At the very least, the Milwaukee Brewers are going to be extremely fun to watch. Whether it’s NLCS and beyond fun or “Bad News Bears” type of fun remains to be seen. I’m going to bet on the former, as GM David Stearns is pitching a near-perfect game since taking over in 2015.
Jedi Master Jeff Luhnow’s former apprentice in Houston has quickly turned the Brewers into a contender. After last year’s surprising success, they added Lorenzo Cain in free agency and Christian Yelich via trade over the offseason.
On Saturday, Stearns and the organization stayed aggressive. In need of a middle infielder, they naturally traded for third baseman Mike Moustakas.
That bumped career 6 foot 4 career corner infielder Travis Shaw to second base and seemed to solidify that spot on the Milwaukee depth chart.
But today, at an historically active trade deadline, the Brew Crew added 2017 All-Star Jonathan Schoop from the Baltimore Orioles.
At the surface, it looks a bit befuddling. But Schoop did come up as a shortstop before moving to the keystone and has played seven MLB games at short.
So while it looks awfully like a video game setup where anybody can play anywhere, there’s history at short for Schoop and his bat is an obvious upgrade for the Brewers over Jonathan Villar.
Villar and prospects Luis Ortiz and Jean Carmona are going to Baltimore for Schoop, who I’m sure is being called Jonathan “Shoop” by at least two or three local newscasters tonight.
Signed out of Curacao in 2009, the veteran had a solid 2015, played 162 great games in 2016 and hit 25 home runs for the O’s.
Last year, he broke out with 32 dingers, 105 RBI, hit .293 and slugged over .500 to earn his first career All-Star nod. He also finished 12th in American League MVP voting.
He has just 17 home runs this season and has fallen down to a .244 batting average on a pretty bad Baltimore club.
Still, it’s an upgrade over the light-hitting Villar and even with the defensive risk and the current offensive decline, the Brewers are getting at least a year-and-a-half from their new (probable) everyday shortstop.
Originally drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies, Villar went to the Houston Astros in a 2010 deadline deal (along with recently traded J.A. Happ) for Roy Oswalt.
He’s always attracted attention due to his plus-speed, but it was a surprising .284 in 53 games in 2015 that earned him some serious credit. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a spot in the rebuilt Astros lineup, so Stearns took him to Milwaukee with him in a trade.
In 2016, he led the league with 62 stolen bases and even added 19 home runs along with a fantastic .285/.369/.826 slash. An average defender, he does offer versatility and has played second, third, short, left and center field in his career.
He came back down to earth but was still productive in 2017 and has remained a steady contributor this season, though he’s unlikely to touch his monster 2016 campaign.
The Orioles are getting an everyday player in Villar, but nothing much more. He has three more years of control, but the prospects is where the Orioles focus was at.
Luis Ortiz, a right-handed pitcher, was a first round pick by the Texas Rangers in 2014 and acquired by the Brewers for 2016 Jonathan Lucroy in 2016.
The 22-year old is is all but finished with Double-A and could report directly to Triple-A Norfolk with his new club. His career minor league numbers are very good, but nothing stands out in his arsenal and he fell off the prospect radar after a good but not great 2017 that also featured some hamstring issues.
Overall, his minor league résumé is extremely promising and he’s out of the Brewers pretty deep supply of arms. Baltimore doesn’t have that and Ortiz could debut by September.
Jean Carmona, 18 years young and no relation to Fausto Roberto Heredia Hernandez Carmona, signed with Milwaukee out of the Dominican Republic in 2016.
A toolsy middle infielder, he made his debut last season in the Arizona and Dominican Summer Leagues and hit eight triples in 60 games. Additional numbers were 10 doubles, 10 steals and on the negative side, a heap of errors at shortstop.
He was better at second base, but is mostly considered a shortstop prospect. Obviously with teenage minor leaguers, and he was 17 last season, positions can change by the day.
This season, he’s hitting .239 with Rookie League Helena and is still struggling with the glove at short but has three triples, five steals and 24 RBI through 39 games.
After hitting one home run in 2017, he has four already this season as he only begins to completely fill out.
The Orioles were obvious sellers, dealing a fourth of their locker room today, and the Brewers are certainly all-in on out-of-position big bats. It’s a deal to keep a close eye on and one that could garner immediate results in the form of Schoop, Villar and perhaps most importantly long-term, Ortiz.