It’s day one of Major League Baseball All-Star break, and the Milwaukee Brewers unexpectedly sit atop the National League Central Division over always competitive St. Louis Cardinals and the faltering reigning World Series champion Chicago Cubs. With 50 wins, the Brewers lead both the Cubs and Cardinals by 5.5 games and have become a legitimate contender in the National League. Despite being committed to a rebuild, the Brewers will be buyers at this year’s trade deadline and compete for the division title. David Stearns, Brewers GM, has said they are looking into acquiring pitchers, two of the five pitchers in the rotation are on the DL and making a move now may also payoff in the future.
After winning six of their last seven heading into the break, including a drubbing of the Cubbies in a one-off make-up game at Wrigley before taking two of three from the Yankees in the Bronx, General Manager David Stearns let the world know that the organization was doing its homework on a couple starting pitchers on the trading block. The two pitchers, according to Jon Morosi, are Chicago White Sox southpaw Jose Quintana and Oakland Athletics right-hander Sonny Gray. With starters Chase Anderson and Junior Guerra on the DL, it would make sense for the Crew to bolster their rotation.
Junior Guerra, the team’s consensus preseason ace, took a line drive off the shin in New York last weekend and may not miss a start, but Guerra has struggled through a shortened campaign, landing himself on the DL when he hurt his calf running out of the batter’s box on Opening Day. Chase Anderson, on the other hand, had been red hot before heading to the DL with a strained oblique. Obliques are tricky injuries for baseball players with the torque required to hurl a fastball or swing a bat. Anderson likely won’t be back in the rotation until mid-August, and by then the Brewers may have squandered their lead.
Jose Quintana hasn’t been fantastic this season, owning a 4.49 ERA through 18 starts and 104.1 innings pitched. He’s been giving up the long ball at a career high rate with 14 so far and has walked 40 batters. Comparatively, the 14 homers he’s served up is just two less than the 16 he gave up in his 32 starts in 2015 the most walks he’s ever issued in a single year was in 2013 when he walked 56 batters and that was over the course of 33 starts. But despite his 2017 struggles, he’s never had an ERA over 4 and since he’s been a full-time member of the Sox rotation, 3.51. Those are just some of the numbers that have intrigued Stearns. Most intriguing, probably, is Quintana’s contract.
He’s controllable until 2020, if the club decides to pick up options of $10.5 million in 2019 and $11.5 million in 2020. That’s a very friendly contract for a pitcher of his caliber. With a contract so affordable, the White Sox are asking a lot in return. With the Sox in rebuilding mode themselves, there’s no real rush to deal the lefty. They can hold on to him through the 2017 season and unload him in 2018 or ’19. The Brewers would have to part with some of their top prospects to outbid the Yankees and other suitors and sway the Sox. Not only would Quintana’s arm help Milwaukee on their way to a pennant race in 2017, but would also be a part of the organizations rebuild.
Along with Jose Quintana, Stearns said that the team would research Sonny Gray. An All-Star in 2015, Gray suffered a setback in 2016 and only made 22 starts. This year, the righty hasn’t been dominant, but has a solid 4.00 ERA through 13 starts and has a 3/1 K/BB ratio. Gray is controllable through 2020 and is only 27 years old. Adding his arm would add stability to the ailing rotation. Milwaukee is already ahead of schedule, the addition of Quintana or Gray would be another shot in the arm for a team looking to stay hot.
In 2008, the Crew traded a crop of highly touted prospects to the Cleveland Indians for a three month rental of CC Sabathia. The hungry fan base and ownership group were rewarded with a herculean effort from Sabathia, who started in only 17 games as a Brewer, but had 7 complete games and had a 1.65 ERA. It was truly a mythical run that will probably never be duplicated in Milwaukee. It was as quick as it was amazing, as CC left to become a Yankee the following season. It’s hard to blame him when he brought fans such exhilaration and joy, plus he won the World Series in 2009. But this isn’t 2008. The Brewers have tasted the playoffs, they don’t need to sell the farm to get there just for the sake of being there. They want to sustain success and trading for a controllable arm is the best way to keep their chances alive both now and in the future.
Milwaukee has plenty of talent in the minors, they can afford to ship out a couple prospects to help the team win now without mortgaging the future. A trade this year probably won’t be like the huge splash Milwaukee made in 2008, but with the team exceeding expectations, playing with confidence and needing another arm, expect Stearns to be active at the trade deadline.