Plenty of Interest in Brewers Relievers?

K-Rod

In his column today, Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal touched briefly on the Brewers and the market for relief pitching, noting that there is plenty of interest in Brewer relievers despite the struggles of the bullpen as a whole. According to Rosenthal, John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez both figure to draw a lot of interest on the trade market thanks to their propensity for getting strikeouts. He also reported that less-heralded relievers Manny Parra and Kameron Loe are the target of some teams’ attention.

The Brewers have reached the point where the 2012 season is a lost cause – their chances of making the playoffs currently sit at 5.7%, according to Baseball Prospectus  – and they need to turn their focus to the future, whether that involves retooling for another “all-in” season in 2013 or tearing the roster down and doing a full-blown rebuild. Whichever course the Brewers take, it will probably be accompanied by some selling at the trading deadline.

Following that logic, Francisco Rodriguez would seem like a surefire candidate to be traded. K-Rod has had a solid year as a setup man/closer, and his possible appeal to contending teams has been mentioned by Rosenthal as well as others. More importantly, however, the right-hander has absolutely no place on the 2013 Brewers, whether that club has postseason aspirations or not. Even with John Axford’s struggles, the Brewers are simply not likely to pay whatever it takes to retain Rodriguez, who earned $8MM this year and may command something similar this winter. Even if the market lags to the point that he could be had for $5-6MM, the Brewers would still be much better served spending that money on, say, a second-tier shortstop.

However, what the Brewers could fetch for K-Rod is a murkier question. Last July, the Brewers acquired him, along with about $6MM cash, for 2 PTBNL’s (which turned into nonprospects Adrian Rosario and Danny Herrera). That’s not a great precedent, and while the market for his services is likely better than last year – thanks to both the relative dearth of quality relievers and the seller-friendly nature of the trades made up to this point – the Brewers are still going to have to throw in a lot of money if they want a significant return.

Rosenthal also suggested that Axford could be targeted by some teams, but it just doesn’t make sense for the Brewers to trade him now. Axford has had a bad year, as his ERA currently is north of 5, but there’s plenty of reason to think that he’ll bounce back: Axford has looked like a mess on the mound at times this year, but his xFIP is a perfectly fine 3.26. Axford will be under club control for another 3 years, and his value is likely as low as it’s ever going to be. The Brewers won’t lose anything by holding on to Axford and letting him get things back in order, but selling low on him could be a potentially disastrous blunder.

The mention of Parra and Loe was even more interesting because nobody really was expecting to hear their names. Neither set the world on fire this year, but I do see what teams might like in them: Parra has always had excellent stuff, and, as I said before, his numbers this year would look much better if not for a grossly inflated BABIP. Loe still has his sinker and good command, so there’s always the hope that he could channel his 2010 season again with the help of a better defense and a manager with a more enlightened view on how to use him.

It’s certainly possible that Loe and/or Parra could be moved, but neither would bring back a huge return. Middle relievers have their uses, but teams know how volitale they can be from year to year and are generally smart enough now not to invest a lot of money or prospects in them. When you take into account that acquiring either would be a short-term solution (Parra will be a free agent at season’s end, Loe has one year of arbitration left), it’s hard to see a team giving up more than a minor prospect – possibly in the form of a player to be named later – or some cash. There’s also the distinct possibility that such a trade could be a waiver deal that takes place after July 31.

Whether their goal is to restock their farm system or the big league roster, it’s almost inevitable that the Brewers will spend the next week or so trying to sell off players they won’t need this year. Several members of the bullpen fit perfectly into that category, so don’t be surprised to see one or more of them wearing someone else’s uniform by next Tuesday. Just don’t look for the Brewers to get a huge return for them.

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