The Milwaukee Brewers added a veteran rotation piece on Friday, acquiring Gio Gonzalez from the Washington Nationals for K.J. Harrison and Gilbert Lara.
Gonzalez is just shy of 33 and had been in the nation’s capitol for seven years. The veteran lefty broke through in a big way in his Nationals debut with a 21-win season, but hasn’t matched those win totals in the years since. While he wasn’t at his best this season posting his worst ERA, WHIP and hits-per-nine in his Nationals’ tenure, he is also a proven innings eater that the Brewers are hoping becomes a reliable presence in the rotation.
What did Milwaukee give up?
K.J. Harrison, catcher
Harrison is an interesting one to say the least. He was an offense-first catcher when the Brewers drafted him in the third round of the 2017 MLB Draft out of Oregon State. In fact, he rarely played catcher in his final season with the Beavers, putting up nice numbers as the DH. Those numbers carried over to an impressive Pioneer League debut where he slashed .308/.388/.546 with 14 doubles and 10 home runs in just 48 games, playing 17 games at catcher.
(video from Baseball Census)
That’s all changed in 2018. Harrison has played more games at first base, so it seems the catching experiment may be shifting gears. The power is there, and he can rope it to all fields with 29 doubles and 12 home runs, but the slash line has fallen dramatically as evidenced by his .682 OPS and wRC+ of 93, not favorable numbers for the big bat of the lineup. An increased strikeout rate (well over 30 percent) and declining walk rate are factors in the falling numbers.
Our own John Sickels had him at No. 18 in the Brewers top 20 heading into the season. Here’s why:
Age 21, third round pick in 2017 from Oregon State University; strong pro debut with .308/.388/.546 line in the Pioneer League, 23 walks, 55 strikeouts in 185 at-bats, 10 homers; high strikeout rate may be problematic at higher levels, power is real but pure hitting skills have been doubted; defense is also questionable; arm is strong but he’s raw as a receiver and thrower and has work to do to be playable back there; could be similar to Nottingham for both good and ill; ETA 2021.
In Sickels midseason review he also added that his big struggles against Midwest League pitching is a sign of concern. He has the power to stick at first base if he can figure it out defensively, but along with the allure of his big bat comes a lot of question marks.
Gilbert Lara, 3B
Lara was signed out of the Dominican Republic in July of 2014 for a $3.2 million bonus, so the Brewers saw plenty they liked in the young infield talent. The bat hasn’t exactly shown the return in value since coming stateside however.
(video from FanGraphs)
The now 20-year-old was a top five international prospect when he was a shortstop in 2014, with many citing his exciting power as one of his features. Though no one expected him to stay at short (some thought he may play in the corner outfield), he seems to be a mixture of both third and short for now.
Lara has a career slashline of .237/.274/.324 with a .598 OPS and just 11 home runs. He seems to struggle with consistent contact and plate discipline, striking out 286 times to just 53 career walks. Still just 20, Lara is a project the Nationals hope turns into a winning lottery ticket.