I was just alerted to something on Twitter which led me to pursue a lead. That led to awareness that the Milwaukee Brewers have traded Norichika Aoki to the Kansas City Royals for left-handed pitcher Will Smith.
Smith, 24, worked almost exclusively out of the bullpen for the Royals in 2013 appearing in 19 contests with just one start. He started just 10 of his 28 appearances for the Omaha Storm Chasers (the Royals’ Triple-A affiliate) in 2013 as well. Smith, 6’5″ 250 lbs, throws from the left-side and will at worst fill a need that Doug Melvin made no secret about wanting to take care of. That need being another left-handed relief pitcher to compliment Tom Gorzelanny in Ron Roenicke’s bullpen. But, as Doug Melvin told reporters shortly after the trade was announced, Will Smith will be coming to Maryvale on February 15th as a starting pitcher.
Aoki will be missed. He provided a quality lead-off hitter and mostly capable defense primarily in right field as a Brewer.
The trade opens up the roster to further bring along the possible move of Ryan Braun to right field so that Milwaukee can get their young, left-field-only slugger Khris Davis into the everyday lineup.
Following now is the official release from the Brewers…
BREWERS TRADE OUTFIELDER NORICHIKA AOKI TO KANSAS CITY
Acquire Left-Handed Pitcher Will Smith
MILWAUKEE – The Milwaukee Brewers have acquired left-handed pitcher Will Smith from Kansas City in exchange for outfielder
Norichika Aoki. The announcement was made by President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Doug Melvin.
“Will Smith is someone we have liked for a couple of years now,” said Melvin. “We had the chance to acquire a 24-year-old big physical left-hander who we feel can be a part of our staff. We could not walk away from the opportunity.”
Smith was acquired by the Royals via trade from the Angels on July 22, 2010. He was originally selected by the Angels in the seventh round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. Smith has spent parts of the last two seasons in the Major Leagues with Kansas City, going 8-10 with a 4.76 ERA in 35 games (17 starts). He has gone 6-10 with a 5.48 ERA as a starter (93.2ip, 57er) and 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in relief (29.1ip, 8er).
Smith went 2-1 with a 3.24 ERA in 19 games (1 start) during seven stints with the Royals this season (4/21, 4/28, 6/25-7/8, 8/4-8/6, 8/10-8/12, 8/16-8/20 and 8/25-end). He held opponents to a .202 batting average with 43 strikeouts in just 33.1 innings. Smith made his Major League debut in 2012 with the Royals, going 6-9 with a 5.32 ERA in 16 starts.
Aoki, who turns 32 on January 5, batted .287 with 18 HR, 87 RBI and 50 stolen bases in 306 games during his two seasons with the Brewers.
He signed with Milwaukee on January 17, 2012 after his negotiating rights were awarded to the team by the Tokyo Yakult Swallows of the Japanese Central League on December 19, 2011.
“Nori is a true professional and performed very well as a member of the Brewers,” said Melvin. “This was a tough call because of what he brought to our organization on the field and in the clubhouse.”
The Milwaukee Brewers announced a short while ago that they have acquired 20-year-old left-handed pitching prospect Luis Ortega from the Boston Red Sox. In return, the Red Sox acquired right-handed reliever Burke Badenhop.
Badenhop was 2-3 with a 3.47 ERA and a Save in 63 appearances out of Milwaukee’s bullpen in 2013. It was Badenhop’s lone season as a Brewer, having been acquired on December 1st of last year.
Luís David Ortega, 5’10″ 155 lb, signed as an international free agent with the Boston back in 2011 and has pitched the past two seasons in their system. Originally from the Dominican Republic, Ortega pitched in the Dominican Summer League as a 19-year-old before pitching for Boston’s Gulf Coast League rookie ball affiliate in 2012. In total, he’s appearaed in 25 games as a professional, including 13 starts in 2011 and just one start in 2012 to go along with 11 relief appearances. He’s logged 96.0 innings pitched with a combined ERA of 2.25.
Ortega could begin the 2013 season with Class-A Wisconsin if he has a good spring, but certainly he’ll be stateside. Whether he works as a starter or reliever will be something most likely decided upon soon so off-season workouts can be adjusted as necessary.
Clearly the Brewers have confidence in some of their young middle relief pitchers who debuted last season in order to surrender a Major League veteran. Also a factor is that Badenhop was arbitration eligible. Bottom line, if you can get the same job done for cheaper, it just makes sense to do it that way.
With Badenhop’s depature, the Brewers’ 40-man roster stands at 39.
Per a tweet from Tom Haudricourt, the Brewers have indeed identified the player they will be receiving from the St. Louis Cardinals to complete the trade for veteran reliever John Axford.
RHP Michael Blazek is indeed player to be named for #Brewers in John Axford trade.
— Tom (@Haudricourt) September 1, 2013
So let’s learn a little bit about the newest Brewers relief prospect.
Michael Robert Blazek is a 6’0″, 200 lbs right-handed power relief pitcher who was originally drafted by the Cardinals back in the 35th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. He turned 24 years old earlier this season and made his big league debut on June 22nd of this year.
Blazek struggled early in his minor league career and sports a career 4.13 ERA as a result. Being able to throw in the mid-90s usually gets you some time to develop, especially since he was signed out of high school in Nevada. This year has been a revelation for the player who was ranked as the Cardinals’ 5th-best prospect prior to the trade by MLBPipeline.com.
Here is the write-up on Blazek from MLB.com:
Just two years ago, Blazek was a starter who had reached Triple-A. With a four-pitch mix, it seemed his ceiling was that of a No. 4 or 5 starter. After seven ineffective starts in 2012, however, the Cardinals moved the right-hander into the bullpen, and he posted a 2.59 ERA and .182 batting average against in 33 Double-A outings. Blazek pitched with an average fastball as a starter, but he was up to 95 mph out of the bullpen, and it might be plus more consistently if he stays with shorter stints. He still has three secondary pitches in his curve, slider and changeup that have the chance to be Major League average. It seems like the Cardinals will stick with Blazek as a reliever, giving his stuff a chance to play up and get him to the big leagues faster.
That was written prior the start of the 2013 season. Stay tuned for where he’ll be ranked on the Brewers’ list after the trade is officially completed.
***UPDATE: Blazek was initially slotted into the Brewers Top 20 at #11 but then changed to #10. See it here: http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/prospects/watch/y2013/#list=mil ***
So far in 2013, Blazek pitched at both Double-A and Triple-A in the Cardinals organization before making his MLB debut. Combined in the minors he threw 45.2 IP over 36 appearances. He compiled nine Saves and a 1.97 ERA. His WHIP was 1.182 as he allowed just 28 hits and 26 walks. And his K/9 and K/BB were 10.2 and 2.0 respectively with his 52 total strikeouts. Those are certainly numbers that are encouraging.
However, once Blazek reached the major leagues his command struggles became more pronounced. He walked 10 in 10.1 IP to go along with 10 hits allowed, including two home runs. He did strikeout 10 as well, so the potential to “miss bats” at the big league level has certainly manifested itself early. But a WHIP near 2.00 as a relief pitcher won’t get it done. Nor will his ERA which sits at a robust 6.97 right now.
Some of that is small sample size fun, and Milwaukee’s pitching coaches will help him refine his mechanics and whatever else needs some help to get him to realize a bit more consistency.
He’s certainly a name that you’ll need to know about heading into next year’s Spring Training…that is, assuming he doesn’t come to Milwaukee for the balance of the 2013 season.
***UPDATE: The Brewers officially announced (about 20 minutes after this first posted) that Blazek will indeed be joining the big league bullpen tomorrow.***
Milwaukee Brewers have acquired a player to be named from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for right-handed reliever John Axford.
The announcement was made by President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Doug Melvin. Axford, 30, is 6-7 with a 4.45 ERA in 62 relief appearances this season. Though he did not produce a save for the Brewers in 2013, he ranks second on the all-time franchise list in that category (106), trailing only Dan Plesac (133). Axford went 21-19 with a 3.35 ERA and 106 saves in 268 relief appearances with the Brewers from 2009-13. His 46 saves in 2011 set a franchise record. He is eligible for arbitration. “John has been a big contributor to the Brewers, and we do not go to the playoffs in 2011 without his outstanding performance,” said Melvin. “He and his wife, Nicole, will also be missed as contributors to the Milwaukee community.”
In a corresponding roster move, the Brewers have recalled right-handed pitcher Alfredo Figaro from Triple-A Nashville. Figaro is 2-3 with a 4.25 ERA in 26 games (5 starts) with Milwaukee this season.
So the Brewers have a general manager and earlier today he told one of the beat writers who covers the team that he doesn’t think he is “motivated” to move available trade chips in advance of baseball’s non-waiver trading deadline tomorrow afternoon.
(Those comments can be read here: http://m.jsonline.com/more/sports/blogs/217603061.html)
In those same comments, however, that same GM mentioned that he had one trade “on the table” but admitted that he didn’t think it would lead to a deal.
But “For who?” you may ask.
Well, I’m fortunate enough to have someone to ask, so I did.
But first here’s the confusing part of that beat writer’s article…
“Melvin said he has only one trade offer on the table at present for a pitcher but wouldn’t say whether it’s a starter or a reliever. Asked if he thought that would lead to a deal, he said, “I don’t think so.”
Melvin said he has no active talks going for any of his remaining relievers, including lefty Michael Gonzalez, who is a free agent after the season.”
So perhaps Melvin puts a distinction between “on the table” and “active”, but to me that seems to indicate that the player involved has to be a starter. And that’s why it’s confusing.
Because I was told that the most viable (which doesn’t mean much) thing out there right now is that a pair of teams have checked in on Jim Henderson’s price with one of them likely being the team who has an outstanding offer.
Those teams are the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers. We knew that the Tigers were previously connected to the Brewers when I reported about their unrealized interest in Francisco Rodriguez (whom the Brewers traded to the Baltimore Orioles last week), and there’s no shortage of history between Texas and Melvin including brief discussions this season about Norichika Aoki that never went anywhere.
Still, as I said on social media yesterday and on one of my weekly radio spots before that, while I’m not expecting anything at this point, something could come together very quickly on a player like Kyle Lohse. After all, much can happen in a short timeframe when motivation and/or desperation are involved.
(Author’s Note: I promised two pieces of info and will pass the other along when I have more time.)
The Brewers announced just prior to Tuesday night’s first pitch that relief pitcher Francisco Rodriguez had been traded.
Doug Melvin reportedly set today as a deadline for teams to make their best and final offers for the Brewers’ closer. With teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers, and Boston Red Sox getting involved in the mix, it was the Baltimore Orioles who stepped up with an offer that Melvin deemed the best.
In exchange for the services of the 31-year-old veteran right-hander, the Brewers received a 21-year-old prospect at third base named Nick Delmonico. Delmonico, who stands 6’2″ tall, was hitting .244/.351/.471 at the time of the trade with 13 home runs and 30 RBI. He bats left-handed which is certainly a plus but more so than anything he joins an organization which is very thin in prospects at the hot corner.
Delmonico was originally listed as a 1B/2B combo defensively after being drafted in the 6th round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft out of Farragut High School in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Here are the notes from MLB.com’s Top Prospects website which had Delmonico ranked as the Orioles 5th best prospect entering 2013.
Scouting Grades* (present/future): Hit: 3/5 | Power: 3/5 | Run: 3/3 | Arm: 5/5 | Field: 5/5 | Overall: 4/5
This Tennessee high school product grew up around the game, with his father, Rod, a longtime college coach and his brother, Tony, having spent time in the Dodgers organization. Nick played all over the infield in high school, and even caught some, but as a pro he’s only seen time on the right side of the infield, with more time spent at first than at second. Some feel his skills are best suited for third. Wherever he plays defensively, it’s his bat that will move him up the ladder. He has the chance to hit for average and at least average power from the left side of the plate. He has an advanced approach and isn’t afraid to take a walk. Delmonico was the South Atlantic League All-Star Game MVP, but his season was cut short because of a knee injury. A full healthy season could enable him to start moving a little more quickly.
(For what it’s worth, Baseball America had Delmonico listed 4th on the list of top Orioles prospects.)
Delmonico is reportedly expected to join the Class-A Advanced Brevard County Manatees of the Florida State League. He had been playing at the Class-A Advanced affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.
***UPDATE*** The following is the Brewers’ official press release about the trade.
The Milwaukee Brewers have acquired third baseman Nick Delmonico from Baltimore in exchange for right-handed reliever Francisco Rodriguez. The announcement was made by President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Doug Melvin.
Delmonico, 21, was selected by the Orioles in the sixth round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. He batted .249 with 11 HR and 54 RBI in 95 games last season at Class-A Delmarva, his first professional season. He tied for the team lead in home runs and ranked second on the club in RBI as he was selected to the South Atlantic League mid-season All-Star team. Delmonico, who entered 2013 as the fourth-best prospect in the Orioles organization according to Baseball America, batted .244 with 13 HR and 30 RBI in 60 games at Class-A Frederick this season. His 13 homers led the team.
“We appreciate Francisco’s character and performance as a member of the Brewers,” said Melvin. “In Nick Delmonico, we are getting a young left-handed hitting prospect that we liked as an amateur and have continued to follow and like as a professional. We are happy to add him to the organization.”
Rodriguez, 31, went 1-1 with a 1.09 ERA in 25 games with the Brewers this season, going 10-for-10 in save opportunities. His 304 career saves tie Jeff Montgomery for 21st on the all-time Major League list.
***END OF UPDATE***
Real quickly because I don’t have much time, I wanted to pass along to you all that another team has been passed along to me as inquiring about the “price” to acquire current Milwaukee Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez.
That team is the Los Angeles Dodgers who have been in contact with the Brewers about the former SoCal resident.
Since returning after the season’s start, K-Rod has been consistently effective and occasionally dominant in whatever role manager Ron Roenicke has put him in. In L.A. they’ve got Kenley Jansen closing out games just fine but Rodriguez could set-up for Jansen and shorten games many by three outs, much like he did for John Axford in 2011.
Good morning, and happy July, Brewer Nation!
It is officially trade season in Major League Baseball as the Chicago Cubs, Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros were all involved in moves over the past couple of days. Trade winds are beginning to pick up speed all around the league, and as has been documented numerous times by a multitude of baseball scribes, the Milwaukee Brewers could be at the center of a lot of activity. Whether that happens is truly up to some decisions by Doug Melvin (likely with Mark Attanasio’s input) about the short-term goals of the team.
Scouts have begun showing up in earnest at Brewers games, many centering around the starts of Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse. Some of that is due diligence and “normal coverage” but some of it isn’t.
I was made aware of some specific interest in a pair of Brewers players late on Tuesday night which I’m passing along now, but not before the sadly necessary caveat that:
- I’M NOT REPORTING IMMINENT TRADES!
- I’M ALSO NOT SAYING THAT THERE HAVE EVEN BEEN WORTHWHILE DISCUSSIONS BETWEEN THE TEAMS ABOUT THE PLAYERS YET.
All I’m saying is that these teams are known to have shown interest in the players to which I’m about to connect them.
This first one is easily guessable based on the need of the team and has been discussed by myself and others on Twitter already.
The Detroit Tigers have shown interest in Francisco Rodriguez.
The Tigers’ bullpen is perilously thin at the back end, what with their desperate attempt to get something out of Jose Valverde this season after initially choosing not to bring him back following his late 2012 implosions. K-Rod has pitched very well for Milwaukee, and he’s on a cheap deal for the rest of 2013. The Brewers should be extra motivated to move Rodriguez to the right bidder given that he’s only on a one-year deal and will likely command a much higher price tag in free agency after the season.
Two teams are tied to the next player I’m discussing tonight.
Both the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics have shown interest in Norichika Aoki.
Given that Aoki is controllable at an inexpensive rate in 2014, any team acquiring the former multi-time Japanese batting champion will be getting a year and a half of service out of him at the minimum.
In Oakland’s case, they don’t have an immediate need in their outfield but Aoki has proven to be a good hitter that would absolutely be useful for them. It could be a move with an eye on 2014 as well, however, as Coco Crisp is a free agent following this season.
For Tampa, they entered Tuesday just 2.0 games behind in their division and are barely getting any offensive production out of Matt Joyce at this point. Aoki would immediately upgrade their offense out of that lineup spot. Aoki has shown the ability to hit either first or second in a lineup, and both of those spots are currently filled normally by under-performing hitters.
So there you have it. Two ideas to wrap your minds around and see what you think about them. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t know that actual discussions have taken place between these teams and Milwaukee, so I don’t know what (if any) possible return the Brewers could expect from these possible trade partners.
ESPN.com’s senior baseball writer Jayson Stark posted a column today about the trade market and all things pertaining to it.
He mentions the Brewers on the separate occasions. Here are those mentions and my thoughts about them.
On Aramis Ramirez, other hitters:
“The Brewers haven’t quite packed it in yet, but an official of one club that spoke with them reports that if they do sell, they’d gladly listen on their third baseman — and, for that matter, on any position player except Jean Segura, Carlos Gomez and Ryan Braun. The good news: Ramirez has a reputation as a second-half producer (.295/.351/.531 lifetime after the All-Star break). The bad news: He’s guaranteed $16 million next season, with a mutual option worth $14 million for 2015, with a $4 million buyout.”
It’s no surprise to read that the Brewers would listen on almost any hitter. There are veterans in this group that made a couple of playoff runs as a nucleus but are getting older and expensive together. There are complementary pieces that have performed well in Milwaukee but would be in decline (if they aren’t already) or off contract before Milwaukee’s next playoff push if they choose to adhere to Melvin’s stated directive.
One of the most valuable pieces among them, when healthy, is Ramirez. He could bring a handsome return from the right caller plus the Brewers would love to get out from underneath the rest of that contract.
I agree with the “untouchables” list offered above as well, realizing that the time to reload is now while we, as fans, look toward legitimate contention in the near future.
On Yovani Gallardo:
“The blueprint got all smushed up in Milwaukee this season. But that doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be plenty to market if the Brewers sell. Atop the list of their most-coveted pieces, you’d find their ace, Yovani Gallardo. But teams that have checked in say the Brewers haven’t made it clear whether Gallardo is going to be out there or not. One NL exec said his impression was that Gallardo is the one pitcher on this staff who won’t be available. But another said: “To be honest, I think they would love to move him. Remember those fastballs that used to be 94-95-ish? Now they’re 89-90-ish.” Nevertheless, a 27-year-old starter with a track record and up to two seasons of control (counting his 2015 option) always makes for a viable trade chip.”
I don’t know that Melvin would “love” to move Gallardo as the executive who spoke to Stark suggested, but after Melvin’s comments mentioning Yo at all I’d be a fool if I didn’t recognize that they’re willing to.
Melvin stated that a trade offer would have to “wow” him in order to move the Brewers’ long-time number one, but just that Melvin was willing to discuss Gallardo with the media speaks volumes.
Working in Melvin’s favor again is that he has some leverage with Gallardo much like he does with Ramirez. Gallardo is under contract for 2014 and has an affordable team option for ’15 that won’t be voidable after all. (The option could have been voided by Gallardo if he had multiple top finishes in the Cy Young Award balloting during the extension.)
Whether they should move Gallardo becomes the question now. Assuming a decent return is offered, are you reloading for a run at the division in 2016? Or do you want to take one more shot with this offense in ’14? The decision will be made soon and it directly affects Gallardo’s availability on the market.
Stark then lists his “Five more arms to keep an eye on:” at the end of the column, a list which includes Francisco Rodriguez.
This is the most obvious choice for a player that the Brewers would love to move. After getting somewhat screwed when Rodriguez accepted arbitration following the 2011 season, the Brewers got no compensation at all for what appeared to be the imminent departure of K-Rod from Cream City.
After receiving some offers to begin 2013, Rodriguez waited and eventually got a deal he was comfortable accepting from Doug Melvin. For everything that he wasn’t in 2012, Rodriguez has been excellent so far this season for Ron Roenicke. He would certainly bring back a worthwhile piece for a team in need of a proven (yes, I said it) late-inning option.
Send Minor League Pitcher Thomas Keeling to the Braves
—– Infielder Alex Gonzalez Released; Infielder Scooter Gennett Recalled; Pitcher Mike Fiers Optioned —–
The Milwaukee Brewers have acquired third baseman Juan Francisco from Atlanta for left-handed minor-league pitcher Thomas Keeling. The announcement was made by President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Doug Melvin.
Francisco, 25, is a career .254 hitter with 19 HR and 77 RBI in 209 games with Cincinnati (2009-11) and Atlanta (2012-13). He batted .241 (26-for-108) with 5 HR and 16 RBI in 35 games this season with the Braves, making 31 starts (29g at 3B, 2g at DH). He was designated for assignment on May 30. Francisco will wear uniform #21 and is expected to report to the team tomorrow.
Keeling, 25, was selected by Milwaukee in the 18th round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. He was 0-1 with a 3.18 ERA and 1 save in 17 relief appearances at Double-A Huntsville this season.
In other transactions, the team has asked for waivers for the purpose of the unconditional release on infielder Alex Gonzalez, who batted .177 (20-for-113) with 1 HR and 8 RBI in 41 games this season with the Brewers, making 27 starts (16g at 1B, 9g at 3B, 2g at SS). In addition, second baseman Scooter Gennett has been recalled from Triple-A Nashville (50g, .297, 1hr, 13rbi, 8sb). He will make his Major League debut and wear uniform #2. To make room for Gennett on the 25-man roster, right-handed pitcher Mike Fiers was optioned to Nashville.