Brewers: Trade Deadline Bullpen Acquisitions Have Not Worked Out
By David Gasper
The Milwaukee Brewers made two additions to their bullpen at the July Trade Deadline. After more than a month with the team, these additions have not been a net positive for the Crew.
Heading into Deadline Day on July 30th, there was a lot of hype and a lot of intrigue as to what would happen. There was a flurry of deals that happened on the final day, and the Brewers got in on the action with two trades that didn’t make shockwaves, but were still important.
After fixing up the offense with earlier additions of Willy Adames back in May, Rowdy Tellez in early July, and Eduardo Escobar a few days before the Deadline, Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns turned his focus to the bullpen.
He added two players, lefty Daniel Norris from the Tigers and righty John Curtiss from the Marlins.
The Brewers bullpen was not improved by the Trade Deadline acquisitions of Daniel Norris and John Curtiss.
John Curtiss allowed at least one run in five of his first six outings for the Brewers. Then he suffered a torn UCL in his pitching elbow and was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery back in August. He’s under team control for the next few years, which is good, but he didn’t have a positive impact in his few outings since arriving, which could partly be because his UCL was on the verge of tearing.
Long term, Curtiss could still be a net positive, but he won’t help the 2021 Brewers.
Daniel Norris, meanwhile, is a rental lefty specialist who has failed to live up his former top prospect billing to this point in his career. Despite their best efforts over the past few weeks, the Brewers haven’t been able to get him to turn things around.
With Detroit, Norris had some intriguing metrics despite a 5.89 ERA. His 3.79 FIP and 3.54 xFIP showed he was perhaps dealing with some bad luck being on a bad team, but things have only gotten worse for him. Since joining the Brewers, Norris has a 6.91 ERA, his FIP is over 7.00, and his walk rate has skyrocketed to 8.1 BB/9. He has allowed 13 free passes in 14.1 IP while striking out 14.
On Monday, Norris allowed a grand slam to the Phillies to put the game completely out of reach. That was his fourth home run allowed with the Brewers in just 13 appearances. He allowed four homers in 38 appearances with the Tigers earlier this year.
Norris was brought in as an extra lefty in the bullpen to get outs when the situation demanded a lefty. The only other lefties in the bullpen are Brent Suter, who already fills a different kind of role, and Josh Hader, the closer. Instead of being the go-to guy to get left-handed hitters out, Norris has been relegated to mop up duty in blowouts, not being trusted in any sort of high leverage situation.
If the Brewers were constructing their postseason roster right now, Norris likely wouldn’t be on it. Norris has allowed at least one walk in 10 of his 14 appearances as a Brewer. He did have a stretch of five straight scoreless appearances, but his tendency to allow walks and allow home runs have come back to bite Milwaukee quite often.
Norris and Curtiss were expected to add to the depth of this Brewers bullpen that was on the edge of it back in July. While they’ve added some warm bodies, Norris has clearly been the worst performing member of the bullpen since arriving and Curtiss isn’t even available as an option. This Brewers bullpen is no deeper now than it was on July 29th, perhaps with the exception of the development of Aaron Ashby’s role.
Stearns is one of the best executives in the game of baseball, and he’s made some very good additions this year. But the bullpen arms he’s added have not helped. There wasn’t much he could do about Curtiss, but much more was expected of Norris than what has been achieved.