Brewers likely to strike for starting pitcher

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 02: Jhoulys Chacin #45 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches in the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on June 2, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 02: Jhoulys Chacin #45 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches in the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on June 2, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

The Milwaukee Brewers have the bats to compete but they need another effective starting pitcher to truly contend for a playoff spot in 2018.

Tomorrow’s starting pitcher is a team’s only tangible momentum. Last week, to no avail, an exploration of the possibility that the Milwaukee Brewers could add Wisconsin native Jordan Zimmermann inhabited this space. Unsurprisingly, that transaction has not become a reality.

The Brewers are still one of at least a whopping eight teams in playoff contention in the N.L. despite playing 13-12 ball since the All-Star break. They are in striking distance but could really use some reinforcement for their starting pitcher depth, not only to ease the load on the bullpen, but also to put forth another influential starter in the rotation for key games down the stretch.

Since that All-Star break that came on the heels of the Brewers losing eight of 10 games, the Brewers’ starting pitchers have eaten innings but haven’t prevented runs very well. They also rarely go deep in games or pitch like shutdown aces. Wade Miley (2.17 ERA) and Jhoulys Chacin (3.90) have acquitted themselves well, but the once-effective rotation is showing signs of cracking.

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Since the mid-summer classic, Freddy Peralta has an ERA of 8.05, Chase Anderson 4.74 and Junior Guerra 5.53. When the offense is not scoring runs consistently and efficiently, it’s difficult to stay in games if the starting pitcher is giving up 4-6 runs per contest. The Brewers’ offense has scored 20 fewer runs than the pitching staff has yielded since the break, and the team ERA is a tick under 5.00 since then as well.

While other teams gave up precious prospects to acquire starting pitcher depth before the non-waiver trade deadline, Stearns stood pat and was criticized as a result. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the inaction then (the market wasn’t exceptionally appetizing or affordable), it now appears that the Brewers could be in serious trouble if they don’t get help from the outside or find a way to turn things around substantially from the inside.

His discipline is admirable, and Stearns is not afraid of pulling the trigger on a deal, especially one that will bear fruit for more than the current season. But doing nothing to prevent the potentially steep drop-offs in production from a rookie in Peralta and the flip-a-coin-type starts from Anderson and Guerra could also be extremely costly for a season that was once so full of hope and real promise. That’s why Stearns is likely to pick up a starting pitcher in some fashion within the next two weeks, whether by straight waiver claim or via trade.

In addition, with the recent news that starter Jimmy Nelson is unlikely to provide the Brew Crew with meaningful innings this season and sometimes starting pitcher Zach Davies still a totally unpredictable commodity, Stearns is under pressure to find a way to boost this year’s team and its playoff chances.

Perhaps a guy like old friend Marco Estrada could help. He’s a free agent after the season and probably could be acquired for a reasonable cost if the Brewers get the opportunity through the waiver wire. The Brewers have also been connected to the Reds’ Matt Harvey and the Yankees’ Sonny Gray in rumors, among others. The team was reportedly involved in a pursuit for former Brewers starting pitcher Mike Fiers earlier this season. The Tigers have since moved Fiers to the A’s.

If the Brewers had played better after the All-Star break, there likely wouldn’t be so much urgency or reason to speculate on which starting pitchers the Brewers could acquire before the August 31 waiver deadline. But while they appear to be loaded in the position player and bullpen squads, there is now no question that grave concerns are creeping about whether Milwaukee has enough starting pitcher firepower to even last in contention past the next few weeks.

The Brewers’ representatives and media messages continue to play a positive tune. Hopefully, they can back it up with something that turns some of these consequential games into wins rather than losses.

It’s one thing to spin a tale of how effective this rotation has been over the course of the season. It has been largely effective and deserves a ton of credit. But the job is not getting done on the field anymore. The Brewers have made little to no progress since early July, and if they don’t turn it around soon, it will be another wasted and lost the campaign for the underachieving Brewers.

It’s difficult to believe that Stearns will stick with the current crew of starting pitchers past the end of the month. The competition is too tough in the N.L. and all of MLB not to join the arms race before it’s too late.