It is hard to remember the last time the Milwaukee Brewers and pitching depth were uttered in the same breath. Generally when these words were spoken, they were prefaced by the words “lack of.” But this season, things have changed. Not only is the rotation in the majors producing quality starts, but the pitchers at the lower levels are excelling, too. Pitchers Mike Fiers, Jimmy Nelson, and Brad Mills have been some of the best pitchers in all of AAA, and former first round picks Jed Bradley and Taylor Jungmann have pitched better than ever and recently received promotions. Even bullpen arms Will Smith and Tyler Thornburg are pitchers who may have future success in the team’s rotation. With all of these quality arms, the Brewers have plenty of options to make a move at the trading deadline to upgrade their bench.
With all of the depth on the hill, Marco Estrada becomes the most likely candidate to be traded at the deadline. Throughout his time in Milwaukee, he has done everything asked of him on the mound. He has been a long-reliever, a trusted bullpen arm, a spot starter, and now a full-time starter. But looking at all of the starters in the rotation, he appears to be the most movable arm.
The major reason that Estrada is the most tradable pitcher is because of his tendency to give up the homerun. When he keeps the ball in the park he is very tough, but he is often touched up for at least one homer each time out. In all but two of his starts he has fallen victim to the long ball. After ten starts this season, he has already allowed a league leading 16 homeruns, just three less than he allowed during all of last season. He is generally a fly ball pitcher who records a majority of his outs through fly balls and strikeouts. In all but three of his starts he has allowed double digit fly balls as well. For a pitcher pitching half of his games in hitter friendly Miller Park, that is not a good mix. With all the balls leaving the yard, it is remarkable that he has been able to keep his ERA under four thus far.
The other option in the rotation that could realistically be moved is Yovani Gallardo. The major reason that this move would make sense is because of the expensive club option that is held on him for next season. However, even with the option looming, it would be a hard sell for a team in a pennant race to trade their opening day starter who has rebounded from a difficult 2013 and is a pitcher who has often been viewed as an ace.
When the club has been in the race, General Manager Doug Melvin has not been afraid to pull the trigger on a move to help them compete. With the emergence of Jimmy Nelson, who dominated in his debut, the Brewers have plenty of options in their rotation going forward. Anything can happen as the deadline approaches. As the Brewers push to July, moving a rotation piece may be the bold move that pushes the team into October.
Statistics Provided by Baseball Reference