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  • Is Eric Lauer the Starting Pitcher Most Likely Traded by the Brewers?


    Tim Muma

    In an offseason that seems to contain so much uncertainty, perhaps it's one of the "other" Milwaukee Brewers starting pitchers who get traded. While the focus has been on Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and even Adrian Houser, left-hander Eric Lauer might be the best option to swing a deal.

    Image courtesy of © Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

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    Undoubtedly, Eric Lauer has provided terrific value for the Milwaukee Brewers over the past two seasons. Early in 2022, Lauer performed like a co-ace with lights-out stuff. Through his first seven starts, Lauer posted a 2.16 ERA with 54 strikeouts and only eight walks (6.75 K/BB). He would finish the season with a 3.69 ERA across 158.2 innings, second most on the Brewers behind Corbin Burnes. That's not the production from a pitcher you cast aside for the heck of it, especially with two seasons of control remaining.

    On the flip side, one could point to several areas of concern that would lead the Brewers to try to sell high. Teams are always looking to add solid starting pitchers to their rosters, and a few clubs clearly need to upgrade their rotations. Lauer projects to make around $5.2 million in arbitration in 2023, which would also be appealing to front offices in search of an arm. So while Lauer isn't going to tilt the field as much as Burnes or Woodruff, he could offer more to a team than many of the free-agent options and at a much better cost - beyond the personnel they would have to give up.

    Looking at his Statcast rankings from 2022, they don't jump out at you. A lot of average rankings could mean trouble in the near future, and stats further indicate negative regression is coming.

    Lauer Statcast.JPG

     

    Aside from the many low percentiles, there are other reasons GM Matt Arnold could see now as the best time to move Lauer:

    Home Runs Allowed
    Lauer missed being a "qualified starter" by less than four innings, but it's close enough to see he would have tied for the second-worst home runs per nine innings (HR/9) rate in baseball. His 1.5 HR/9 in 2022 jumped from 1.3 HR/9 in 2021, as he permitted 27 long balls in 29 starts. If he increased his strikeout rate, you would feel slightly better about the gopher balls; however, with the pitch clock coming in 2023, many believe strikeouts will go down.

    Too Many Free Passes
    Among qualified pitchers in 2022, Lauer would have finished with the third-worst walks per nine innings rate (BB/9) at 3.3. This also declined from the previous season when he had a career-best 3.1 BB/9. That is quite telling on its own. The combo of a higher homer rate and walk rate is a recipe for disaster, though Lauer has managed to succeed despite this the last two seasons.

    Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP)
    FIP was created to assess better what a pitcher controls and how that would look as a separate "ERA." Because of his walks and home runs allowed, Lauer owned a 4.50 FIP in 2022. Comparing that to his 3.69 ERA, some argue he was fortunate, considering his FIP was almost a full point higher. He had a similar difference in 2021 (3.19 ERA vs. 4.04 FIP), which could mean one of two things. He either outperforms his FIP as a part of his skill set, or he is playing with fire and could soon blow up carrying the much higher FIP.

    Clubhouse Presence
    Look, I'm not in the clubhouse, and I am not pretending to know how Lauer's multiple strong statements came across to his teammates (or the front office). However, we all should acknowledge that some of his comments might have rubbed players and staff the wrong way when talking about the front office "sending the wrong message" with the Josh Hader trade and how they weren't trying to put the team in the best position to win in 2022. Even if what he says is true, most prefer keeping those conversations in-house, not blasted to the public. If he has burned some bridges or fractured the group somehow, Milwaukee could see it as addition by subtraction.

     

     

    Additional Rotation Options
    If you're trading Lauer, you're likely keeping Burnes and Woodruff. Past those two, Milwaukee would still have Freddy Peralta, Aaron Ashby, and Houser to go with potential call-ups from the minors, such as Ethan Small and Robert Gasser (acquired in the Josh Hader trade). There are also many free-agent options that would be valuable mid-level starters the Brewers could afford to snatch for a couple of seasons. With one free agent arm, Milwaukee would essentially have eight arms for the rotation, not counting smaller moves the club is likely to make.

    Those are a few reasons the Brewers would entertain trading Lauer this off-season. And despite those potential negatives, he should have enough value to another club to offer a fairly significant return - at least more than Houser. Teams like the Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles, Minnesota Twins, and Texas Rangers are searching hard for starting pitcher options. Even clubs like the New York Mets (free agent losses) and Los Angeles Dodgers (injuries and prospects) could be in the market.

    Could the Brewers offer Lauer and a prospect to the Blue Jays for one of their three catchers like Danny Jansen or Alejandro Kirk? Would the Orioles or Rangers be willing to part with one or two solid prospects from their terrific farm systems ranked first and sixth, respectively? Options abound across multiple teams, and the Brewers should be open to any creative paths to success in 2023 and beyond.

     

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    Lauer is tricky to assess for sure.

    Over the last two seasons he has 265 IP (68th) with an impressive 84 ERA-. Gerrit Cole & Luis Castillo clock in with 83 ERA- over the same stretch, Chris Bassitt is at 85.

    Issue for Lauer is his FIP- is a mediocre 104. The guys above clock in at 78, 80 and 88 FIP-, which is why most people would consider them on a different level than Lauer despite similar run prevention.

    Add it all up & out of 135 SP with at least 150 IP since 2021, Lauer comes in at 5.4 rWAR (52nd) but only 2.8 fWAR (89th).

    Lauer’s 0.89 gap between his ERA (3.43) and FIP (4.26) since 2021 is the 7th largest positive differential over that stretch.

    Find a team that thinks that is representative of some sort of skill Lauer possesses (some guys do consistently outperform their FIP over larger samples) and he could fetch a nice return.

    I’m skeptical myself. I’d rather Arnie give Braun’s old Deputy GM badge to Lauer and ask him for input on how to extract the team from the chaos cycle they’re currently mired in.

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    Lauer is a quality #3 starter, and he's our #4. I believe he's a significant part of us having a superior rotation.

    Like any player, if you get offered more than you think he's worth, you make the trade. I wouldn't be making any offers.

     

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    1 hour ago, Axman59 said:

    I'm sure the front office would like to get him out of town. They surely don't appreciate the verbal attacks.

    If they trade him to like WAS, OAK, PIT, CIN, KCR, DET, TEX, COL or MIA it’s definitely personal.

    If Arnie has a real sick sense of humor he’ll trade him to LAA and be like “if you think this was some kind of chaos cycle have fun playing with Trout/Ohtani and only winning 75 games with a $190M payroll.”

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    11 hours ago, Axman59 said:

    I'm sure the front office would like to get him out of town. They surely don't appreciate the verbal attacks.

    He simply said the quiet part out loud. What did he say that wasn't 100% true? Like I said earlier, god forbid a player show so interest in winning and building a World Series-contending ballclub, rather than just worry about collecting a paycheck. I personally wish more players would speak up in this manner.

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    3 hours ago, Ron Robinsons Beard said:

    What did he say that wasn't 100% true?

    "We're kind of sitting in a chaos cycle of where we're doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, and it's not something we can keep doing."

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    I think it kind of depends on the true finances of the team for the next couple years. If Mark A. keeps it at $130+ I would say he is the most likely to go. If the ownership has to bring salary down I would think Burnes is the most likely to go this offseason. 

    On the stat front, Lauer's end ERA could have been better but a start against the Rockies late in the year really hurt him (7 earned in 2 2/3). I don't know where to find it but the number of swing and misses he had on middle middle fastballs was amazing. I would definitely look to trade him while his value is high and his 2 years of control mean more. We should be able to get a near top 100 prospect for him and something else like a quality reliever or possibly a solid position player with a similar 2 years left.

    Lauer for Jansen would work well

    Lauer for Yandy Diaz

    Lauer for Alex Kiriloff

    Lauer for Jose LeClerc and a solid prospect

    Lauer for Scott Barlow

    Lauer for Mark Vientos

    Lauer to SF for Casey Schmidt (3B SF) and a prospect

    probably a bunch more good ideas

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    On 11/19/2022 at 2:51 AM, Robocaller said:

    Lauer is a quality #3 starter, and he's our #4. I believe he's a significant part of us having a superior rotation.

    Like any player, if you get offered more than you think he's worth, you make the trade. I wouldn't be making any offers.

     

    Agreed...though I sure as hell wouldn't give a 2nd thought about dealing him for Kirk. I'd throw in Mitchell and Wong. Fill two more needs for the Jays, left handed bat and another good defensive OFer and a 2B.

    Right now, they've got 9 RHed hitters in their lineup. 

    Moreno is ready to play right now. So they've got 3 catchers. I don't think any are getting dealt for that particular package save for maybe Jansen. 

    Could solve the catching problem and our issues vs lefties. And, again, assuming it's Jansen as the other two seem just that much more valuable with their service time...even if Kirk is less than ideal as an everyday catch, it'd be a good bridge to Quero. Quero should start in HiA I'd guess...given the limited # of at bats. Gives him 2 years to be our primary catcher. 

    It's a stretch, but if we're going to deal Lauer, it should be part of a package for a significant upgrade.

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    6 hours ago, Ron Robinsons Beard said:

    He simply said the quiet part out loud. What did he say that wasn't 100% true? Like I said earlier, god forbid a player show so interest in winning and building a World Series-contending ballclub, rather than just worry about collecting a paycheck. I personally wish more players would speak up in this manner.

    I don't disagree with what Lauer said. But I've worked with many executives in my time and many do not take kindly to criticism and will orchestrate the complainers departure.

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    1 hour ago, UpandIn said:

    Agreed...though I sure as hell wouldn't give a 2nd thought about dealing him for Kirk. I'd throw in Mitchell and Wong. Fill two more needs for the Jays, left handed bat and another good defensive OFer and a 2B.

    Right now, they've got 9 RHed hitters in their lineup. 

    Moreno is ready to play right now. So they've got 3 catchers. I don't think any are getting dealt for that particular package save for maybe Jansen. 

    Could solve the catching problem and our issues vs lefties. And, again, assuming it's Jansen as the other two seem just that much more valuable with their service time...even if Kirk is less than ideal as an everyday catch, it'd be a good bridge to Quero. Quero should start in HiA I'd guess...given the limited # of at bats. Gives him 2 years to be our primary catcher. 

    It's a stretch, but if we're going to deal Lauer, it should be part of a package for a significant upgrade.

    Mitchell is NOT a throw in player.

    Lauer and Wong for Kirk, maybe, but no way I'd just THRIOW in a guy like Mitchell.

    That is crazy talk.

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    57 minutes ago, Hopper said:

    Mitchell is NOT a throw in player.

    Lauer and Wong for Kirk, maybe, but no way I'd just THRIOW in a guy like Mitchell.

    That is crazy talk.

    Kirk is literally an all-star with four years of control remaining…It’s crazy to think we could get a guy like him without including a player the caliber of Mitchell

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    12 hours ago, Brewcrew82 said:

    Kirk is literally an all-star with four years of control remaining…It’s crazy to think we could get a guy like him without including a player the caliber of Mitchell

    Mitchell, Lauer, and Wong is possibly a little bit light. Young all-star catchers are hard to come by and I would guess that the Jays would get a couple top 100 prospects up.

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    14 hours ago, Hopper said:

    Mitchell is NOT a throw in player.

    Lauer and Wong for Kirk, maybe, but no way I'd just THRIOW in a guy like Mitchell.

    That is crazy talk.

    I didn't say he was a "throw in" type player, I said I'd throw him into that deal as A-He fits what Toronto needs(they went out and got JBJ to get a left handed hitting CFer last year) and Lauer for Kirk is SOOO far away from being worth it for Toronto, it's not even funny.  

    I don't think it'll matter though as I don't think the Blue Jays would seriously entertain Lauer, Mitchell and Wong for Kirk. They'd almost certainly want Frelick and even at that point, I don't know if they make that deal for Kirk and they definitely don't for Moreno. 

     

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    52 minutes ago, jay87shot said:

    Mitchell, Lauer, and Wong is possibly a little bit light. Young all-star catchers are hard to come by and I would guess that the Jays would get a couple top 100 prospects up.

    Right...and again, to be clear, I wasn't actually suggesting I thought that deal would get it done. I guess it's possible as every team has their own scouting reports, but I'd think they could get better value and players who offer more immediate returns and certainty at the big league level as they look like they're a legitimate contender as of now. 

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