Next up on possible Milwaukee Brewers trade partners is the Tampa Bay Rays.
With Brewers President of Baseball Operations David Stearns hoarding catchers, an opportunity like this was bound to happen.
There are six catchers on the Brewers 40 man roster, and five of them are MLB-ready backstops with only Mario Feliciano still needing some seasoning. Stearns could trade any one of those other five catchers, although the recently-signed Luke Maile is unlikely to be a trade candidate.
With all these catchers on the roster, that means some other big league team must be facing a shortage of catchers, right? That team is the Tampa Bay Rays.
Brewers Potential Trade Partner: The Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays have no catching. Mike Zunino and Kevan Smith are gone and their current projected backup isn’t even on their 40 man roster at the moment. The only catcher on their 40 man roster right now is Ronaldo Hernandez and he hasn’t played above A-ball yet.
So the Rays need catching, and the Brewers have extra catching. Sounds like a perfect potential trade partner.
Stearns likes roster flexibility and of his current choices, Manny Pina, Jacob Nottingham, and David Freitas are out of minor league options. That makes them prime candidates to be traded somewhere they shouldn’t have to worry about being sent down.
Pina has only one year of team control left before free agency, and for a team like the Rays that values team control and low costs, he may not be a great fit. Freitas is older and his ceiling is pretty much well known at this point.
That makes Nottingham the target most likely to bring back a strong return for Milwaukee.
In a small sample size in 2020, Nottingham showed good power and a lot of potential at the plate. He looked like he had turned things around and could continue to do so if given an opportunity for everyday at-bats. That’s an opportunity he’s unlikely to get in Milwaukee with Pina, Maile, and Omar Narvaez ahead of him on the depth chart. But everyday at-bats is something he would get if he were sent to Tampa Bay.
Down there, there’s no one that would be ahead of him on the depth chart and he’d have an opportunity to prove himself at the big league level finally.
Nottingham has several years of team control remaining and he’d be a cheaper fix than anything the Rays could find in free agency.
All it would cost is a little something in return. Here’s one potential trade I could see happening.
Rays get: C Jacob Nottingham, RHP Alexis Ramirez
Brewers get: 3B Joey Wendle
Joey Wendle is entering his first year of arbitration, which means he’s going to get more expensive than the league minimum he’s been getting paid the last three seasons. The Rays are even more cash-strapped than the Brewers.
Wendle is projected to earn just over $2MM in arbitration this year. He’s coming off a 2020 season in which he hit .286 with four homers, a .777 OPS, and 116 OPS+.
By adding Wendle, the Brewers could solve their third base problem for a couple of seasons as he’s under team control through the 2023 season. Nottingham will solve the catching problem for Tampa as well.
I also have the Brewers throwing in righty Alexis Ramirez in this deal. Wendle is a proven MLB commodity while Nottingham is unproven. The Rays front office probably wouldn’t do a straight up swap and may look for a low level pitching prospect in return.
Ramirez can throw hard, but he’s very raw and has a lot of development ahead. The Rays love a challenge like that.
A deal like this helps out both clubs. It gives the Brewers a third base solution and clears the catching logjam while giving the Rays a little salary relief and a catching solution with a lottery ticket pitching prospect to develop as well.
The Brewers and Rays have made trades together before, and they seem like a good match this offseason.