Category: Transactions

Brewers Announce Changes in Scouting Department

OFFICIAL RELEASE

The Milwaukee Brewers today announced several changes related to their amateur and professional scouting departments.
Tod Johnson, who is currently in his ninth year with the Brewers, has been promoted to Director of Amateur Scouting. Johnson’s new role will include oversight of all amateur scouting operations, including preparations for the annual June Draft. Johnson, 43, previously served as Brewers Assistant Director – Amateur Scouting for six years. Prior to that, he spent three years (2007-2009) as Director of Application Development for the organization and one season with the San Diego Padres as a Baseball Systems Architect. Johnson’s recent experience also included working with the Brewers Baseball Research and Development Department to set the direction for the application of data and technology for the Brewers baseball operations.
 
Ray Montgomery, 46, who is in his second term with the Brewers, has been named Vice President – Scouting. Montgomery first worked for the Brewers in various scouting roles from 2002-2010 before joining the Arizona Diamondbacks. He returned to Milwaukee and has spent the last two years as Vice President – Amateur Scouting/Special Assistant to the General Manager. In his new role, Montgomery will serve as a lead evaluator across the entire spectrum of baseball operations including professional, international, and amateur scouting.
 
Zack Minasian, 32, will assume a new position with the Brewers as Special Advisor – Scouting. Minasian has been with the organization for 12 years, including the last six as Director – Professional Scouting. Minasian also worked for the Brewers organization as Manager of Minor League Scouting Personnel/Coordinator of Pro Scouting and as Baseball Operations Assistant.
 
“Scouting will always be an integral aspect of our focus on acquiring and developing young talent, and we are confident that today’s moves will enhance those efforts to be among the best in the industry,” said Brewers General Manager David Stearns. “Tod, Ray, and Zack have all contributed a great deal to this organization during parts of the past decade, and I am excited about their continued impact as they assume new positions.”

Brewers Pick Cordell to Complete Texas Trade

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Earlier today the Milwaukee Brewers confirmed a report by Evan Grant that they had picked the Player To Be Named Later to complete their August 1 trade with the Texas Rangers which sent catcher Jonathan Lucroy and right-handed reliever Jeremy Jeffress to the American League West division leader.

The now-named player is outfielder Ryan Cordell, a 24-year-old right-handed hitter who opened the season among the Rangers’ Top 10 prospects (according to Baseball America) and who was sixth-best in the up-to-date rankings published by MLB Pipeline.

Brewers General Manager David Stearns said of Cordell that he “is a very athletic, right-handed hitting centerfielder with the ability to play all three outfield positions.” Stearns went on to say that Cordell “has displayed above-average raw power. He’s displayed above-average speed. When you put that combination together he gives himself the chance to be an above average Major League player.”

Cordell joins fellow outfielder Lewis Brinson (current #2 prospect in the Milwaukee’s farm system according to MLB Pipeline) and right-handed pitcher Luis Ortiz (current #5 prospect) as three additions to a system widely considered among the best in baseball if not the best.

For an idea as to just how deep the Brewers system has become, look no further than Cordell’s initial ranking therein by the aforementioned MLB Pipeline. They initially slot Cordell in at #18 in the Brewers system. Cordell was eighth for the Rangers before Brinson and Ortiz left, and their system is also highly regarded.

Cordell has not yet played above Double-A, which is where he spent the entirety of 2016 prior to his injury, but he’s among the bevvy of prospects which require 40-man roster protection this winter lest they be exposed to the Rule 5 draft. You can rest assured they Cordell will find his way onto the roster.

For the Class-AA Frisco Roughriders, Cordell played in 107 games slashing .264/.319/.484 in 405 ABs. He totaled 22 doubles, 5 triples, 19 home runs and 12 stolen bases across 107 games.

Cordell played primarily outfield in college at Liberty following a freshman year that saw him bounce around. One person I talked to after the trade said that Cordell is “a freak athlete, for sure. Great speed and outfield instincts. Hits better than his numbers may show.”

Time will of course tell on every player, but Cordell seems to be yet another valuable piece to the Brewers’ puzzle to put together a consistent pipeline of talent.

Roster Moves Made In Advance of Weekend Series

A handful of roster moves were made by the Brewers in advance of their Friday night series opener in Seattle against the Mariners.

Outfielder Domingo Santana — limited by injuries most of the year and officially injured since June 9 — was reinstated from the 15-day Disabled List. Santana is coming off of his second rehab assignment after his first attempt was cut short upon a recurrence of elbow soreness.

Brewers manager Craig Counsell had said that Santana required between 20 and 30 plate appearances to really gauge where Santana was physically and to get him used to seeing live pitching again. Santana accomplished that between Class-A and Class-AAA, finishing his rehab assignment with a three-hit, two-walk night at the plate which included two doubles, two runs scored, and five runs batted in.

To clear space on the 25-man roster for Santana’s return, right-handed pitcher Damien Magnifico was down optioned to Triple-A Colorado Springs. The hard-throwing reliever was a bit erratic during his first big league call-up but fell victim to injuries to others as much as anything else. The Brewers played in a doubleheader on Tuesday in Chicago, the second game of which saw starting pitcher Chase Anderson leave early after being struck by his eleventh pitch when Kris Bryant returned it to sender at 107 miles per hour off the bat. The bullpen, having already covered a short start in the day game of the split card, were nearly maxed out. Anderson evaded serious injury and should be available out of the bullpen this weekend on his throw day as he looks to avoid the DL altogether.

That doubleheader necessitated a spot starter Friday night in Seattle. With the injured Junior Guerra not quite ready to return from his own DL stint, the Brewers decided to purchase the contract of left-handed pitcher Brent Suter.

Suter, who turns 27 in 10 days, has pitched for Colorado Springs all season. He has posted a 3.50 ERA in 110.2 innings pitched across 26 total appearances, 15 of which have been starts. Suter is a zone pounder who allows his defense to work. This is evidenced by his modest strikeout total (75) but even more so by his miniscule 14 walks allowed.

In order to purchase Suter’s contract, a spot on the 40-man roster was needed. With the return of Santana, the spot was freed up by designating the no-longer-needed and ultimately ineffective Ramon Flores. Flores, coincidentally, acquired over this past off-season from the Seattle Mariners, was given plenty of opportunities in the wake of injuries to Santana and Ryan Braun but ultimately couldn’t seize the chance and establish himself as a part of the future. It was a failed experiment but a worthwhile one by a transitioning team which the Brewers certainly are.

Santana joins Suter by starting tonight’s game, with Santana reclaiming his familiar right field defensive assignment.

NOTABLE
When the game officially begins, Suter will end a run of 474 consecutive games wherein the Brewers would send a right-handed pitcher to take the ball first. That’s the second-longest streak in Major League Baseball history behind only a stretch by the Dodgers from September 25, 1992 through July 12, 1997.

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Official Trade Deadline Press Releases

Chronologically, in case you missed them, here are the official press releases sent out today by the Brewers regarding the two trades they made involving Will Smith, Jonathan Lucroy, and Jeremy Jeffress.

First, the trade that sent Smith to the San Francisco Giants.


BREWERS ACQUIRE PITCHING PROSPECT PHIL BICKFORD AND CATCHER ANDREW SUSAC FROM GIANTS

Left-Handed Pitcher Will Smith Headed to San Francisco

MILWAUKEE – The Milwaukee Brewers have acquired right-handed pitcher Phil Bickford and catcher Andrew Susac from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for left-handed pitcher Will Smith. The announcement was made by General Manager David Stearns.

Bickford, 21, was selected by San Francisco in the first round (18th overall) of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft. He entered the 2016 season ranked by Baseball America as the third-best prospect in the Giants organization. He is currently ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the top prospect in their organization (65th overall in baseball), and appeared in this year’s All-Star Futures Game in San Diego.

Bickford this season went a combined 5-6 with a 2.71 ERA in 17 starts between Class-A Augusta (11 GS, 3-4, 2.70 ERA) and Class-A San Jose (6 GS, 2-2, 2.73 ERA). He has held opponents to a .208 batting average (70-for-336, 5 HR) with 105 strikeouts in 93.0 innings pitched. He made his professional debut last season, going 0-1 with a 2.01 ERA in 10 starts with the Rookie Arizona Giants. He produced 32 strikeouts in just 22.1 innings pitched as he held opponents to a .169 batting average (13-for-77, 0 HR).

Susac, 26, was batting .273 (57-for-209) with 8 HR and 36 RBI in 58 games at Triple-A Sacramento this season. He has Major League experience with the Giants, batting .240 (53-for-221) with 6 HR and 33 RBI in 87 games from 2014-15. Selected by San Francisco in the second round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, Susac was a member of the 2014 world champion Giants.

Smith, 27, was acquired by Milwaukee from Kansas City on December 5, 2013 in exchange for outfielder Norichika Aoki. He went 9-8 with a 3.28 ERA and 1 save in 181 relief appearances as a Brewer, including 1-3 with a 3.68 ERA in 27 outings this season.


 

And the trade with Texas…

BREWERS ACQUIRE TWO HIGHLY-TOUTED PROSPECTS FROM THE RANGERS

Catcher Jonathan Lucroy and Right-Handed Pitcher Jeremy Jeffress Headed to Texas

MILWAUKEE – The Milwaukee Brewers have acquired outfielder Lewis Brinson, right-handed pitcher Luis Ortiz and a player to be named from the Texas Rangers in exchange for catcherJonathan Lucroy and right-handed pitcher Jeremy Jeffress. The announcement was made by General Manager David Stearns.

“While it is extremely difficult to part with players the caliber of Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress, we are excited to add more young and talented players to the organization as we continue to build toward future winning seasons in Milwaukee,” said Stearns.

Stearns added, “We would like to thank Jonathan for his seven years of not only All-Star play on the field, but for the leadership and dedication that he and his wife, Sarah, displayed throughout the community. We also would like to thank Jeremy for his contributions to the Brewers, particularly his admirable work as a first-time closer this season.”

Brinson, 22, entered the 2016 season ranked by both Baseball America and MLBPipeline.com as the second-best prospect in the Rangers organization. He is currently ranked 30th and 21st, respectively, in all of baseball by those outlets.

Brinson was selected by Texas in the first round (29th overall) of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. He batted .237 (72-for-304) with 11 HR, 40 RBI and 11 stolen bases in 77 games at Double-A Frisco this season.

Ortiz, 20, entered the 2016 season ranked by Baseball America as the fourth-best prospect in the Rangers organization. He entered this season ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the fifth-best prospect in their organization and currently ranks third. He is currently ranked 74th and 63rd, respectively, in all of baseball by those outlets.

Ortiz was selected by Texas in the first round (30th overall) of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft. He went 4-6 with 3.48 ERA in 16 games (14 starts) between Class-A High Desert (7g, 6gs, 3-2, 2.60era) and Double-A Frisco (9g, 8gs, 1-4, 4.08era).

Lucroy, 30, batted .284 with 79 HR and 387 RBI in 805 games during seven seasons with the Brewers (2010-16), including .299 (101-for-338) with 13 HR and 50 RBI in 95 games this season. The two-time All-Star (2014 and 2016) was selected by Milwaukee in the third round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.

Jeffress, 28, returned to the Brewers in 2014 and has gone 8-3 with a 2.36 ERA and 27 saves (all this season) in 148 relief appearances during that stretch. He was originally selected by Milwaukee in the first round (16th overall) of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft.

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Brewers Claim Scahill

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The Milwaukee Brewers just announced that they have been awarded a waiver claim on right-handed relief pitcher Rob Scahill, late of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.

Scahill, 29, has made 28 combined appearances during the 2016 regular seasons of the Pirates (15 games) and their Triple-A affiliate the Indianapolis Indians (13). He’s combined to post a 4.19 ERA in 34.1 IP. (That’s a 4.00 ERA in 18.0 Triple-A innings and a 4.41 ERA in 16.1 IP in MLB this year, for the record.)

Following a 147 ERA+ (100 is league average) in 2015 where Scahill allowed just nine earned runs in 30.2 MLB innings across 28 games, the Illinois-native is somewhat ironically producing some better peripherals but with a much higher resultant ERA his ERA+ in 2016 is just 95. Not bad but certainly not as good.

One could likely assume that the Brewers’ pro scouting department sees some rebound capability in Scahill based on these statistical comparisons.

  • 2015: 4.50 FIP | 2016: 3.85 FIP
  • ’15: 4.7 BB/9 | ’16: 3.3 BB/9
  • ’15: 7.0 K/9 | ’16: 7.2 K/9
  • ’15: 1.50 K/BB | ’16: 2.17 K/9
  • ’15: .309 BAbip | ’16: .347 BAbip

So like I said, good peripherals, better than 2015, but lesser results to this point. About the only thing working against Scahill is line drive percentage (up to 32% from 24%) which does explain some of the other results, but that could be correctable.

Along with the announcement of the claim — which once again fills the Brewers’ 40-man roster — is the news that Scahill was immediately optioned down to Triple-A Colorado Springs. Scahill is also no stranger to that rare air having pitches in the Rockies organization for six seasons after being drafted by them in the 8th round in 2009. Scahill pitched parts of three minor-league seasons for the Sky Sox.

More Thoughts on the Aftermath of Hill Shipping Up to Boston

First, here’s how the official press release announcing the trade of Aaron Hill was written, in case you haven’t seen it.

OFFICIAL RELEASE

The Milwaukee Brewers have acquired right-handed pitcher Aaron Wilkerson and second baseman Wendell Rijo from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for infielder Aaron Hill and cash. The announcement was made by General Manager David Stearns.

“In Aaron Wilkerson, we are adding a starting pitcher who has had tremendous success in the minor leagues and could be an asset to the Major League team in the near future,” said Stearns. “Wendell Rijo adds even more young talent and strength up the middle to our organization.”

Wilkerson, 27, had been pitching this season at Triple-A Pawtucket, where he was 4-2 with a 2.44 ERA in 9 games (8 starts). He was holding International League opponents to a .223 batting average (41-for-184, 5hr) with 54 strikeouts in just 48.0 innings pitched. He also pitched at Double-A Portland this season, going 2-1 with a 1.83 ERA in 8 starts. While at Portland, he held Eastern League opponents to a .175 batting average (28-for-160, 2hr) with 48 strikeouts in just 44.1 innings pitched.

Wilkerson, who was signed by Boston as a non-drafted free agent on July 18, 2014, owns an impressive career minor-league record of 22-7 with a 2.52 ERA in 54 games (44 starts). He has produced 293 strikeouts in just 279.0 innings pitched.

Prior to joining the Red Sox organization, the product of Cumberland University (TN), pitched the 2013 season for three independent league teams: Fort Worth – United League Baseball; Florence – Frontier League and Grand Prairie – American Association.

Rijo, 20, began the 2016 season at Double-A Portland, where he appeared in 51 games. He was transferred to Class-A Salem in late June and appeared in 11 games there prior to today’s trade.

Born in La Romana in the Dominican Republic, Rijo was signed by Boston as an international free agent on July 6, 2012. He owns a career batting average of .250 with 16 HR, 129 RBI and 50 stolen bases in 333 minor-league games (2012-2016). Following last season, he was ranked as the 15th-best prospect in the Red Sox organization and 19th-best prospect in the Carolina League by Baseball America.

Hill, 34, was acquired by Milwaukee last January 30 from Arizona, along with right-handed pitcher Chase Anderson, shortstop Isan Diaz and cash, in exchange for shortstop Jean Segura and right-handed pitcher Tyler Wagner. He batted .283 (72-for-254) with 8 HR and 29 RBI in 78 games with the Brewers, making 71 starts (55g at 3B, 16g at 2B).

“Along with his statistical contributions, we thank Aaron for his veteran leadership and versatility during his time as a Brewer,” said Stearns.

For my thoughts on the trade both from the viewpoint of the Red Sox as well as the Brewers, check out my article over at Today’s Knuckleball by clicking here.

What I didn’t say there because it really didn’t fit is how this move is just the first salvo in what should be an incredibly busy month for David Stearns and company.

They have a plethora of movable assets and of those many that teams should desire to varying degrees. He even has assets that he’ll get calls on but shouldn’t move as they have a chance to be key parts of the future contender.

Here’s a quick list (alphabetical by last name) with a blurb as to why each could be moved. Oh, and let me say here that I’m not including Braun because I don’t believe he’ll be moved and I don’t feel like writing up a section about why Stearns would move him.

  • Blaine Boyer
    • Why you would move him: Really playing well (outside of San Francisco) and has shown the ability handle higher-leverage innings. Wasn’t expected to give you much when signing as a non-roster invitee to Spring Training so anything you could get in trade is a bonus from that aspect. All relief pitchers, middle relievers chief among them, are volatile meaning capitalizing on their value when you can should be considered. Plus, Boyer turns 35 next week so you can’t count on him as a part of the future here in Milwaukee.
    • Why you wouldn’t: I guess you wouldn’t if no one asked you to. Really, in Boyer’s case where he was a flier on a team looking for roleplayer bullpen arms Boyer has positioned himself to potentially be of value to a contender who isn’t getting enough mileage out of their current group (like the Cubs, for instance). There are a bunch of teams who could use an arm like Boyer’s.
  • Chris Carter
    • Why you would move him: Having a good bounce-back year as he desired when signing here, has shown he can play everyday defense at 1B. Would be more expensive next year (though under team control for a time yet) and could cool off limiting trade value in the off-season or next year.
    • Why you wouldn’t: He’s still quite inexpensive for the level of production he’s giving even with the 2nd year of arbitration eligibility looming (using this year’s one-year price as the starting point should temper the bottom line) and while there are some intriguing first basemen in the system, no one is exactly busting down the door to take the job in 2017. Carter could be move next July the same as this July plus most contenders who would covet the kind of power Carter would add to a lineup have solutions at first base already so the return might not enough during the year when the trade partner pool is limited.
  • Matt Garza
    • Why you would move him: He hasn’t performed particularly well over the last year and a half when healthy enough to pitch. He still has talent though and a change of scenery and pitching philosophy (despite there being a new pitching coach with Milwaukee this year) could benefit him. Garza is a competitor in the truest sense of the word and might subconsciously lock in if pitching in games that mean more. The main reason though is that despite his veteran leadership, the Brewers have been amassing a handful of knocking-on-the-door starting pitchers would need to be given big league chances (in some cases second chances) before 2018. Moving Garza frees up a spot for that to happen. The pool of available starting pitching isn’t exactly a robust one this year either so that could lead someone to giving Garza a shot like James Shields to the White Sox.
    • Why you wouldn’t: If Stearns couldn’t get what he considers to be fair value, then you can give Garza more time this season to prove what he still has left in the tank. He’s a guy who is tradeable come August so you don’t have to force the issue this month.
  • Junior Guerra
    • Why you would: He’s come out of seemingly nowhere to be the most consistently good starting pitcher the Brewers have run out there this season and, again in a down market for starting pitching, that could translate to serious value if someone is willing to strike while the iron is hot.
    • Why you wouldn’t: If the Brewers think he’s really for real then three years of league minimum-ish salaries and up to six years of team control mean you could conceivably control all of Guerra’s remaining effectiveness. Even if he’s never more than a mid-rotation guy, this season is proof positive that even that role can be a challenging one to fill.
  • Jonathan Lucroy
    • Why you would: He’s cheap, plays a premium position at a very high level, and could fetch the club a drool-worthy return in prospects.
    • Why not: He’s cheap, plays a premium position at a very high level, and you could still trade him in the off-season if you aren’t going to extend him.
  • Kirk Nieuwenhuis
    • Why you would: He’s not exactly a long-term solution, especially when you have guys like Maverick Phillips on the way. He’s arbitration-eligible for the first time this coming off-season.
    • Why not: He knows how to succeed at the big league level, especially defensively, and his role in mentoring a guy like Phillips (and to a lesser degree guys like Ramon Flores and Domingo Santana) is a valuable job. Plus he’s still under team control for three seasons if you want him
  • Carlos Torres
    • Why you would: See many of the reasons listed for Boyer. Torres is a quality enough arm to be valuable, quality enough to have played for the NL Champion Mets last year.
    • Why not: Again, no real reason not to if you can get something of value. Let Torres play for a contender if there’s one who wants him and get something back that can help the future.

For another group of players, the write-ups would look extremely similar. You would trade them because they have value and performing well right now but you wouldn’t because they’re young enough with some ceiling still to reach (to varying degrees), and controllable/cost-effective that they could still be a part of the next contending roster. This group includes: Jacob Barnes, Michael Blazek, Jeremy Jeffress, Jimmy Nelson, Will Smith, Tyler Thornburg, and Jonathan Villar. That said, the return on packages containing those players or even straight-up on some of them would be intriguing.

I know I’ve only been going through names on the 25-man roster right now, but let me make one other point.

Anybody can be had for the right price and that’s what makes Stearns a good General Manager. He’s willing to listen — even on someone he 99% would never move. Look, I want Orlando Arcia to be the shortstop here in Milwaukee for the next decade-plus. That said, if the Angels were to extend Mike Trout for the next decade and offer him to Milwaukee straight up for Arcia (while paying 90% of Trout’s contract themselves), you shouldn’t and wouldn’t say no.

That example is wildly inequitable but I use it to illustrate that yes, even Orlando Arcia is tradeable under the right circumstances.

All this said, I expect a handful of players to probably be wearing other uniforms by August 1st. I also expect that anyone who leaves will do so to the betterment of the long-term goal which is to bring sustainable success to the home clubhouse at Miller Park.

Brewers Make Several Roster Decisions

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Through a series of tweets by beat writers Adam McCalvy (MLB.com), Tom Haudricourt & Todd Rosiak (Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel), several decisions which directly impact the 25-man roster of the Milwaukee Brewers were disseminated from Spring Training on Sunday morning.

With an opt-out decision looming today, first and foremost relief pitcher Blaine Boyer was told that he has made the 25-man roster. The move will eventually require a corresponding 40-man roster move as Boyer was in camp on a Minor League contract, but there are a handful of 60-day DL candidates so finding a spot (or two or three) won’t be difficult.

The other player who got the best news was OF/1B Ramon Flores who was also told he’ll make the 25-man roster. Flores was acquired this off-season in trade from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for infielder Luis Sardiñas in a swap of players who were likely to be waived by their original clubs. Flores had a strong Cactus League and also showed a little versatility in being able to potentially backup Chris Carter at first base.

As there are ultimately so few spots, many more players get the proverbial red ticket in their locker.

Among those informed that they’ll begin the regular season in the minors are catchers Josmil Pinto and Manny Piña who were told they’ll be in Triple-A. Catcher Adam Weisenburger will apparently join them, giving Colorado Springs a trio of backstops.

Will Middlebrooks was informed today that he’ll also be assigned to Triple-A after vying for a spot as a backup corner infielder. Once there he is expected to rotate at the corner infield positions with Andy Wilkins and Garin Cecchini.

Joining them in the high-altitude infield will be Jake Elmore who was hoping to make the big league team as a reserve but came up short.

In the outfield competition, Eric Young Jr. was told that he’ll also head to the Centennial State when camp breaks. He’ll be joined officially by Shane Peterson who, after passing through waivers earlier this winter, was also in camp on a minor-league deal.

And finally, one official optioning came down as reliever David Goforth was sent out. Even with all the injuries to the bullpen recently, Goforth having minor league options was likely a key factor as others in the running for just a couple of spots had less team control due to no options or contract opt-outs like Boyer.

All told, this leaves the following combination of players in camp:

  • Yadiel Rivera, Rule 5 Colin Walsh, and non-roster invitee Hernan Perez are competing for what is likely two open infield jobs.
  • Keon Broxton (options remaining), Kirk Nieuwenhuis (no options), and Alex Presley (NRI) competing for likely two backup outfield spots.
  • Chris Capuano (opt-out), Franklin Morales (opt-out), Ariel Peña (no options), Tyler Cravy (options remaining) are in play for two bullpen jobs