Before I say anything about the numbers, data, stats, or anything else, it has to be said that this deal was an absolute steal from the Brewers' standpoint. Even if you question the methodology or accuracy of sites like Baseball Trade Values, the Brewers got a fantastic deal, value-wise, compared to what they gave up. If you have yet to see it anywhere else...
Baseball Trade Values won't even allow that trade to go through. It's tilted at 33.2 million dollars in surplus value in favor of the Brewers. Again, I understand that sites like these are just a starting point, and scouts and general managers have many advanced ways to evaluate trades, but at first blush, this one looks like highway robbery. Trades involving prospects are always best evaluated after they hit the big leagues and their impact on the big clubs is better felt. Still, everyone feels confident from the Brewer standpoint that giving up Esteury Ruiz for a young, slugging catcher and two relievers is a good deal right now.
So what did the Brewers get, and what did they give up? Ruiz came over in the Josh Hader trade this past summer, and while he might have been looked at as the centerpiece of that particular trade, many looked at the return the Brewers got for the premier closer in the game to be light. Ruiz put up excellent numbers at Nashville after being acquired, and while he doesn't have the kind of bat that scouts expect to produce much power at the big league level, he has elite speed, stealing 85 bags over three levels in the minors last year. Another thing holding Ruiz back (at least in Milwaukee) will be the trio of talented outfielders already knocking on the door in Garrett Mitchell, Sal Frelick, and Joey Wiemer, not to mention the fast-rising and ultra-talented Jackson Chourio.
Flipping a piece of the Hader trade then for a young, cost-controlled all-star catcher had to be a no-brainer for Matt Arnold and the Brewers front office. William Contreras emerged from the long shadow of his three-time all-star brother Willson last year to put together a big campaign for the Braves. With a .278/.354/.506 slash line and a healthy 138 ops+, Contreras was a first-time all-star at age 24. Contreras mauled left-handed pitching last year with a 1.036 OPS, which is an area the Brewers struggled all season long, so having his power bat from the right side of the plate in the middle of the order will be an immediate boost for the offense. He was still capable against right-handed pitching with a .784 OPS.
|vs RHP as RHB||139||416||374||91||12||1||21||51||0||0||38||120||.243||.315||.449||.764||168||5||2||0||2||2||2||.298||89|
|vs LHP as RHB||76||155||133||41||7||1||7||18||0||0||20||42||.308||.400||.534||.934||71||3||1||0||1||0||1||.400||132|
|vs RH Starter||106||95||392||350||44||83||9||1||19||39||0||0||38||117||.237||.314||.431||.745||151||5||2||0||2||2||2||.296||84|
|vs LH Starter||47||43||179||157||26||49||10||1||9||30||2||0||20||45||.312||.391||.561||.952||88||3||1||0||1||0||1||.385||135|
Baseball-Reference rates Contreras' defense a bit higher than Fangraphs. At BR, he's listed at 0.0 dWAR for the last two years at BR. Fangraphs is a little more negative on his defense.
|Total||- - -||MLB||13.9||-3.6||-10.0||4.5||10.4||-5.5||1.8||17.3||23.9||2.5||$20.1|
With Victor Caratini most likely returning this year, it will be interesting to see how the catching duties are split and if Contreras spends any appreciable time at DH again, as he did in Atlanta in 2022. Either way, his defensive numbers aren't so bad as to viably negate his offensive value.
The Brewers control Contreras through the 2027 season, so they're looking at five years of control through Contreras' age 29 season. Having those years of control for a team like the Brewers that will have to flip assets for prospects routinely is extremely valuable, especially when they're still in a competitive window with Burnes, Woodruff, and Peralta.
Of the two relievers the Brewers acquired in the trade, Joel Payamps has seen major league experience, pitching over 50 innings each of the past two seasons. He's produced an earned run average of 3.35 over 113 major league innings, with a FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) of 4.19. Payamps is not a big strikeout pitcher, punching out 6.7 batters per nine innings over his career, and that number has been consistent. Payamps throws a mid 90's four-seamer, mixed with a heavy sinker, slider, and occasional changeup that he relies on to induce an almost two-to-one groundball to flyout ratio. (per FanGraphs)
|Total||- - -||MLB||1.32||17.5%||47.0%||35.5%||17.7%||10.5%||12.8%||25.0%||45.0%||33.4%||21.5%||20.4%||51.0%||28.6%||4.27||109||4.50|
While Payamps has relied on weak contact and groundballs to produce results, it would still be nice to see him push that K/9 rate more up around eight or nine punchouts per nine innings. Even so, if he can produce a low 3's ERA like he has the past two seasons, he can be a solid addition to the middle of the Brewers bullpen.
The last piece acquired by the Brewers in the trade, Justin Yeager, came from the Braves. Yeager is a 24-year-old reliever who reached AA Mississippi in the Braves system this season. The right-hander works in the high 90's with his four-seamer but can touch 100, and he struck out 81 batters in 52.1 innings this past season. On the flip side, he also walked 32 batters and 66 batters in just 117.2 innings worked in affiliated ball. While Yeager certainly has the physical tools to be successful, gaining control of his repertoire will decide how far up the prospect ladder Yeager can climb.
This trade (as many do) came out of left field for Brewers fans and certainly felt like a nice pre-holiday treat. It certainly shakes up the lineup and gives the team a little more (or a lot more) punch against left-handed pitching, and adds a reliable, if unspectacular, arm to the middle of the bullpen. At the same time, the Brewers were dealing from a position of depth and strength to strengthen their major league roster. Contreras should slot into the middle of the order and give the Brewers some much-needed right-hand power after the Hunter Renfroe trade.
What do you think, Brewer Fanatics? Is Matt Arnold done making trades, or is something more on the horizon? What other moves might he have to improve the team before opening day? Let us know what you think in the comments!
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