It is amazing what one little tweet can do. Jon Morosi's report on Friday morning has quickly divided Milwaukee Brewers fans:
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 7, 2017
The Brewers do not necessarily need a starting pitcher. Milwaukee ranks seventh in the majors in starter ERA (4.09). But for a team that has a 4.5 game division lead, the starting staff feels awfully rickety.
Jimmy Nelson and Chase Anderson have developed into co-aces this year, but neither have a lengthy track record of dominance, and Anderson is on the disabled list with an oblique strain for another month or so.
Zach Davies' 4.90 ERA and diminished strikeout rate portray a much less promising story than his 10-4 record. Junior Guerra and Matt Garza have alternated between injured and mediocre.
It seems unlikely that the Brewers will be able to hold off the Chicago Cubs for the entire season with the pitching as currently constituted; the defending champs figure to make a run at some point. Milwaukee is armed with a wealth of prospects, so its minor league system will be able to withstand a trade for a legitimate starter.
Here are five starters general manager David Stearns could target this month, starting with the two Morosi mentioned.
Quintana is the perfect fit for Milwaukee. The Chicago White Sox are in a clear rebuild and looking to acquire assets for the future, which the Brewers have plenty to offer. Quintana has not pitched up to his usual standards this season (4.45 ERA in 2017, 3.35 ERA from 2013-16), but that might keep his price down a little, even though the South Siders clearly won't just give Quintana away.
Quintana is the type of pitcher you move prospects for. He is just 28, and on a bargain contract through 2020. He fits the timeframe and cost of the franchise. The Brewers have piled up so many outfield prospects, that they are destined to make a trade. Quintana could be it.
It is time for Oakland to move Gray. He is 27 years old and signed through 2019, meaning the Athletics can still get good value for him, even though his numbers have been fairly pedestrian over the last 18 months compared to his sparkling first three seasons.
Gray won't cost as much as Quintana, though he could be just as effective. In his last seven outings since the start of June, Gray has a 3.45 ERA with a nearly 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. At the very least, Gray is a significant upgrade on Guerra or Davies right now, while also having ace potential on any giving night.
Vargas is not the Brewers ideal trade piece. He is a pending free agent, and the Royals are currently in the second wild card spot in the American League, so they likely won't be dying to move their ace on the cheap.
But Kansas City has a several key players hitting free agency this season; they probably won't be looking to sign Vargas to another deal. He owns a nice 2.62 ERA right now, though advanced metrics see regression coming. If Milwaukee can send just a B-level type prospect to the Royals in return for a two-plus months of Vargas, he might be worth a roll of the dice to stabilize the Brewers' leaky rotation.
Besides Quintana, Darvish might be the biggest fish on the block. The 30-year-old is a free agent after 2017, and Texas is not currently showing any signs of getting back into the playoff race. The Rangers could be looking to sell if they don't want to re-sign him after the season.
Stearns will have to part with a nice prospect to acquire him, but the price will be much lower than if the Brewers went after Quintana. And Darvish is having a much better year than Chicago's lefty. Darvish has a 3.56 ERA in Texas' bandbox stadium - this could be a C.C. Sabathia-type situation for Milwaukee. Darvish is the kind of pitcher who can carry a team for two months.
Nova is just the latest scuffling pitcher to find success with Pittsburgh. Nova has posted a phenomenal 3.17 ERA in 28 starts since the Pirates acquired Nova from the Yankees last summer. He is 30 years old, and making just another $20 million total through 2019.
If Milwaukee believes he has found something sustainable on the mound, Nova might be a nice second-tier starter that can deepen their rotation at a cost-effective number over the next 2.5 years.