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Bolstering the Brewers’ Bullpen

Baseball fans can discount nearly anything they hear at the trade deadline. Therefore, Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin’s suggestion that he might bolster his bullpen comes with enough grains of salt to fill the Dead Sea. Perhaps Melvin’s comments were merely an elaborate smokescreen designed to conceal his true intentions. Yet despite the unreliability of such statements, an upgrade for the team’s 15th ranked relief corps (3.55 ERA, a notch behind both Pittsburgh and St. Louis) does seem worthwhile. In particular, a trade for Joaquin Benoit would help to improve the Brewers’ roster for the stretch drive.

Benoit slots perfectly into the Brewers’ setup role. He has put together a classy season in San Diego, compiling an astounding 1.93 ERA and a microscopic 0.86 WHIP. The Benjamin Button of the bullpen apparently ages backwards – at 38 years old, his 94.6 MPH average fastball velocity represents a career high. Yet Benoit compliments his heat with a devastating off-speed combination. Opposing batters have managed a meager .041 average against his changeup, which seems robust compared to their .036 mark against the slider. To be fair, the Dominican right-hander appears due for a bit of regression. His .211 BABIP and 6.8% HR/FB rate reveal that he has benefited from some fortunate breaks. Further, a move from Petco Park to more hitter-friendly Miller Park would not help Benoit. Still, Ron Roenicke’s heart rate would undoubtedly improve with Benoit pitching the eighth inning instead of Will Smith or Zach Duke. Further, Benoit has played in four straight Octobers, posting a respectable 2.82 ERA and 0.985 WHIP in his Postseason career. Benoit would offer Milwaukee a lights out setup man that has proven himself in the pressure of the playoffs.

While steep, the cost of acquiring Benoit should not deter the Brewers. By comparison, the Padres received a net gain of two prospects in the Huston Street trade. A comparable – but slightly more affordable – package could bring Benoit to the Brewers. According to the recently updated MLB.com prospect rankings, just two of San Diego’s top 20 prospects play corner infield positions.  Milwaukee could help the Friars resolve that weakness by offering, say, 3B Nick Delmonico (ranked #17 in Brewers’ system), and 1B Hunter Morris (ranked #19 in Brewers system). At 22 years old, Delmonico has played well in high class-A, posting a 101 wRC+. The 25-year-old Morris appears a bit old for a top prospect, but fills the Padres’ corner infield need. Another possible trade could involve the Brewers top catching prospect, Clint Coulter (ranked #9 in Brewers’ system). Melvin may have difficulty parting with Coulter and his A-ball 164 wRC+ and .933 OPS. Yet San Diego would likely find Coulter more intriguing than the aforementioned corner infielders. Also, since the Brewers appear set with Jonathan Lucroy at catcher for the foreseeable future, Coulter may become expendable. Either way, Milwaukee appears to have enough prospects to match up with the Padres in a trade for Benoit.

Of course, speculating on trades of prospects often becomes a fruitless exercise. Without watching minor league games on a regular basis, we cannot truly assess the talent of these players. Here stats do not tell us enough. Yet even if I am off base regarding the particulars, a trade for Benoit makes sense. Milwaukee must have some prospects – if not Morris, Delmonico, or Coulter, someone else – that the Padres find attractive. It certainly feels painful to ship off prospects. Yet the Brewers need to make a trade in order to help the current roster contend for the postseason.

(Image: Associated Press)