Milwaukee Brewers: 7 Bullpen Arms to Target in Free Agency
While the 2022 MLB postseason is fully underway, it is time to start looking at where the Milwaukee Brewers could look to improve the roster in the upcoming free agency period. We’ve discussed one possible area they could address in a list of potential free agent options at third base.
Another area I believe the Brewers could bolster their roster is in the bullpen. Milwaukee’s bullpen acquisitions at the trade deadline were nothing short of a disaster. Since August 1st, the day Milwaukee traded closer Josh Hader to the San Diego Padres, Milwaukee allowed 36 home runs, the second most in MLB. Additionally, since August 1st the Brewers led the entire league in blown saves with 16.
If there is an obvious area for improvement heading into the offseason, it is the bullpen. The good news is that the bullpen is still headlined by one of the best closers in the sport in Devin Williams, they just need to get reliable relievers around him.
The Brewers have a hefty number of players going through arbitration for the 2023 season, so they might not have a lot of money to play with in free agency. With relievers Taylor Rogers and Trevor Rosenthal hitting free agency, the Brewers will need to look at finding value with their free agents.
Here are two players with contract options, should they become free agents, that could be targets for the Milwaukee Brewers.
1. RHP Anthony Bass – Toronto Blue Jays ($3MM club option)
Anthony Bass turned in a fantastic 2022 campaign. The Miami Marlins traded Bass to the Blue Jays at the trade deadline, and Bass performed great for the Jays. He ended the year with an ERA of 1.54 and a WHIP of 1.01 and became a very strong piece in the Toronto bullpen.
Toronto gave up their 4th ranked prospect in Jordan Groshans to get Bass. Additionally, an option of $3 million appears to be a great deal for the club, so there is a strong likelihood Toronto picks up the reliever’s option.
However, if Bass hits the free agent market, he would be a very nice target for Milwaukee, who is in need of a reliable late game reliever. In 2022, Bass had an ERA of 0.77 in the seventh inning (35 innings pitched) and an ERA of 1.56 in the eighth inning (17.1 innings pitched).
Coming off of one of the best seasons of his career, Bass would probably be one of the more expensive relievers on this list. However, at 34 years old, he could provide some value if he hits the open market.
2. RHP Mychal Givens – New York Mets ($3.5MM mutual option)
Mychal Givens has a mutual option worth $3.5 million with the New York Mets, but I expect Givens to hit the open market. Givens was another reliever traded at the MLB trade deadline back in August, and it was an inconsistent showing with the Mets.
Prior to being dealt, Givens had a 2.66 ERA with the Chicago Cubs. But in his debut with the Mets, Givens gave up five earned runs, which ballooned his ERA from 2.66 to 3.70. From that point on, he did not surrender a run in15 of his final18 outings.
Givens ended the year with a 1.32 ERA over his last 12 appearances and showed flashes of being a strong reliever. While he wouldn’t have to be a featured arm for the Brewers, Givens could deliver some value depending on the financials of his contract, should he hit free agency.
Here are five true free agents the Milwaukee Brewers could target.
1. RHP Chris Martin
It was a tale of two halves for Chris Martin in 2022. Continuing the trend of relievers who were dealt at the deadline, Chris Martin was acquired by the Dodgers on July 30th, and the change of scenery was a good one for the 36-year-old reliever.
Chris Martin had a rough go with the Chicago Cubs in 2022. He had an ERA of 4.31 and a WHIP of 1.34 with Chicago, surrendering five home runs in 31 innings pitched. However, after he was traded to the Dodgers, it was a different story.
He finished the year with a 1.46 ERA and a 0.53 WHIP with the Dodgers in 24.2 innings pitched. In his final 13 outings with Los Angeles, Martin had a WHIP of 0.49 and did not surrender a single run, striking out 41% of his batters faced.
Martin’s career has been a rather inconsistent one. He unlocked a new level of success with the Dodgers, so it’s yet to be seen if he can continue that success with a new ball club. However, he won a World Series with the Atlanta Braves in 2021, so it would be nice to bring in a veteran reliever who has succeeded on the biggest stage.
2. RHP Rafael Montero
Rafael Montero had the best season of his career in 2022. Montero finished the regular season with an ERA of 2.37 and a WHIP of 1.02, and his advanced statistics also graded very well. Per Baseball Savant, his strikeout rate of 27% was 5% better than the MLB average (22%), and he excelled at not allowing hard contact.
Montero ranked in the 91st percentile in average exit velocity (86.3 MPH) and in the 88th percentile in hard hit rate (32.6%). Additionally, he only gave up five barrels the entire season, putting his barrel rate of 2.9% in the 99th percentile. Finally, Montero only allowed three home runs this season and has only allowed seven in his past two seasons combined.
Milwaukee’s bullpen really struggled with the long ball in 2022, so Montero is appealing for his ability to limit home runs. He has had quite the turnaround in his career since struggling with Seattle and being traded in the 2021 season, but Montero should get some experience in high leverage ball games in the World Series with the Houston Astros, which only adds to his appeal.
3. LHP Matt Moore
Matt Moore likely wouldn’t be as expensive as the two names above him on this list. Coming off of an abysmal 2021 campaign with the Philadelphia Phillies, Moore signed a one-year deal with the Rangers in 2022 and was moved to a full-time bullpen role for the first time in his career.
The move to the bullpen appeared to be a good one for Moore. He posted a 1.95 ERA in 2022 and only surrendered three home runs in 74 innings pitched. While he struggled with command and walks this season, Moore posted a career high strikeout rate of 27.3%. He also did a nice job limiting hard contact, ranking in the 93rd percentile in hard hit rate and the 91st percentile in barrel rate.
Moore would be a nice left-handed pitcher to bring in to help in high leverage situations in 2023. As a bonus, he has extensive experience as a starter, so if the Brewers battle injuries like they did in 2022, he could be used as an arm to eat up innings.
4. LHP Matt Strahm
Matt Strahm is a nice complement to the name above him on this list, and not just because they’re both left-handed pitchers named Matt. Moore is a starter converted to a reliever while Strahm is a reliever who shows a desire to become a starter, per this piece from Chris Cotillo at Mass Live.
Strahm posted a strong 2022 campaign with the Boston Red Sox as a reliever. In his 50 appearances, which set a new career high for a season, he posted above league average numbers in exit velocity, hard hit rate, and strikeout rate. It’s a good sign to see an increase in workload paired with strong performance.
Being a reliever who has a desire to start ball games could be appealing for the Brewers. However, if Strahm is targeted as a future starter for a team, Milwaukee could be priced out of the market. But like Moore, Strahm could be a nice middle reliever addition to the Brewers bullpen who could be used as a swingman throughout the season.
5. RHP Carlos Estevez
Carlos Estevez rounds out the list of reliever targets. He is the youngest pitcher on the list, and I think he could have a nice setup role in the Brewers bullpen. Estevez has spent six seasons pitching in the thin air of Coors Field for the Colorado Rockies and has been a decent reliever. However, I believe Estevez has the pitch arsenal to take the next step with a new ball club.
Estevez has three pitches: a four-seam fastball, a slider, and a changeup. All are pretty strong pitches, and they complement each other well. He has a heater of a fastball that averages 97.5 mph and has good movement and whiff rate on the slider and changeup. Posting a 3.47 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP in 62 appearances in 2022, Estevez will be an intriguing reliever target in free agency.
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The Milwaukee Brewers could have a quiet offseason when it comes to free agent signings. However, even if that is the case, MLB teams always need to bolster their pitching depth. I expect the Brewers to add an arm or two in the coming months to round out their bullpen, and these names could be great options at the right price.