As the waiver trade deadline comes to a close on Monday, the focus across the baseball community will turn to September call-ups. The Cubs are reportedly poised to promote Javier Baez — who, contrary to popular belief, is not a failed prospect and is hitting .315/.378/.522 with 13 homers in Triple-A this year — while hyped youngsters such as Joey Gallo, Jose Barrios, Corey Seager, Blake Snell, and Dalton Pompey all have a chance to see big-league action before the end of the season.
The Brewers will also make a handful of promotions from the minors in September, though likely not immediately. The organization does not wish to interfere with Double-A Biloxi’s postseason run or deplete the ranks at Triple-A Colorado Springs; however, Zach Davies could eventually slide into the rotation and Luis Sardinas should see his fair share of playing time. Still, it’s unlikely that prized prospects Brett Phillips or Orlando Arcia get anything more than a token call-up, as they’d have to be added to the 40-man roster and don’t project to begin the 2016 season with the big-league club. That could leave the September call-up season a bit unfulfilling for many Brewers fans, who are desperate to glimpse the purported future of the franchise.
Attention could quickly turn to the winter trading season. Multiple media sources suggest that the Brewers will be active in the offseason, seeking to further build for a potential run at contention in as early as 2o17. In other words, fans should expect additional departures from the current major-league squad. The club is still unlikely to engage in a firesale — though the uncertainty at General Manager makes it difficult to say this with too much confidence — but multiple sources have indicated that Milwaukee would like to move another piece or two this winter.
Here are the five players that I consider to have the highest probability of being traded this offseason:
(1) SS Jean Segura
Although his trade value has fallen from its April and May levels, the 25-year-old shortstop still carries value and is most likely to be moved this winter. He’s failed to deliver consistency at the plate and has routinely slid back into bad habits as seasons progress; however, the Brewers should benefit from the overall paucity of talent at the shortstop position. Despite his struggles, Segura has the 14th-highest WARP in the majors. Guys like Alexei Ramirez (.240/.268/.345), Jimmy Rollins (.220/.274/.361), Marcus Semien (.252/.296/.391), Jordy Mercer (.243/.290/.313), Erick Aybar (.275/.310/.333), Alexi Amarista (.213/.265/.309), Starlin Castro (.242/.274/.317), J.J. Hardy (.222/.253/.315), and Didi Gregorius (.260/.306/.357) all have received at least 300 plate appearances. That isn’t the exhaustive list, either.
This comes on the heels of an offseason that saw Gregorius move to New York in a deal that included Shane Greene — pre-dumpster-fire version — and Robbie Ray. The 24-year-old Marcus Semien headlined the return for Jeff Samardizja over the winter. Hell, even Luis Sardinas (a potential utility infielder or second-division starter) was the core of the return for right-hander Yovani Gallardo. The idea that Jean Segura is not valuable or won’t have a market this winter seems off the mark, if one considers the most recent offseason.
Segura becomes expendable for several reasons: (1) it’s becoming less and less clear that he’s going to reach his offensive potential, which makes him, at best, a second-division shortstop; (2) Luis Sardinas hit .283/.321/.367 in Triple-A and should be able to handle the starting role for a season or two during a rebuilding stretch; (3) the future at the position is not Segura, but rather Orlando Arcia. These three factors should help convince the organization that he should be moved during the offseason. It wouldn’t be wise to expect a huge prospect package in return, though, unless the new GM brings a vastly different philosophy to the front office and wishes to put his stamp on the club. The Brewers have long prioritized players in the high minors or the majors, and with Melvin still in an advisory role and Attanasio still at the helm, it seems more likely that Milwaukee swaps Segura for a mid-tier young player in Double-A or Triple-A.
(2) OF Khris Davis
Davis clobbered 10 homers in the month of August, firmly asserting his ability to hit for power at the major-league level. He remains an unheralded offensive asset. His .276 TAv is above the league’s average, and his 112 wRC+ indicates that his production at the plate is 12 percent better than average. Davis owns a career 116 wRC+, too, so it’s hardly convincing to suggest that he’s only been decent over the past month. He’s a player with holes in his game; however, in an depressed offensive environment around Major League Baseball, players like Khris Davis carry more value than we’re perhaps predisposed to think.
He’s only 27 years old and won’t be arbitration eligible until the 2017 season. These things are attractive to both the Brewers and other major-league clubs, yet the presence of Domingo Santana should present the organization an opportunity to capitalize on Davis’s trade value without creating a black hole in left field. The front office can shop Davis to both NL and AL clubs with the comfort that they have a very similar player in the wings. Granted, Santana has more swing-and-miss issues than Davis and may experience some growing pains in his first full season, but he’s the one who best profiles to play left field for Milwaukee during their next competitive window.
(3) RHP Matt Garza
It’s no secret that Milwaukee desperately wants to unload the remaining two years of Garza’s four-year, $50M contract. With a 5.56 ERA over 24 starts, that won’t be an easy task, but expect the front office to explore a myriad of ways to move the right-hander this winter. Perhaps it will be a bad-contract swap, with a couple teams taking a chance on change-of-scenery candidates, or a big-market team like the Dodgers could offer a no-name prospect or two in return for simply eating the contract. More likely than not, though, the Brewers will hope that the 31-year-old can begin the 2016 on a high note and move him as quickly as possible.
Some of the underlying numbers suggest Garza could bounce back next year. He didn’t experience any velocity decrease and didn’t have any wild fluctuations in his ground-ball rate. His .317 BABIP is also roughly 30 points higher than his career average, which could mean that he’s due for positive regression. Of course, I’d also argue that Garza’s BABIP and home-run rates are at or near career highs because his command has been dreadful, causing him to issue too many free passes and get obliterated when missing inside the zone. As the offseason approaches, it’s likely that the Brewers’ front office and the fan base will focus on the positive rather than the negative, as they seek to paint the rosiest picture possible — and I find it hard to blame anyone for that.
(4) 1B Adam Lind
The Brewers haven’t had a quality first baseman since Prince Fielder departed following the 2011 season, and with no ready-made replacement in the farm system, it’s understandable why the organization has been hesitant to trade Lind. He’s hitting .282/.362/.470 with a 122 wRC+ and has been solid defensively. At only $8M in 2016, the 32-year-old slugger continues to be attractive to any small-market club, the Brewers notwithstanding.
Still, he’s an aging slugger with perennial back problems and only one year remaining on his contract. At least the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates expressed interest over the summer, and more clubs could be in the market for an above-average first baseman over the winter. It’s unclear what the Brewers’ asking price has been or what it projects to be this offseason, but one figures that a two-win first baseman on a team-friendly contract should bring back a better return than what the Brewers had to pay prior to 2015 (Marco Estrada).
The question is whether Milwaukee has any desire to move Lind without any replacement lined up — and it should be noted that Jason Rogers doesn’t profile as an everyday option at first — remains to be seen. I am skeptical that the club would be willing to make such a move. As with all of this speculation, though, the uncertainty at General Manager makes such skepticism partially unfounded. Mostly, such an opinion is based off the presence of Mark Attanasio. His ultimate acquiescence of trading Mike Fiers alleviates my concerns a bit; however, the emergence of Taylor Jungmann as a legitimate major-league pitcher likely softened the blow and made him more receptive to such a move. Any trade of Adam Lind — barring any subsequent trade or free-agent signing — would mean Attanasio agreed to trade a cost-friendly player without any recognizable replacement in the wings. I’m not sure he has agreed to do that before as the Brewers’ owner and I’m not ready to assume he’ll do it now.
(5) RHP Francisco Rodriguez
This is complicated. Rodriguez is 33 years old and has at least $7.5 million guaranteed over the next two years — $5.5 million next year and a $2 million buy-out in 2017. He’s a highly productive reliever who has posted a 2.53 ERA with a 2.88 FIP. He has saved 31 games with only four “meltdowns” this season. He continues to transform himself as a pitcher, as he now throws his fastball just 45.9 percent of the time and has a 14.2 percent whiff rate, which is his highest mark since 2003. Although he prefers to close, the right-hander would be a quality addition to any bullpen, especially in an era in which organizations are beginning to assemble elite bullpens in an effort to lessen the negative impact of a mediocre starting rotation.
Despite all of this, K-Rod remains in Milwaukee. For four-consecutive offseasons, he has had the opportunity to sign with any major-league team, yet he’s ultimately returned to the state of Wisconsin. Part of this is surely tied to the fact that he’s always had a clear shot at the closer’s role with the Brewers, but that doesn’t seem to fully explain it. Plenty of teams across the majors have needed help in the ninth inning over the last four years. So why always Milwaukee? Part of this could be his history of domestic violence, something that has been somewhat of a non-issue — likely because the fan base has somewhat accepted, overlooked, or forgotten his history — but something that will absolutely rear its head in a new location, as members of the media would write their human-interest profiles over the winter.
It could also be that Milwaukee appreciates the way he works with their younger pitchers, as he’s a Spanish-speaking veteran who can help mentor younger Latin American pitchers in the ins and outs of big-league life. As the club promotes a greater number of young, homegrown arms, perhaps that carries greater weight with the organization. Yovani Gallardo could have carried out that role in previous years, but as he’s no longer with the club, it could be argued that K-Rod is one of the only veteran Spanish-speaking mentors the Brewers have on the roster. Although it’s unclear if that’s the ultimate reasoning, I could certainly understand the line of argument, as the behind-the-scenes portion of player development is often overlooked and poorly understood.
Whatever the reason, though, Francisco Rodriguez continues to don a Brewers uniform year after year. On paper, he appears to be an obvious trade candidate for the club. At this point, it’s clear that something unrelated to his performance, good or bad, is keeping him in Milwaukee.
[Note: To answer this question before it’s raised in the comment’s section, I do not consider it likely for Jonathan Lucroy to be traded this winter. The organization has repeatedly informed teams that he’s unavailable. A large reason for this probably has to do with his team-friendly contract and the club’s belief that they can push for contention as soon as 2017 — a time frame in which Lucroy could still be in position to add value to the club’s postseason chances. The pending GM change makes this a bit cloudier, to be fair, but with the information that we currently have available, it does not appear that Milwaukee has any intentions to trade Jonathan Lucroy prior to the 2016 season.]