They finally made it. After 17 straight days of games, 18 of those games to be exact, the Milwaukee Brewers finally had their first off day in quite some time on Monday, and not a moment too soon.
The injuries have been piling up for the Crew over the last few weeks. Before third baseman Luis Urias missed this weekend’s matchups with a thumb injury that thankfully didn’t require an IL stint, utility man Mike Brosseau actually did hit the IL with an ankle injury. They joined the several other Brewers who are currently out with assorted ailments.
Luckily, it appears that some relief is finally on the way. While there is hope that Urias will be back in the lineup when the team takes the field again on Tuesday at home against the Phillies, chances seem good that shortstop Willy Adames and outfielder Hunter Renfroe will return from their IL stints to join him.
Of course, for every roster addition comes a roster subtraction, so to add Adames and Renfroe to the 26-man roster, two corresponding players will have to be removed. One of these choices is an easy one, but the second one could get a bit tougher.
Here are five options to clear space on the Brewers 26-man roster for Willy Adames and Hunter Renfroe.
1. INF/OF Pablo Reyes
The first option also happens to be the most obvious one. Pablo Reyes was added to the Brewers roster three days ago amid a flurry of transactions that took place including the one that sent Brosseau to the IL.
Reyes has played in all three games since being called up and went 3-for-10 with a walk and a run scored. He played shortstop in all three contests as well, but that role will return to Adames upon his return, thus Reyes can safely return to the minors until his services are needed again.
2. 1B Keston Hiura
This is where things start to get interesting. Based on the way the roster shook out to start the season, Keston Hiura would be the next most likely player to get sent down by virtue of being next lowest man on the totem pole. But then, right after we started wondering what the Brewers should do with him, he started hitting.
Particularly, he started, or perhaps we should say continued, hitting right-handed pitching. His reverse righty-lefty splits are eye-popping, to say the least. In 47 plate appearances against right-handers, Hiura is hitting .316 with a 1.184 OPS and five homers while against left-handers, he is hitting just .125 with a lowly .347 OPS and exactly zero long bombs.
An argument could be made to work Hiura into a DH platoon with Andrew McCutchen, who is stronger against lefties. However, after his mini hot streak, Keston is 2-for-19 over his last six games, so if the Brewers think he’s cooled back down, he could head back down to Triple-A as well.
3. RHP Trevor Kelley
The Brewers don’t necessarily have to go position player for position player in this upcoming roster swap. With another off day next Monday and working off a five-man rotation, there’s a non-zero chance they could send down a reliever instead.
Since first being called up by Milwaukee on May 17th, right-hander Trevor Kelley has been shaky in relief. He has given up seven runs (six earned) in just 6.2 innings on ten hits (three of those homers) and a walk. The Brewers could decide that they’ve seen what they needed to see from him.
4. RHP Luke Barker
Similar to Hiura’s case, if the Brewers decide to go “low man on the totem pole” except in pitcher form, then a different right-handed reliever in Luke Barker, who also called up the same day as Reyes, could be the one to go.
The 30-year-old made his long-awaited MLB debut on Friday and retired all six batters he faced across two innings, striking out one of them. As an effective reliever in the minors for his career with a combined 2.36 ERA across all levels, perhaps the Brewers would want a bit more of a look at what they have in Barker versus Kelley.
5. OF Lorenzo Cain
This, of course, would be the most heartbreaking of scenarios for Brewers fans. But if Milwaukee decides that Lorenzo Cain‘s tenure for the Crew is coming to an end, making that call when an injured outfielder is returning to the mix would be a time that makes a lot of sense.
As we know, Cain has some factors working in his favor to stay on the roster, including his defensive prowess and an $18MM salary that few teams would immediately cut bait from. But he has been horrible offensively so far in 2022, slashing a meager .169/.227/.223 in 38 games this season.
As was also mentioned in our piece about Cain, the veteran outfielder is just a handful of games away from reaching 10 years of service time, an event that kicks in important benefits for a player. The Brewers don’t seem like an organization that would take something like that for granted, so as offensively challenged as Cain has been, they may wait for that milestone to pass before making any major roster move with him and make one of the above moves instead, for now.
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Whether Adames and Renfroe return tomorrow or shortly thereafter, two roster moves will need to be made. It’s not guaranteed to be one of these two players, but they make the most sense.