By: Will Burchfield
For the Brewers, a once comfortable lead in the N.L. Central has become perilous.
Their bullpen is to blame.
No surprise, they’ve called the Tigers about Justin Wilson. And talks have reportedly been aggressive.
Wilson is arguably the most valuable reliever on the trade market. He’s enjoying a career year and he’s under team control through next season.
On Thursday, Tigers general manager Al Avila said he expects a great return for the southpaw — or he won’t trade him.
The Brewers have four prospects in Baseball America’s midseason top 100: outfielder Lewis Brinson (No. 16) and pitchers Brandon Woodruff (No. 43), Josh Hader (No. 61) and Luis Ortiz (No. 67).
Expect the Tigers, who lack positional depth in their farm system, to make a strong play for Brinson. The 23-year-old center fielder is hitting .346 with a .989 OPS in Triple-A this season.
He is seen as a future franchise cornerstone.
The Brewers are obviously loath to part ways with Brinson, but their struggles of late may force them into a desperation move. Their 5.5 game lead over the Cubs at the All-Star break has been reduced to one after five straight losses.
Four of those losses were incurred by the bullpen. Even All-Star closer Corey Knebel has been shaky of late, blowing two saves in his past five appearances and pitching to a 2.14 WHIP.
As a unit, the Brewers’ bullpen has a 4.03 ERA, a 1.41 WHIP and 15 blown saves, tied for the third most in baseball.
Wilson, 29, has a 2.75 ERA, a 0.94 WHIP and 12.5 K/9 over 38 appearances this year. He’s owed just $2.7 million, or about $950,000 over the final two months of the season.