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MLB trade deadline 2022: Can Milwaukee Brewers add an impact bat?

By jordan shusterman
FOX Sports MLB Writer

Although the names have changed somewhat over the past decade, the recipe for success in milwaukee has remained familiar: The pitching staff unleashes some of the most hellacious stuff imaginable, the offense does just enough, Craig Counsell pushes the right buttons, and the Brewers usually end up on top.

The Brewers are currently marching toward a fifth consecutive postseason berth, but the Cardinals are close on their heels in the NL Central. With the Aug. 2 trade deadline approaching, what does this Brewers team need most to stave off St. Louis and elevate itself to a legitimate contender?

For me, it’s a hitter who strikes fear into the opponent — someone pitchers dread facing and for whom catchers have no idea what to call. Christian Yelich simply isn’t that anymore.

I’m holding out hope that we see that MVP version of Yelich again at some point, but he has displayed little to convince me that it’s reemerging anytime soon. Willy Adames and Rowdy Tellez are both legitimate power threats who come in amusingly different forms. Hunter Renfroe has been scorching hot of late and has proven to be an excellent replacement for Avisail Garcia.

Those three plus Yelich are all good hitters, but they probably aren’t hitters who can carry you on a deep postseason run. World Series contenders tend to have at least one superstar bat leading the charge, if not multiple.

As Milwaukee looks to finally get over the hump and reach the Fall Classic, it seems like that caliber of hitter is the missing piece.

That begs the obvious question: Should Milwaukee make a run at Juan Soto? The simple answer is yes because honestly, if you’re a good baseball team, you should at least be having a meeting about the possibility of acquiring Soto, if not making several calls to the office of Nationals GM Mike Rizzo.

But compared to some of the other suitors, Milwaukee doesn’t appear to have anywhere near the trade chips necessary to make up a package to entice the Nationals.

They do have Jackson Chourio, a spectacular outfield prospect who is younger than Jackson Holliday and Druw Jones, the two high schoolers just selected with the first two picks in the 2022 MLB Draft. Chourio just demolished low-A, and his prospect stock of him is as ascendant as that of any player in the minors.

If you’re picking a player who could conceivably make his MLB debut as a teenager the way Soto did, Chourio — who doesn’t turn 19 until March and was recently promoted to high-A — might be your best bet.

Chourio would be an excellent headliner, but the Nationals are reportedly pursuing quality and quantity in exchange for Soto. The rest of Milwaukee’s farm system isn’t exactly teeming with Top-100 prospects, and outside of Aaron Ashby, they don’t have any young, established big-leaguers who would seem to interest Washington.

If we step back and consider a more modest target, perhaps Oakland’s Ramon Laureano could be a more reasonable option to help upgrade the Brewers’ roster down the stretch. Lorenzo Cain’s slow start and subsequent DFA have left the center-field job as something of a timeshare between Tyrone Taylor and Jonathan Davis.

Taylor is solid, but Laureano would represent a real upgrade at the one clear position that remains unsettled. Laureano certainly won’t come cheap, as he’s under team control. He’s also arguably Oakland’s best trade chip this deadline as the A’s continue tearing their roster down to the studs, and thus he will command a hefty return.

Another likely less expensive option would be Brandon Drury from the division-rival Reds.

After spending much of his career as a super-utility guy, Jace Peterson has been a pleasant surprise for the Brew Crew as the every-day third baseman. Unfortunately, he just hit the injured list due to an elbow strain that could keep him out for a while. Milwaukee has already slid Luis Urias to third base full-time, and he’s a reasonable option to remain the starter.

But if Peterson is indeed out for the long haul, Drury — in the midst of a breakout season of his own — could be an optimal replacement, providing both power and defensive versatility.

Still, Laureano or Drury probably aren’t moving the needle in the NL Central race. Soto might be out of reach, but if the Brewers are fully committed to upgrading the lineup in a substantial way, their next-best bet might be Soto’s teammate Josh Bell.

Andrew McCutchen, now 35, has held his own as the primary DH, but it’d be a stretch to call him an impact bat. Bell, meanwhile, has been enjoying a huge season in which his 144 wRC+ rank in the upper echelon of the league, and he would be an immediate jolt to this lineup at DH and/or at first base if Rowdy Tellez takes more DH reps.

A free agent this winter, Bell is just a rental and thus shouldn’t command too high a prospect cost, but the Brewers surely wouldn’t be the only ones interested. Bell’s offensive profile on him — a switch-hitter with power who does n’t strike out much — is extremely difficult to come by. He’ll be heavily coveted — and deservedly so.

On the pitching side, it’s tough to gauge the degree to which the Brewers need reinforcements. While Corbin Burnes has been his Cy Young self, injuries to Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta have limited this pitching staff to merely being Very Good, compared to the diabolical, three-headed monster it was a year ago.

Eric Lauer, Adrian Houser (who is currently injured but should be back before the end of the season) and young southpaw Aaron Ashby round out a deep rotation, so Milwaukee isn’t exactly desperate for starting pitching. This feels like a situation in which Houser’s and Peralta’s impending returns are viewed as significant enough internal additions to warrant staying out of the starting pitching market.

I think it’s more likely the Brewers target some bullpen help, as the depth behind Josh Hader and Devin Williams is more good than great. Maybe someone such as Daniel Bard from Colorado?

These deals might not drop your jaws or overheat your phones the way any potential Soto trade will, but they could still be crucial. Plus, save for the Christian Yelich blockbuster back in 2018, the Brewers have been much more keen to acquire players in supporting rather than starring roles. Just look at last July, when they swung deals for Tellez and Eduardo Escobar, both of whom were key contributors down the stretch despite not being the sexiest of acquisitions.

With the Cardinals hovering in the rearview mirror — and looking like a team that could be aggressive at the deadline — I’d be surprised if the deadline passes without any new faces heading to Milwaukee.

Jordan Shusterman is half of @CespedesBBQ and a baseball writer for FOX Sports. He lives in DC but is a huge Seattle Mariners fan and loves watching the KBO, which means he doesn’t get a lot of sleep. You can follow him on Twitter @j_shusterman_.

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