Jim Mone/Associated Press
The Milwaukee Brewers find themselves in an odd situation ahead of the 2020 MLB trade deadline at 4 p.m. ET Monday.
They are fighting for a playoff spot in the National League, improving to 13-15 after defeating the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday. But they also have the weakest farm in baseball, per MLB.com, and currently have a host of players with interesting trade value.
Left-handed starter Brett Anderson is on an expiring contract, and he has also posted a 3.52 ERA in five starts this year, including consecutive starts of at least six innings. Bullpen arms Corbin Burnes and Brent Suter still have years of team control remaining, but they are strikeout pitchers who might have some value on the market.
But perhaps no “available” player holds as much weight as Josh Hader.
The 26-year-old left-hander has continued to establish himself as one of the best relief pitchers in baseball. He hasn’t allowed a single hit in 9.1 innings of work, and he is also 7-for-7 in save opportunities after closing Tuesday’s game in Cincy.
Although the Brewers are listening to offers for Hader, one executive told Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic the return ask is a “bananas price.” It is not hard to see why this is the case.
Hader is equally effective against right- and left-handed hitters, and his career mark of 15.3 strikeouts per nine innings makes him one of the most dominant bullpen weapons in the game. He can go multiple innings at any point in the game and is limiting opponents to a career .597 OPS in high-leverage situations.
Moreover, this was his first year of arbitration, and he will not be eligible for free agency until 2024. The Brewers have every right to set a high asking price, but they would also do well to keep an open mind.
Hader was eligible to make $4.1 million in his first year of arbitration, per Spotrac. Granted, that salary has been prorated for the 2020 season, but he stands to see a sizable increase in arbitration salaries over the course of the next few years.
The Brewers are a small-market team. They don’t have the same spending capabilities as other contenders, making it difficult to compete for the best free agents each year.
If Milwaukee hopes to remain competitive over the length of Christian Yelich’s contract, it needs to begin stacking farm assets. The best way to do this would be to deal Hader, even though he is a crucial player to the current roster.
Needless to say, the Brewers will likely keep the door open for all possibilities in case they can coax another team into an enormous offer for Hader.
Yankees Interested in Kevin Gausman
Jeff Chiu/Associated Press
The New York Yankees’ status at the trade deadline is not in question: They will be buyers, and it is increasingly likely they will add to the starting rotation.
Andy Martino of SNY reported the Yankees “called the San Francisco Giants to inquire about right-hander Kevin Gausman.” The Giants are still in the playoff chase at 14-17, but they might look to accrue value from guys such as Gausman, who is on an expiring contract.
The 29-year-old is 1-1 with a 4.65 ERA in six appearances (five starts) this season. But his peripherals are very encouraging. He has 42 strikeouts against just six walks in 31.0 innings of work, good enough for a 3.10 fielding independent pitching mark. He also ranks in the 86th percentile in fastball velocity and 80th percentile in whiff percentage, per Baseball Savant.
New York already entered the season without Luis Severino, and left-hander James Paxton was officially moved to the injured list on Monday. The Yankees could acquire Gausman to solidify the starting group for the home stretch, with the possibility he could be a long reliever in the event they go to a four-man rotation in the playoffs.
Regardless, the Bronx Bombers are angling toward rentals. Jon Morosi of MLB.com also reported they are interested in Seattle Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker, who will also be a free agent at the end of the season.
Blue Jays Considering a Pair of Pirates Right-Handers
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
The Toronto Blue Jays are another team looking for upgrades to the rotation.
Morosi reported they are “considering” Pirates right-handers Trevor Williams and Chad Kuhl as they look to possibly acquire controllable starting pitchers ahead of Monday’s deadline.
The Blue Jays rotation has taken a big hit because of injuries, with rookie Nate Pearson and right-handers Matt Shoemaker and Trent Thornton all on the IL. This figures to motivate general manager Ross Atkins to be aggressive in the pitching market, particularly with Toronto in the middle of the AL playoff picture.
That might have already been the case, regardless of injury woes. Atkins said last week starting pitching was the priority at the deadline, per Ben Nicholson-Smith of SportsNet.
Williams looks more like the guy he was in 2018, posting a 3.70 ERA through his first five starts. Kuhl has also been solid, with a 2.84 ERA in 19.0 innings.
More importantly for Toronto, both players are under contract through 2022 and would give the Blue Jays some assuredness in terms of the rotation going forward.
All stats obtained via Baseball Reference, unless otherwise noted.