MLB trade deadline rumors: First-place Brewers may look inward for starting pitching rather than external help

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The Milwaukee Brewers’ 2024 season has thus far gone well – surprisingly well. Yes, they’re coming off a 2023 in which they won 92 games and the National League Central crown, but consider what they’ve lost since then. 

Manager Craig Counsell, the winningest skipper in Brewers franchise history, made the surprising leap to the Cubs. Ace Corbin Burnes was sent to Baltimore in a blockbuster trade with the Orioles. Co-ace Brandon Woodruff will probably miss the entire 2024 campaign with shoulder woes. Adrian Houser was dealt to the Mets, and veteran lefty Wade Miley wound up needing Tommy John surgery. On top of all that, youngster Robert Gasser wound up needing a rebuilt elbow of his own after five mostly excellent starts. 

That’s a lot of starting-pitcher attrition, and ownership may not be willing to do much about it leading up to the July 30 trade deadline. Here’s this from Will Sammon, Patrick Mooney, and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic: 

The Milwaukee Brewers, leading their division with the National League’s third-best record despite needing pitching help, don’t seem inclined to fix that hole through big spending or by trading top prospects at the deadline, according to people familiar with the club’s thinking.

For some context, the Brewers’ offense ranks an impressive seventh in MLB in runs scored, and the bullpen is an even more impressive fourth in the league in relief ERA. The rotation, however, checks in at 18th in starters’ ERA, 29th in innings, 23rd in K/BB ratio, 27th in strikeouts, and 29th in quality-start percentage. That’s a serious weakness, and it’s one that could undo them even with their quite large lead in the division. Milwaukee, according to Cot’s/Baseball Prospectus estimates, has a bottom-ten payroll, but owner Mark Attanasio may be unwilling to increase that in the name of an improved rotation. 

Instead, the Brewers may look to internal solutions and hope for better health to patch over those rotation problems. Maybe that works – again, they have quite a cushion in the division – but that could cascade into bullpen wear and tear and leave them ill-equipped for their (very likely) trip to the playoffs. It’s also not unthinkable that the Cardinals or someone else in the division manages to put heat on Pat Murphy’s club in the second half. 

The Brewers are high on any list of the most resourceful teams around, but that has its limits. The worry in Milwaukee should be that the rotation and ownership’s apparent unwillingness to bolster it via trade may test those limits as the 2024 season grows deeper. 

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