The Milwaukee Brewers are faced with a very good problem, one they have rarely faced in their franchise history: They have more quality starting pitchers than they have spots in the rotation.
The starting rotation is led by Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes, followed by Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta. Filling out the rotation at the end of the 2021 season was Adrian Houser and Eric Lauer. Top prospects Aaron Ashby and Ethan Small also stand at the ready with Ashby already becoming a key piece on the Brewers staff in 2021 in a bullpen role.
Depth has been a priority for Brewers president David Stearns and this rotation is incredibly deep, which makes it a position Milwaukee could trade from in order to address other areas of the roster, namely the offense, which could use a boost.
So who makes sense as a trade candidate? The top three of Burnes, Woodruff, and Peralta are not going anywhere. The Brewers love their prospects in Ashby and Small, plus they’ll be earning near league minimum salary the next three years as the payroll continues to rise. Adrian Houser and Eric Lauer are now in arbitration and getting more expensive. Those two are the most likely trade candidates from this group.
Between Houser and Lauer, Houser would appear to be the more likely trade candidate on account of him being right-handed, just like the top trio in the rotation. That would leave Lauer and one of Ashby or Small as left-handers to fill out the final spots.
If the Brewers do trade Adrian Houser, one potential trade partner is the Minnesota Twins. Here’s a theoretical trade proposal that could see Houser in the Twin Cities.
Twins Receive: RHP Adrian Houser
Brewers Receive: 1B/DH Miguel Sano, LHP Steven Hajjar, $2.75MM cash
This trade fills needs for both teams and presents pretty fair value, I’d estimate. The Twins need starting pitching help. Dylan Bundy is currently slated to be their Opening Day starter and is only on a one year contract with a club option for a second. The rest of the rotation is filled out with Bailey Ober, Joe Ryan, Randy Dobnak, and Lewis Thorpe. Houser could immediately slot in as the No. 2 starter in this group.
This trade idea is contingent on the DH being added to the NL when MLB and the Players Union agree to a CBA.
The Twins have an overflow of corner infield and DH types and with the young prospects working their way up and earning playing time, Miguel Sano is on the trade block, and he’d be an excellent fit in Milwaukee.
Provided that DH arrives, Sano can fill that role and even play some corner infield if the Brewers really need it, but Craig Counsell will mix and match among that group as he so pleases. The point is that if the DH comes, there’s room for the Brewers to add another powerful bat. Sano is that powerful bat. He slugged 30 homers last year and 34 homers in 2019.
Steven Hajjar is 6’5″, 215 pound left-handed pitcher, and was a second round pick of the Twins in 2021. He’s currently rated the Twins No. 22 prospect by MLB Pipeline. Hajjar was also a 21st round selection by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2018 coming out of high school. So the Brewers have already had him on their radar and they like him. Hajjar has a great changeup, a solid three pitch mix, and a potential future in the rotation.
The $2.75MM in cash is also a key inclusion in this deal. Sano is under contract for 2022 at a salary of just over $10.5MM, which is a pretty high price given the Brewers current payroll obligations but they probably won’t find any bigger power hitter on the market for anything cheaper.
Sano also has a club option on his contract for 2023, which is worth $14MM. That may or may not be a price the Brewers would be willing to pay, depending on how his 2022 season goes. The buyout on that club option is $2.75MM.
That cash is included to cover the cost of a potential buyout of Sano next year to make things easier on the Brewers if they feel Sano isn’t worth paying that much.
So the Brewers get a big boost to their lineup, some cash to cover Sano’s salary, and a lefty pitching prospect that they have previously liked while they clear a spot for Ashby/Small. The Twins get much needed rotation help while moving on from Sano and giving some more playing time to their young players they’re excited about. It really seems like a win-win for both sides.
Once the lockout ends, teams are free to make trades and transactions. A Houser trade seems like a logical possibility and if it does happen, this proposal could convince Stearns to get a deal done.