Wednesday, November 27, 2019

MLB Trade Review: Brewers, Padres make four player swap




             The San Diego Padres have acquired RHP Zach Davies and OF Trent Grisham from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for LHP Eric Lauer and INF Luis Urias.

             At first sight this trade could come as a surprise for many different reasons, and it is surprising that all four players included were dealt. The one veteran in this trade is Davies. Davies is only 26, and 2019 was just his 4th full season in the big leagues, so it is hard to call him a veteran. But, everyone else in the trade debuted in 2018 or 2019, and he is definitely the senior of the group. Davies had his best season in 2019. His 3.55 ERA was a career high, and while he made 31 starts, he did not qualify for the ERA title, with 159.2 innings pitched (you need 162 IP to qualify). That is averaging just over 5 innings an outing. Going through the batting order three times has been an issue for many pitchers. But for Davies, that was a strength. Opponents had just a .578 OPS against Davies their third time up. They had a much better .778 OPS on their first attempt. In high leverage situations, batters had a .619 OPS against him. But Davies' main issue was always strikeouts. He struck out just 102 batters in 2019, for a measly 5.7 K/9. His career K/9 isn't much better, at 6.4. This hurt his FIP, which was lowered down to 4.56. So, his fWAR was 1.6, worse than a pitcher like Dylan Bundy, who gave up 22 more runs in two more innings. Davies is due for a raise in arbitration and will be a free agent after 2021. If the Padres don't add any more to their starting rotation, slot in Davies as starter number two behind Chris Paddack, and potentially behind Joey Lucchesi as well.

              Unfortunately, Trent Grisham has played just 51 regular season MLB games, and he is already known for the wrong reason, his terrible error in his one postseason game, the NL Wild Card game. Filling in at the end of the season for injured MVP runner up Christian Yelich, Grisham hit six home runs with a .231 average and a .410 slugging, which is not good. But his defense is good. In those 51 games, he had a 2.1 UZR and five defensive runs saved. With Ryan Braun's defense hurting and him just turning 36, Grisham seemed to have a future in the Brewers' outfield. He could see some time platooning with Manuel Margot in San Diego's center field.

               Going to the flip side of the deal, Luis Urias was MLB Pipeline's 16th best prospect in the league entering 2019. However, he really struggled at the plate. In 71 MLB games, Urias hit four home runs with a .223 batting average and a .655 OPS. He also made nine errors at shortstop alone (41 games). However, he still had a 1.0 bWAR. But, he is still just 22 and had a .998 OPS at AAA El Paso (73 games) in 2019. That included 19 home runs. He seems to be blocked with Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. at the left side of the infield for years to come. Urias can play second, and that was where he was expected to start 2019 at, following Ian Kinsler's awful 2019. The Brewers could experiment with Urias as their shortstop. Orlando Arcia hit 15 home runs in 2019, but he had a weak .633 OPS, slightly below his career mark of .652. Arcia also had a -0.1 WAR. Third baseman Mike Moustakas is a free agent, so Urias could be used there. The team will still trust Travis Shaw, who hit more than 30 home runs in his first two years with the team, even though his .157 average, .551 OPS 2019 season was about as bad as it gets.

                  2019 was a weird year for the final member of the trade, Eric Lauer. Lauer had a 4.34 ERA in 23 starts in 2018, his rookie season, but started Opening Day 2019 for the Padres as a 23 year old. In 30 games (29 starts), Lauer had a 4.45 ERA, and struck out 138 batters in 149.2 innings, for an 8.3 K/9, much better than Davies. Lauer, a 1st round pick back in 2016, is not well regarded and is seen as the 4th most important player of the trade. He will likely take Davies' rotation spot for the Brewers. The Brewers' 2020 rotation is all over the place, and could see multiple additions. Downgrading Davies to Lauer could mean that the Brewers have another move up their sleeve.

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