The MLB trade deadline is still a little under two months away, but we’ve reached the point in the year where teams will soon start separating themselves as deadline buyers or sellers. Unless things go drastically wrong, the 1st place Milwaukee Brewers are shaping up to be buyers.
With this being the case, it’s hard not to look ahead and see what players might be available come trade deadline time. Luckily for fans, MLB Trade Rumors has put together their list of the top 40 trade candidates for the 2021 season.
Though much of the desire for improvement for the Brewers has centered around the corner infield, the Milwaukee bullpen could use some consideration at the deadline. Even though they feature a dominant closer in Josh Hader and solid arms in Devin Williams, Brad Boxberger, and Brent Suter, Brewer relievers currently rank 20th in MLB in fWAR (0.5) and 22nd in ERA (4.42).
Here are three relievers the Brewers should target on MLB Trade Rumors’ early trade candidate list.
1. RHP Ian Kennedy
The Texas Rangers signed 36-year-old Ian Kennedy to a minor league deal last offseason after a year to forget in which he gave up 14 earned runs in 14 innings and missed the entire month of September due to injury. All he has done is bounce back to have one of his best seasons as a pro so far.
Through 21 1/3 innings so far in 2021, Kennedy has a 2.53 ERA, which would be his lowest ERA in a season in which he pitched at least 20 games, as would his 1.078 WHIP. Serving as the Rangers closer, his 12 saves currently rank him 3rd in the American League.
Kennedy has done this by switching his pitch mix up to rely very heavily on his four-seam fastball. He’s throwing it 82% of the time in 2021 (the pitch’s previous high usage rate was 66.9% in 2019) and at an average of 94.4 mph, which ties for the highest average velocity on that pitch in his career.
The result has been high MLB rankings in whiff rate (30.9%, 73rd percentile per Baseball Savant), strikeout rate (29.8%, 78th percentile), and barrel rate allowed (3.8%, 89th percentile). His 46.2% hard hit rate and 91.8 mph average exit velocity allowed leave a bit to be desired, but the results so far have spoken for themselves.
He would be a rental and obviously would slide out of a closer’s role as the Brewers already have arguably the most dominant reliever in the league there in Hader. But adding Kennedy’s arm to a late inning mix could make the final innings a nightmare for opposing teams.