodgers front offices know. Everyone else won’t find out until the Brewers pick which player they want.
With Knebel being a high quality player when healthy, the Brewers are likely to get something decent in return for him. It could be a recent draft pick, it could be someone from the Dodgers Top 30 Prospect list, or maybe someone from their current big league roster.
The Dodgers have a very deep and very good farm system. Picking up a prospect from there is a good place to choose from, whether it’s a Top 30 prospect in that system or not.
As a fan, it may hurt to see Knebel go, especially to the Dodgers. But this was a really smart move from Stearns, getting something in return for a player he was about to give away for free.
Typically, teams have six months to finalize the player to be named later in a trade, but don’t anticipate it actually taking that long to find out who the Brewers are getting back.