Blue Jays: Finding a trade fit with the Brewers

Jun 25, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Brewers designated hitter Andrew McCutchen (24),
Jun 25, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Brewers designated hitter Andrew McCutchen (24), / Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

As much as the Blue Jays will probably look to make a significant trade this offseason, there are only so many potential partners for a significant swap.

One of the teams that could be a potential fit would be the Brewers, who appear like they might be ready to do a bit of a rebuild in Milwaukee, or at least a re-tool. They're not exactly known for exorbitant payrolls either, which will likely factor into their decision making over the winter. To that end, they've already traded Hunter Renfroe to the Angels in a move that most of us assume is related to saving some payroll space.

If the Brewers decide to make another move in the interest of saving some money, Ross Atkins and the Blue Jays front office should be calling them several times a week.

Beyond trading Renfroe it's possible that the Brewers hope to fill his spot with a cheaper alternative and take another run at a playoff spot in the National League. They do have a talented pitching staff that includes Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta and more in the rotation, and an excellent bullpen led by one of the best relievers in baseball in Devin Williams. That said, there have been rumours about the Dodgers asking about Willy Adames, and I'm sure they're far from the only team sniffing around to see how much salary the Brewers might be looking to shed, or if they plan on entering a rebuild phase of some kind.

If I'm in Atkins shoes, I'd be asking about all four of the pitchers that I listed above. Peralta could be off limits due to his dirt-cheap contract that will pay him just 24 million over the next four seasons, assuming his options in 2024 and 2025 are exercised. The only way they wouldn't be is if injuries derailed his career, but that's unlikely even if he did battle some shoulder issues this past season.

More likely if the Brewers are looking to trade another veteran it will probably be Woodruff at the top of the list, after Christian Yelich of course, who isn't going anywhere. Woodruff has quietly been one of the better starters in the National League for several years now, and at 29 he should still have plenty of prime years left. Last season he finished 13-4 with a 3.05 ERA and a 1.070 WHIP over 27 starts that covered 153.1 innings. He's projected to make just shy of 14 million next season, so it's possible that the Brewers decide he's getting a little expensive, or that they could reallocate that salary space to another area. Woodruff won't be a free agent until after the 2024 season, so he would come with two years of contract control and would really make the Blue Jays' rotation a formidable group.

The other pitcher I have to wonder if the Brewers would move is Williams. It doesn't feel as likely to me because he still has four years of contract control and is projected to make a little more than three million next year, but I wouldn't rule it out completely. Personally, I think the Blue Jays are more likely to roll with what they have now that they've added Erik Swanson to the bullpen, but Williams would be a premium addition and could really put their bullpen over the top. There aren't many relievers that I'd bet big on over a four-year period, but Williams has the kind of talent to be that kind of exception.

In my opinion, the real prize on the Brewers roster would be Burnes, but I just have a hard time seeing the Brewers trading their ace. The 2021 NL Cy Young award winner was 12-3 with a 2.94 ERA and a 0.965 over 33 starts that covered 202.0 innings, striking out 243 batters in the process. Burnes is in a very similar position to Woodruff in terms of projected salary and having two years of control left, but I have to think he would command the biggest return of all. It's also possible that they can only keep one of Burnes or Woodruff, and I'd bet on a long-term investment in the former.

The biggest question is what kind of return would the Brewers be looking for, and would the Blue Jays be the best fit? If the Brewers are actually taking offers for some of their best players then there will likely be at least 20 teams calling to at least kick the tires. They do have a recent enough trade history with the Blue Jays after sending Trevor Richards their way in 2021 in exchange for Rowdy Tellez, and that worked out quite well for the Brew Crew.

Realistically, if the Blue Jays are going to make a trade with Milwaukee then it would have to centre around one of their trio of catchers. One would have to think that Gabriel Moreno and Alejandro Kirk would have significant appeal to the Brewers with their pre-arbitration contracts, and the long-term contract that they come with. I wouldn't rule out interest in Danny Jansen either, but that feels like a much longer shot to me with just two years before he'll be a free agent.

It wouldn't be as easy as finding a one for one trade between the two clubs, but as a bias Blue Jays fan it's not hard to see a match here. Without knowing what kind of opportunities might exist on the market, the Brewers certainly match up well on paper.