After a period of silence on the J.A. Happ front, a report has surfaced that the Blue Jays have sent scouts to check out the Milwaukee Brewers minor league teams.
According to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com on Twitter, the Blue Jays have been “extensively” scouting the Brewers minor league system, further noting that the focus of the scouting could be to find prospects to net in a potential J.A. Happ trade.
Feinsand’s full column, which was released hours after his initial report, elaborates on the possible fit. He points to injuries to starters Jimmy Nelson and Wade Miley, as well as the desire to add a true impact arm as two possible factors that could influence a decision.
In his column, Feinsand includes an excerpt from a media scrum with general manager David Stearns, in which he told reporters that his team wants to add “a guy who we think can help lead the rotation.”
As far as minor league systems go, the Brewers are no slouch. In mid-June, Bleacher Report ranked them as the 22nd best farm system, significantly slashing their ranking following the shelf-emptying Christian Yelich trade. In a similar study, Call to the Pen had them at #12 on their list.
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In terms of prospect capital, pitchers Corbin Burnes (second in the organization and 56th league-wide) and Luis Ortiz (fourth in the organization and sub-100 league-wide) could be of interest to the Jays front office as they try to acquire as much prospect capital as possible ahead of what appears to be an exciting string of seasons.
At the surface, the Brewers appear to be a decent potential suitor for the big lefty, seeing as they have enough prospects to get a deal done and are outside of the division. While the latter is not necessarily a requirement for a deal, many fans and executives alike have expressed concerns with trading within the division, especially when the division is as competitive as the American League East.
Entering play on Tuesday, the Brewers (48-35) sit in first place of the NL Central, a half-game ahead of the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs (47-35) have a two-game lead atop the NL Wild Card. The Brewers and the Cubs have established a commanding lead over the rest of the division, with the third-place Cardinals five and a half games behind the second place Cubs.
Statistically, the Brewers have excelled on the mound. They sit in sixth in baseball with a team ERA of 3.60, ninth in the league in shutouts and second in quality starts. Additionally, opponents are hitting .226 against Milwaukee pitching, good enough for fourth in the league.
Regardless of whether or not a trade actually comes together, the Brewers are an undeniably fitting, yet surprising trade partner for the Blue Jays as they enter a tricky trade deadline period. With a deep farm system and a talented core, the Brew Crew seem like the perfect team to take on a quality starter in the last year of his contract.