The Milwaukee Brewers' rebuilding effort is not over. However, the Brewers are in first place and, especially with there being two wild cards, should remain in the playoff hunt for the remainder of the season. Do the Brewers want to go out and add a piece or two to help the playoff run? How many -- if any -- prospects can they afford to deal? Who makes sense for them to acquire? FOX Sports Wisconsin takes a look at a few players -- OK, mostly pitchers -- the Brewers could go after before MLB's July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.
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SP Trevor Cahill, Padres
After serving mainly as a reliever the past two seasons for the Braves and Cubs, the 29-year-old Cahill has had something of a rebirth as a starting pitcher for San Diego. In 10 starts this season he has a 3.14 ERA, 1.238 WHIP with a career high (by a lot) 11.1 K/9. Those numbers certainly seem like they'd fit well in Milwaukee's rotation. However, a word of warning: He's been much better at home in Petco Park than on the road. In six starts away from home he has a 5.01 ERA and an opponent slash line of .279/.354/.450 compared to 0.72 and .169/.237/.270 in four home starts.
Contract: $1.75 million in 2017. Will be a free agent in 2018.
Likely cost: A pure rental, although doesn't come with a big salary. Probably a low-to-mid-level prospect would get it done.
OF Rajai Davis, A's
Keon Broxton has been, to say the least, inconsistent in 2017, with a lot of ups and down. He's currently in a "down" mode (3 for 40 in July) while leading the National League in strikeouts (120 in 288 at-bats). If the Brewers want to make a run for the playoffs, do they want to trust Broxton or a rookie like Lewis Brinson or Brett Phillips? Davis signed with Oakland in the offseason but is now riding the pine as the A's give the younger Jaycob Brugman a look in center field. Davis has playoff experience (2014 Detroit, 2016 World Series with Cleveland) on a team lacking in that department. However, he isn't exactly having a stellar season (more reason the A's can go with Brugman), batting just .217/.276/.326. Even at 36 he still has wheels, though, having swiped 15 bases this year after stealing 43 (in 49 attempts) in 2016.
Contract: $6 million plus small bonuses for getting above 500, 550 and 600 plate appearances. Will be a free agent in 2018.
Likely cost: Only the White Sox are further out of the American League playoff race than Oakland. Getting rid of some salary down the stretch? A non-prospect would probably do the job.
SP Jaime Garcia, Braves
If Milwaukee is looking more for a fourth or fifth starter type to bolster its rotation, Garcia could be a cheap option. With Atlanta this season, Garcia has a 4.33 ERA and 1.330 WHIP, but he's been better away from home with a 4.17 ERA and .230/.325/.380 slash line in nine starts away from the Braves' new ballpark. Plus, he has a pretty good idea how to pitch in the NL Central and could be extra motivated when facing St. Louis.
Contract: $12 million. Will be a free agent in 2018.
Likely cost: As with any player with a heftier salary, the more salary you take on, the lesser a prospect you give up. Plus, Garcia is a rental and not exactly setting the world on fire, so he shouldn't cost much.
USA TODAY SportsEric Hartline
SP Sonny Gray, A's
Some people like Gray better than Jose Quintana, recently acquired by the Cubs and who the Brewers were reportedly interested in, and others like Quintana better. Either way, Gray is likely the prize jewel left among potential available starting pitchers. Gray certainly has the higher upside than Quintana (and lower floor, evidenced by his poor 2016). In his first three years, Gray had a 2.88 ERA and 1.134 WHIP over 76 games. Last year he slipped to 5.69 and 1.496, but he's having a bounce-back season, posting a 3.72 ERA and 1.157 WHIP in 14 starts, along with 8.4 K/9 (his highest rate since he pitched in 12 games as a rookie). After a rough May, he's been very good in June and July, only boosting his stock.
Contract: $3.575 million. Arbitration eligible in 2018. Can't become a free agent until 2020.
Likely cost: Why would the A's trade a pitcher who is under their control until 2020? Well, for one, he likely will get a big raise in pay in 2018. Secondly, they can get a lot for him. So, yeah, he won't come cheaply. Think at least two top-10 prospects (FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal suggested Brett Phillips). But that's the price for an ace -- a young (27), controllable ace.
RP Brad Hand, Padres
Hand -- not to be confused with one-time former Brewers reliever Donovan Hand -- has been lights out since being claimed off waivers by San Diego before the 2016 season. Last year, the left-hander led the National League in appearances with 82 while posting a 2.92 ERA, 1.108 WHIP and 11.2 K/9. He's been even better in 2017 with a 2.25 ERA, 0.979 WHIP and 11.4 K/9. Unlike Cahill, Hand has been better away from Petco Park. On the road, Hand has a 1.50 ERA and .190/.296/.214 opponent slash line in 24 innings (at home he's at 3.00 and .207/.242/.402 also in 24 innings). Could the Brewers use a shutdown left-handed reliever who also does well against righties (.205/.260/.291)? Uh, yeah.
Contract: $1.38 million. Arbitration eligible in 2018. Can't become a free agent until 2020.
Likely cost: As with Gray, if you're wondering why the Padres would make Hand available it's because they know they can get a lot in return. He might be the most sought-after reliever on the market. With his low 2017 salary combined with him being controllable until 2020, San Diego is likely drooling over a possible bidding war. In other words, say goodbye to a top prospect (or two) at the very least.
RP David Phelps, Marlins
Milwaukee's bullpen has been good this season but could improve in a couple of spots (Carlos Torres and Rob Scahill have scuffled, for instance). The 30-year-old Phelps was very good for Miami last year (2.28 ERA, 1.142 WHIP, 11.8 K/9), his second with the team after three years with the Yankees. He hasn't been as strong in 2017, but still decent (3.45 ERA, 1.340 WHIP, 9.8 K/9). The whole potential Marlins sale throws a possible wrench into trade plans, although you'd have to think shedding some salary would help.
Contract: $4.6 million. Arbitration eligible in 2018. Can become a free agent in 2019.
Likely cost: If the Marlins can make a deal, a mid-level prospect should get it done. Phelps is owed some decent money the rest of the season, but he's also under control for one more year (albeit, thanks to arbitration, at a higher salary).
RP Pat Neshek, Phillies
Baseball's worst team (record-wise) has no need for an elite late-inning reliever, which is what the soon-to-be 37-year-old (in September) Neshek has turned himself into. In 37 1/3 innings this season, Neshek has a 1.21 ERA -- which would make the third time in the last six seasons he's had under a 1.90 ERA. His WHIP is a stellar 0.857 -- he's been under 0.940 in three of the previous five seasons as well. Plus, he's actually better against lefties than righties this season (not that righties have done much against him). On top of it all, his dad grew up in Waukesha and Neshek was quite ecstatic to get autographs from Pete Vuckovich and Bob Uecker when the Phillies visited Miller Park during the 1982 reunion. He'd fit in Milwaukee both on and off the field.
Contract: $6.5 million. Will be a free agent in 2018.
Likely cost: Hard to say with this one. Older player who is a rental only. A motivated seller but a strong trade market. Will have to outbid some other suitors.
SP Dan Straily, Marlins
Straily has been in the league six years and has pitched for five teams -- he's been on a sixth if you could a couple offseason months with San Diego. Like with Phelps, trading Straily might be tough with Miami hanging a "for sale" sign around its franchise. Even tougher, Straily is on the low end of the pay scale and controllable until 2021. The right-hander would certainly help any rotation as he has a 3.32 ERA, 1.071 WHIP and 8.1 K/9 a year after posting a 3.76 ERA, 1.186 WHIP and 7.6 K/9 for Cincinnati.
Contract: $552,000. Arbitration eligible in 2018. Can't become a free agent until 2021.
Likely cost: A controllable starter until 2021? Yeah, Miami would want back a decent haul. Plus, the Marlins gave up a nice prospect in Luis Castillo (among others) to land Straily in the offseason. And, as we said, the Marlins' situation complicates things. But talk about a guy who can help in the present and future.
SP Justin Verlander, Tigers
Let's get this out of the way: We doubt the Brewers will acquire Verlander, who does have a no-trade clause. The good news is any team that acquires Verlander has him for a few years. The bad news is he's owed a ton of money and is 34. Verlander clearly hasn't been the Verlander we're all used to. He has a 4.66 ERA, 1.500 WHIP and 4.4 BB/9; the ERA and BB/9 are the worst of his career and his WHIP his highest in any full season. Verlander is striking out 8.4 per nine innings and other than one clunker vs. Cleveland has been pitching decently over the past month or so. He's just one year removed from finishing second in the Cy Young voting (3.04 ERA, 1.001 WHIP, 10.0 K/9) so maybe he just needs a change of scenery (and a pennant race).
Contract: $28 million each year from 2017-19; $22 million vesting option in 2020 (guaranteed with a top-five finish in the 2019 Cy Young Award voting).
Likely cost: It all depends how much money a trading team wants to take on. The more the Tigers have to fork over, the higher the cost. This would obviously be a risky and (very) costly move. It also could energize the team and fan base. Like we said, we doubt this will happen, but Verlander is on the block. Plus, we think Kate Upton would like Milwaukee.
USA TODAY SportsAaron Doster
RP Tony Watson, Pirates
Pittsburgh has gotten hot lately so maybe they won't be a seller, but if they are Watson surely would be available. The 32-year-old left-hander was a disaster as the Pirates' closer this season and as a result he's had a rough year overall -- 3.59 ERA but 1.523 WHIP and a career-low 6.3 K/9. Perhaps a change of scenery will get him back to the pitcher he was the past few years. From 2012-16, Watson had a 2.40 ERA, 1.002 WHIP and 8.0 K/9 in 345 1/3 innings. As mentioned, Milwaukee could use an experienced and quality lefty in the bullpen. The question is can Watson regain his form?
Contract: $5.6 million. Will be a free agent in 2018.
Likely cost: If Pittsburgh is selling, and willing to trade to a division mate, the Pirates likely wouldn't be looking for much to divest themselves of Watson's salary. With Watson also being a 2017 rental only, Pittsburgh can't expect much in return.
RP Justin Wilson, Tigers
Detroit is in sell mode and Wilson is a nice commodity. While he's a closer for the Tigers, the Brewers could use the left-hander as a nice 1-2 punch with Corey Knebel. Imagine having to face Wilson (2.29 ERA, 0.906 WHIP, 12.7 K/9) in the eighth and then Knebel in the ninth. Since June 1, Wilson has allowed just six hits and two runs in 13 1/2 innings while striking out 15. Righties this season are hitting just .122/.210/.278 off Wilson with 35 strikeouts in 90 at-bats.
Contract: $2.7 million. Arbitration eligible in 2018. Can become a free agent in 2019.
Likely cost: There figures to be a market for Wilson, which will only drive up his price. So Milwaukee would likely have to lose a pretty good prospect to get Wilson. But the good news is the team would have him under control for next season as well.