After a week of talk about Jamey Carroll, Clint Barmes, and any other infield utility type, this kind of news can seem underwhelming: the Brewers have traded for Jerry Hairston, giving up OF Erik Komatsu.
Hairston has seen a bit of a rejuvination in Washington this year, hitting .268/.342/.385 for the Nats in 213 at-bats. Part of the improvement over last year’s numbers is getting out of Petco Park, and another part is his batting average on balls in play returning to a much more normal .296.
As speculated by some writers and later confirmed by Melvin, Hairston is attractive to the Brewers because he’s played a wide variety of positions in the past, and most of them are areas of need for the team right now — 3B, SS, 2B, and the OF. How well he plays those positions now at age 35 is up for debate, but the offensive upgrade he provides over the likes of Craig Counsell or Josh Wilson may make up for the gap in defensive ability.
Metrics like UZR are more or less worthless when you’re dealing with part-time players like Hairston — he’s only played 11.2 innings at 2B this year, one inning at SS, 180.1 innings in the OF, and 339 innings at third base. Those are tiny sample sizes when it comes to defensive opportunities. FanGraphs’ Fan Scouting Reports had Hairston as just below average overall defensively last season, for what it’s worth.
For those that follow the Brewers’ minor league system, the inclusion of Komatsu in the deal may be more notable than the acquisition of Hairston.
Komatsu, by most accounts, is a nice player to have, but by no means an impact prospect. At 5’10″ and 175 pounds, he’s a smallish outfielder that doesn’t have a ton of pop, but he does know how to hit and has a very good eye at the plate (.398 career OBP in the minors). If Komatsu could handle centerfield defensively, he’d be a top prospect. Since he isn’t a great defender, though, he’s been pegged with the “future 4th OF” label. That’s not a terrible thing, but when players like that when your organization’s Player of the Year award, it’s probably a sign your system is very thin.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed about losing Komatsu, but in reality, he’s just one of those guys you grow attached to when there isn’t much to cheer about down on the farm. It was a bit redundant to keep him around with Logan Schafer and Caleb Gindl being at roughly the same level, and the organization has been pretty forward about their preference towards Gindl and Schafer. As has been pointed out by a few people on Twitter, all three are up for Rule V draft eligibility this winter, and the Brewers likely weren’t going to protect all of them.
All in all, this seems like a fair deal for both sides. The Nationals get some nice outfield depth in their system, and the Brewers get a utility man who’s quite possibly better than any of the healthy middle infielders currently on the roster. Komatsu’s not someone the Brewers are likely to kick themselves over dealing a few years from now, but then again, they don’t have many more pieces like that left in their system.
It’s possible Melvin stops dealing after adding Lopez and Hairston, but it would seem the best strategy would be to acquire as many middle infielders as he can before the deadline, and figure out who can stick after that. These types of players are also the types that tend to get moved in August waiver deals, too, so it’s not a huge disappointment if Melvin isn’t able to add another piece before Sunday.