The Baffling Milwaukee Brewers Trades

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The major league baseball non-waiver deadline is nearly always fun. Well, at least it has been the last few years. However, this year MLB outdid itself with chaos. After a relatively quiet day, twitter exploded into life as seemingly every team scrambled to complete deals in the final hours. We saw deals such as Chris Archer to the Pittsburgh Pirates and Brian Dozier to the Los Angeles Dodgers completed late.

One of the most active teams was the Baltimore Orioles, who had already sent Manny Machado to the Dodgers during the All-Star break. They shipped Kevin Gausman to the Atlanta Braves and Jonathan Schoop to the Milwaukee Brewers as the clock ticked down. The Orioles fire sale this July makes a lot of sense. The team is not good and they need to start over again in an AL East dominated by good young Yankees and Red Sox teams. However, the Jonathan Schoop move was baffling from the Brewers side. Let’s take a look at just what the Brewers might be thinking.

The Background

It feels like we were here with the Brewers back in April. Oh wait we were but at the time it was the outfield where they had more bodies than positions. At the time I fully expected them to trade one of their outfielders to acquire some starting pitching. However, that didn’t materialize and instead, Domingo Santana is in the minors. Santana’s fall off feels extremely predictable, after all, a 30.5 percent HR/FB rate is not sustainable. The issue is that the Brewers lost their chance to both clear up their outfield situation and add a decent starting pitcher.

The Trades

Mike Moustakas

This trade was one that both made sense and did not make sense. On one hand, Moustakas is an expiring contract. That means that, in theory, he should not be that expensive and, in reality, you are not on the hook for his salary beyond this season. Moustakas is being Moustakas in 2018, 20 home runs with a .246 batting average but it is not the same guy who hit .272 with 38 home runs in 2017.

However, when you already have Travis Shaw at third base, it does seem a little odd. Especially when you also consider you have three guys who could play first base and no designated hitter spot. Then, to compound that, they actually gave up pieces of value. Brett Philips was a top-10 prospect for the Brewers according to Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America to start the season. They also gave up a reliever in Jorge Lopez but he was a relatively minor part of the trade. In essence, the Brewers rewarded the Royals for their one-year signing of Moustakas with a young controllable outfielder with upside and a utility pitcher.

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The decision to acquire Moustakas meant that one of either him or Travis Shaw had to move. In the end, Travis Shaw moved to second base. Travis Shaw had never played second base in his career prior to that, not even in the minors. To add to that when the Red Sox traded Shaw to the Brewers it was because they felt he was a below-par third baseman. So far,  in two games Shaw has not done anything bad at second base so let’s not pass judgment on that yet.

Jonathan Schoop

So after adding Mike Moustakas to play third base and moving Travis Shaw to second base, the Brewers decide to give up serious prospects for second baseman Jonathan Schoop. Much like Moustakas, Schoop is another hitter massively underperforming compared to his 2017 numbers, 32 home runs, and a .293 batting average. This season he has 17 home runs and a .244 batting average. Now you could argue that playing in losing teams like the Orioles and Royals are contributing to their slumps. It must be awful knowing that you are just going to lose most days no matter what you do.

The big question mark is now what do you do with Schoop? 602 of his 618 major league starts have come at second base. 14 have come at third. Two have come at shortstop. In all levels, Schoop has at least logged 217 starts at shortstop. However, it has been a while since he spent significant time there. Right now there can be no other plan.

The Final Word

Jesus Aguilar is hitting well at first base. Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich are going nowhere. Ryan Braun and Eric Thames are already platooning in the other corner infield spot. Oh, and there is still that issue of no designated hitter spot. The Schoop signing may be thinking more long term. He is under contract into next year, when Moustakas will be gone. That means he can shift to second, Shaw can go to third and Arcia can play shortstop regularly. If Domingo Santana can work it out then this team will have a really nice lineup in 2019.

That’s not to say they don’t have a nice lineup in 2018. In fact, they are now stacked one through seven with their catcher hitting eight. It is a lineup no pitcher will want to face. However, their defense may be a problem. Shaw and Schoop are both inexperienced at the positions they will play, at least at the major league level for Schoop.

That is not to mention starting pitching still remains an issue. A combination of a shaky staff with unknown infield defense could blow up spectacularly. Saying that I love the Brewers bravery. It takes guts to go all in like this. The Cubs are underperforming and this may be their best chance to go to the playoffs. For the sake of a fun September, let’s hope they have got it right.

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