Welcome back to the 29 trades in 29 days series. Every day, I will be taking a look at a new MLB team in an effort to find a trade package that makes sense for the Kansas City Royals to hypothetically pursue. For some ground rules and an example, check out the first installment of the series. Today, let's end our run with the National League Central as I examine a possible trade involving the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Brewers have seemingly taken the torch (at least for the moment) from the Minnesota Twins as the league's premier small-market franchise. The Brewers, though, usually spend around league average when it comes to payroll and they aren’t afraid of making big acquisitions to improve their team. With all of this being said, the Brewers find themselves in a weird spot as they have a very talented team when it’s all clicking, and despite Milwaukee winning the NL Central last year, they never quite seemed to be clicking on full cylinders.
One of the big issues for Milwaukee was the inconsistent play of its outfield. It all started at the top with Christian Yelich, as he was playing nicked up throughout the year. It showed in his stat line: He hit a mediocre .248 and posted an OPS+ below 100 for the first time in his career. The rotating center field tandem of Lorenzo Cain and Jackie Bradley Jr. produced mixed results. Bradley was one of the worst players in baseball this season and Cain, like Yelich, posted an OPS+ under 100. Avisail Garcia was Milwaukee's best outfielder, hitting a respectable .262 while mashing 29 home runs and collecting 82 RBIs in the process. Garcia exercised his half of a mutual option for the 2022 season and is slated to become a free agent after not being extended a qualifying offer.
Brewers former first-round selection Keston Hiura has not panned out in the major leagues, as he hit below the Mendoza Line this year and has failed to impress outside of his rookie season. Hiura was supposed to be the Brewers' utility player that could bounce around the field to fill in the holes, and he hasn't been that. What the Brewers need is consistency in the lineup — and also perhaps some freed up future payroll to make some moves.
Milwaukee Brewers Receive: UTL Whit Merrifield, P Josh Staumont
Kansas City Royals Receive: P Josh Hader
Hader should need very little to no introduction but for the sake of being thorough, giving out a few details wouldn’t do any harm. Hader is now a three-time All-Star with the only seasons he didn’t make it being his rookie campaign and 2020, when there wasn’t a Midsummer Classic. This season was probably his best, as he posted a career-best ERA of 1.23 in 60 games while racking up 34 saves and posting a career-best ERA+ of 348 which, in short, means that he was nearly three and a half times more effective than a league-average pitcher.
However, the word around the water cooler is that the Brewers seem bound and determine to trade one of, if not the best reliever in baseball because they lack long-term control even though Hader is two years away from hitting free agency. Staumont offers a solution to this problem, as he is currently under control until 2026 and while he’s doesn’t possess Hader’s resume, his stats speak for themselves. Staumont has notched an ERA in the twos in back-to-back years.
While Staumont might not be as good as Hader, the Milwaukee bullpen could withstand a slight downgrade as it was one of the best units in baseball last season. If the Brewers managed to re-sign Hunter Strickland and pitchers like Jake Cousins can continue to take strides forward, there is no reason to expect any downturn next season.
The key piece for the Brewers in this trade would be Merrifield, who has been nothing if not consistent during his time with the Royals. He has played in every single possible game these last three seasons and gave the Royals 158 games in 2018 and 145 games in 2017. The Brewers need someone who can be in that lineup day in and day out, and Merrifield seems to fit that description. This would give the Brewers a lot of options in the outfield. They could opt to not re-sign Garcia with Merrifield only set to make $2.75M this season, which would be some decent savings. If they were to keep Garcia, they could perhaps have the best outfield depth in the league with a unit consisting of Yelich, Cain, Garcia, Bradley and Merrifield.
Merrifield could also take the mantle of Hiura’s utility role, filling in as needed and providing more veteran leadership to a team that is currently swimming in it. The Brewers have long been a team on the cusp of achieving greatness, but always seem to be a touch behind teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers when it comes to depth. This trade with the Royals allows them to address multiple depth issues with one player and gives them someone who can slide into Milwaukee’s bullpen with ease and contribute to an already stout unit.
For the Royals, they receive one of the best players in the league and could send a real message to the league and their fans if they were to complete this trade and immediately sign Hader to a new deal. This also potentially gets Adalberto Mondesi the playing time that many fans are clamoring for. Despite what I might think of his ability to be an everyday player, the only way Mondesi has a chance to give the Royals real value is if he plays regularly instead of being a super sub.
This trade for the Royals doesn’t hinge on whether or not they believe Merrifield has more tread on the tire: It’s whether or not they believe Mondesi can be the player they previously thought he could be. If so, then they should have no problem with trading away an older player to receive a major bullpen upgrade so they can free up a spot for the younger Mondesi. If the Royals don’t have this conviction, this trade is unlikely to happen because the Brewers need a reliable player and probably wouldn’t be interested in Mondesi due to his inconsistent track record.
This would be a gut check trade for the Royals and an opportunity to put their convictions where their mouths are. One way or another, a decision between Mondesi and Merrifield needs to be made and after proposing a Mondesi deal last week, we see what a potential Merrifield deal could net Kansas City.