The Milwaukee Brewers once again will be battling for a spot in the playoffs in the second half of the season. The Brewers don’t have a lot of holes, especially now with the re-addition of Keston Hiura strengthening the offense and infield, however there are areas which could use strengthening, most notably in the rotation and/or bullpen and perhaps also first base. The trading deadline is July 31, but the All-Star break is a time when deals often can start getting done (i.e. last year Manny Machado was traded the day after the All-Star Game). And unlike in years past, there’s only one deadline this year as the Aug. 31 waiver deadline has been eliminated. With that in mind, here are a few candidates the Brewers could target in a trade (players listed alphabetically; statistics through July 1):
RP Joe Biagini, Toronto
The Blue Jays appear to be in sell mode and the 29-year-old Biagini might not be in their future plans. He can’t become a free agent until 2023 but is arbitration eligible in 2020. Biagini is having a fine season – 3.41 ERA, 1.216 WHIP, 9.0 K/9 – but there’s some risk, too. He’s allowing 1.5 HR/9, his FIP (fielding independent pitching) is 4.29 and he didn’t exactly have a stellar 2018 (6.00 ERA, 1.667 WHIP, 6.6 K/9). Still, if Milwaukee wants to add a seemingly dependable arm for a likely low cost, Biagini could be a fit.
SP Matthew Boyd, Detroit
A solid pitcher in 2018, Boyd has really started coming into his own in 2019. The ace of the Tigers’ staff, Boyd owns a 3.72 ERA (but 3.58 FIP), 1.092 WHIP and 11.4 K/9. Boyd offers the Brewers a couple things they could use in the starting rotation: A pitcher who can rack up innings – Boyd is averaging roughly six innings per start – and a left-hander (Gio Gonzalez and Brent Suter, the other lefties, are both on the injured list). Like many pitchers nowadays, Boyd is a bit homer prone – he’s allowed 17 in 101 2/3 innings – but he also has great control (20 walks). Boyd is 28 and, like Biagini, is arbitration eligible in 2020 and can become a free agent in 2023. Unlike Biagini, he should be costly as Detroit looks to recoup some future pieces for its rebuild.
USA TODAY SportsRick Osentoski
SP Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco
No, this isn’t the same Bumgarner who was a perennial Cy Young candidate from 2013-16. But he’s still a quality lefty who can churn out some innings (he’s gone at least six innings in all but two of his starts, and one of those was 5 2/3). And you know he’s the kind of guy you want on the hill during the postseason. In 17 starts this season, Bumgarner has a 4.02 ERA (3.95 FIP) and 1.185 WHIP. Not exactly “wow” numbers. He is striking out 9.3 batters per nine innings, his best rate since 2016, and walking only 2.0 per nine, which his is just below career rate (2.1). His strike percentage is 67.3%, his highest since 2014. However, Bumgarner can be a free agent after the season. He’ll be an expensive rental (Brewers fans might recall a similar situation with CC Sabathia in 2008). One more thing: Milwaukee is on Bumgarner’s eight-team no-trade list. The pitcher could waive that provision, but it’s just another potential roadblock.
RP Sam Dyson, San Francisco
Milwaukee might have its eyes on another Giants reliever (see below), but the team might want to consider Dyson as well. The 31-year-old right-hander is in the midst of putting together strong back-to-back seasons for the Giants after being traded to the team from Texas in June 2017. This year, Dyson owns a 2.54 ERA, 0.923 WHIP and 7.6 K/9 in 37 innings. As a bonus, he has closing experience (38 saves with the Rangers in 2016) and doesn’t allow a lot of home runs (0.7/9 this year and the same ratio over his career). The question is would San Francisco give him up? If the price is right, you’d have to think so. Dyson is arbitration eligible in 2020 and can be a free agent in 2021.
RP Mychal Givens, Baltimore
The Orioles are going nowhere this year (or for a while) and are looking for young pieces to build around. The 29-year-old Givens doesn’t fit that bill, although he is under team control until 2022 (arbitration eligible in 2020). His numbers this year might scare off some suitors – 5.06 ERA and 1.313 WHIP. But Givens is also posting a personal-best 12.9 K/9 (his career rate is 10.7) and he pitched better in June (0.955 WHIP, 16.0 K/9) after a disastrous May (6.39 ERA, 1.579 WHIP). Givens has also pitched better in non-save situations (which would presumably be his role in Milwaukee) than in save situations. The deal could be a tough sell, though, as the Orioles likely wouldn’t just give him away (see team control above) and his stats might not justify the asking price.
USA TODAY SportsTommy Gilligan
RP Ian Kennedy, Kansas City
A longtime starter – he hadn’t pitched in relief since 2009 – at 34 years old, Kennedy reinvented himself in 2019 as a reliever and has been flourishing in the back end of the Royals’ bullpen, recently taking over as closer (11 saves). He’s posted a 3.27 ERA, 1.212 WHIP and 10.9 K/9 while allowing only 0.5 home runs and 1.6 walks per nine innings. A team like Kansas City, already out of the playoff hunt and rebuilding, doesn’t need a 34-year-old closer. Kennedy wouldn’t be a rental, as he’s signed through 2020. The bad news is he has a hefty contract, which pays him $16.5 million both this year and next. As things stand, if the Brewers would acquire him, that would make Kennedy the highest-paid player on the team in 2020. That seems like a lot of ducats for a guy who’d likely be in a setup role.
1B Trey Mancini, Baltimore
While adding pitching would be at the forefront for Milwaukee, how does adding an All-Star caliber bat sound? Neither Jesus Aguilar nor Eric Thames has been able to lay claim to first base for the Brewers. Mancini would solve that issue. Mancini was expected to be the Orioles’ lone All-Star (but he was denied), he is batting .302/.359/.542 with 17 home runs and he hits right-handers almost equally as well as he hits lefties. No platoon needed here. Mancini is 27 so he’s not necessarily a building block for Baltimore, which doesn’t expect to be competitive for a few years. The good news is that the Orioles have not deemed him untouchable. The bad news is if they do trade him, they’d want to be blown away by an offer. He’s not going to hurt the payroll this year ($575,000) and is under team control until 2023. This would be a big swing by the Brewers – and do they have enough in the farm system to make it work? If so, imagine Milwaukee’s lineup putting Mancini in it.
SP Caleb Smith, Miami
Why would the Marlins want to trade their best starting pitcher? Because he turns 28 in July and Miami is perpetually going through a rebuild. That’ll be good news for some team in MLB. Smith has built off a solid 2018 and has a 3.41 ERA, 1.015 WHIP and 11.2 K/9 in 2019. The bad news is he’s currently on the injured list (with hip inflammation), although he’s expected back in July. Also, he’s a pitcher prone to giving up home runs (1.8 per nine innings this year and 1.5 HR/9 in his career). But the left-hander (when healthy) can help stabilize a rotation not just this season but beyond, as he’s on an affordable contract ($556,500) and not eligible for arbitration until 2021 (and free agency in 2024). As with most starters, and especially for one under team control for a while, it will take a bit to pry Smith loose from the Marlins.
RP Will Smith, San Francisco
On Aug. 1, 2016, Smith was dealt from the Brewers to the Giants, who were chasing a playoff spot. Might San Francisco return the favor in 2019? The left-hander will be a free agent after the season, so he’d be a three-month (or more) rental. That also means San Francisco is more apt to deal him and not ask for a whole lot. Smith hasn’t been Josh Hader dominant this year, but he’s been pretty close. He’s saved 21 games and has allowed just 19 hits and eight walks in 33 1/3 innings with 51 strikeouts (2.16 ERA, 0.810 WHIP, 13.8 K/9). Adding Smith would give Milwaukee a deadly pair of lefties and more late-inning options for manager Craig Counsell.
USA TODAY SportsCody Glenn
SP Marcus Stroman, Toronto
The 28-year-old right-hander reportedly has been on the trading block since the offseason, as Toronto looks to retool around its younger players and up-and-coming prospects. Stroman, who tore his ACL in the spring training in 2015, has been solid, posting his best numbers since his rookie year. In 18 starts, he has a 3.18 ERA and 1.261 WHIP. He’s striking out 7.0 batters per nine innings, which is just below his career average of 7.2. While he made only 19 starts last year due to injuries, Stroman posted over 200 innings in both 2016 and ’17. He is making $7.9 million this year and is arbitration eligible in 2020 (and can be a free agent in 2021), so there would be some payroll to take on and he’d likely be around for only one more season.