This year’s waiver wire trade deadline was not terribly exciting. Nothing like Justin Verlander getting traded ocurred. The busiest team was probably the Brewers, who acquired Gio González, Curtis Granderson, and Xavier Cedeño. González and Granderson will be free agents after this year. Nobody is going to part with anything more than the minimum for one-month rentals (not counting the postseason), so the Brewers did not part with anybody who is likely to be much more than an organizational player.
González is easily the most notable and important player that the Brewers acquired. He is a far cry from the Cy Young-caliber season he had last year, but this Brewers rotation really needs help. The rotation’s 4.36 RA9 ranks tenth in the NL. Only the Rockies’ rotation has a worse RA9 among playoff contenders, and they pitch at altitude. By DRA, the Brewers’ rotation ranks as the third worst in the NL behind only the Padres and the Reds. Luckily, their main competition, the Cubs, are also having problems with their starting rotation.
Jhoulys Chacín has been a great signing, but when your best starter has a sub-20 K% and a 3.80 RA9 in front of one of the league’s best defenses, that is a problem. Wade Miley has been outstanding with a 2.81 RA9 over 11 starts, but this is likely very unsustainable from a pitcher who had a 5.68 RA9 over the previous two seasons.
The Brewers had a strong offseason that saw them trade for Christian Yelich and sign Lorenzo Cain, both of whom have been excellent. It is great that they opened their checkbook for Cain, but they should have continued to do so in order to address the starting rotation.
Jake Arrieta would have been a great signing, for example. He would be a 2-3 win upgrade over the back of this rotation. That might make all the difference at the end of the season. The Brewers’ payroll is at only $106.6 million, which is ranked at just 22nd in all of baseball, according to Spotrac. Adding Arrieta’s $30 million salary this year would still have put the Brewers below the $138 million average for payroll. I promise you that they can afford that much and more. Remember, a team not spending money is always a choice, never a necessity.
Worse still, though, there was no predicting how good he was going to be, Miles Mikolas signed for only two years and $15.5 million. He would have been a nice, low risk acquisition. Any upside would have added wins to the team. Instead, they let him go to the divisional rival Cardinals.
As mentioned before, Gio is having a down year compared to his excellent 2017 season. Regression was expected, but he went from a 3.09 RA9 last year to a 4.76 RA9 this year. His strikeout and walk rates have also worsened. He should still provide a boost to the struggling Brewers’ rotation, but there is only so much impact a player of his caliber can have in just one month. He likely will be more useful if the Brewers make the playoffs.
The Grandy Man is a serviceable fourth outfielder at this point of his career, though his defense is not very good. This year he his hitting .245/.344/.430 and is still walking at a high rate. He will be a nice depth piece at worst, and a small upgrade at best in whichever corner that Yelich is not playing.
Ryan Braun has missed time due to injury and has been a below average hitter when he is playing. Keon Broxton has spent most of the year in the minors, though he just got called back up on September 1st. Domingo Santana is a good defensive outfielder, but he would have to be Mookie Betts in right field to make a line of .249/.313/.354 stand up. Again, Granderson could very well be a small upgrade.
As of June, the Brewers had one of the best bullpens in baseball led by Josh Hader (2.15 RA9, 45.6 K%) and Jeremy Jeffress (1.64 RA9, 28.2 K%). The heavy work load could be a reason why. The Brewers’ bullpen has thrown 498 2⁄3 innings this year, which is the eighth-highest in baseball. Among playoff contenders, only the Athletics’ bullpen has been taxed more at 503 1⁄3 IP. As you might have guessed, that is partially because their less than stellar rotation fails to frequently pitch deep into games. Brewers’ starters have pitched only 730 1⁄3 innings, the ninth-fewest in baseball.
My fellow boricua Cedeño has not seen a lot of major league action since he made his debut in 2011, and he only pitched three innings over nine appearances in the majors last year. The White Sox called him up in early June, and he was been quite good. He had a 3.20 RA9, though he walked batters at a high rate of over 12 percent. With the relatively lighter workload he has had this season, he will be one of the fresher arms in the bullpen.
The players that the Brewers acquired are unlikely to be hugely impactful. That being said, they were basically free, and if their combined contributions add up to even just one extra win this month, that could be all the Brewers need to clinch their first playoff spot in seven years.
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Luis Torres is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. He is a medicinal chemist by day, baseball analyst by night. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chemtorres21.