It’s not always prudent, in the midst of exceeding expectations as the Brewers are, to be selling the farm with skies full of caprice. However, that’s usually the case. Befitting, it should be, that the player who’s garnering general manager David Stearns’ attention goes by the name of Sonny Gray, whose name and performance yields a yin and yang portent…. Let me explain.
After whiffing on some starting pitching, like ex-White Sox ace Jose Quintana, who traversed to the Wrigleyville area of Chicago, the Crew are still looking to bolster their rotation, whether it be to obscure the injury to Chase Anderson, who figures to be back before the trade deadline, or the defective Matt Garza, whose contract is in its terminal year.
This wouldn’t be a C.C. Sabathia-esque circa 2008 rental, because whoever the Brewers pursue in the next thirteen days will likely be donning the navy blue, gold and white for the next year, if not longer. Gray, who turns 28 in November, would be under the potential suitor’s fiscal control for two more seasons, at the conclusion of this year.
Yes, his control has been an issue of late, but he has also been a part of an Oakland Athletics regiment that has undergone massive roster overhaul, in the progress of a vicious rebuild staff-wise and roster-wise, all definitely removed from the “Moneyball” days. So, chemistry could be a leading contributor for Gray’s subpar season. There is some familiarity amongst the Brewers’ roster now, however, with the recently acquired catcher and quick fan-favorite, Stephen Vogt, who caught Gray in the Bay Area. To boot, current Brewers’ pitching coach Derek Johnson coached the former All-Star right-hander at Vanderbilt, during the infantile years of the 2010s decade.
Elsewhere, Tampa Bay Rays ace, Chris Archer, has been floated in the rumor mill for the right price, for some weeks now. In spite of playing for an underwhelming Rays team the last half-decade, Archer has continuously shown his competency for making batters err – he has posted a strikeout rate over 10.5 per nine innings the last three seasons – at the plate. He can climb the latter with a fastball that tops out in the mid-to-high 90s, can eat innings with the best of them in the Majors — he’s currently fourth in innings pitched, with 129.
Financially, in an age that implies nearly every transcendant arm demand a starting annual salary $15 million, Archer won’t even hit $11 million until the final year of his contract, which, by the way, ends in 2021 – if both team options are exercised, that is, the final two years.
Let’s not shun what’s been, perhaps, the most lackluster facet of this year’s Brewers’ team: the bullpen. Six years ago, before his career renaissance, reliever Francisco Rodriguez, then a member of the New York Mets and in the final year of a gargantuan contract, had made the once-imbibed Kool Aid at the mouths of baseball fanatics exit. He was dealt after the All-Star break, and anointed the Brewers’ pen enough, en route to their furthest postseason excursion of the millennium.
Now, Pat Neshek, who once played summer league amateur ball in Wausau, WI, is a hot commodity on the trade block. The submarine-style Phillies pitcher was a member on last week’s NL All-Star team, and, at present, holds a 1.21 ERA, a 2.09 FIP – a stat that measures a pitcher’s ability to prevent walks, homers, and hit batters, while inducing strikeouts. The eighth and ninth innings would be reminiscent of the days in which a prime John Axford and Rodriguez juggled opposing teams with ease. Of course, now, it would be Neshek and, current closer, Corey Knebel.
If the Brewers had their druthers in the matter, if in fact they are to pursue starting pitching above all matters, there is no wrong answer in choosing between Gray and Archer. The team could also go on a whim, as they’ve with seasons of old, and grab a veteran bat, a la Jerry Hairston Jr. (also acquired in 2011) and Geraldo Parra (acquired in 2014, amidst a pennant race), one whose name could be a part-time insertion into the Craig Counsell’s lineup card.
I don’t believe the Brewers are yearning to acquire someone who would be impossible to re-sign, mostly because the team is hitting an unexpected stride in what was supposed to be a year dedicated to rebuilding. Players like utility-player, platoon-specialist Hernan Perez and the formidable Vogt should suffice as meaningful postseason position players. The pursuit of Gray will remain a curiosity, considering Gray starts only three more times before the deadline concludes.