NL Central Notes: Brewers, Mejia, Madrigal, Pirates, Newman

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A few weeks before the lockout, the Brewers acquired right-hander J.C. Mejía from the Guardians in exchange for cash considerations or a player to be named later. The 25-year-old had a tough rookie season in Cleveland, working to an 8.25 ERA/4.75 SIERA over 52 1/3 innings. He started 11 of his 17 appearances, holding down a rotation role for around two months while Cleveland dealt with concurrent injuries to Shane BieberZach Plesac and Aaron Civale. Those lackluster results led to Mejía being designated for assignment after the season.

As part of a broader preview of the Brewers bullpen options, Will Sammon of the Athletic writes that the team would prefer to keep Mejía in a relief role moving forward. As Sammon points out, the righty did fare much better in his six relief appearances with Cleveland than he did as a starter last year. That’s an incredibly small sample on which to draw, but the Brewers’ strong rotation depth could afford them the opportunity to deploy Mejía in shorter stints. In 2021, he was rocked by left-handed batters (.328/.397/.656 in 137 plate appearances) but held his own against righties (.227/.327/.375 over 101 plate appearances). A bullpen role would give manager Craig Counsell some flexibility to shield Mejía from opposing clubs’ top lefty hitters.

More out of the division:

  • The ongoing lockout prevents players on a 40-man roster from having any sort of contact with club personnel. That’s not an ideal situation for anyone involved, but it could prove particularly challenging for players recuperating from major injuries but barred from speaking with team medical staffs. One such player, Cubs infielder Nick Madrigal, speaks with Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic about his ongoing recovery from the season-ending right hamstring tear he suffered in June. The 24-year-old says he’s progressed to sprinting of late but hasn’t been able to directly correspond with the team over the past five-plus weeks. Instead, he’s rehabbed at an independent facility (Scottsdale-based Helix Human Performance), where his trainers have been tasked with updating the Cubs on his status and relaying back recommendations from the team’s medical and conditioning departments. Injured players having to rely on independent “middlemen” to keep teams abreast of their progress is one of the quieter ways in which the lockout is impacting typical offseason business.
  • Rob Biertempfel of the Athletic opines that the Pirates are likely to make shortstop Kevin Newman available on the trade market coming out of the transactions freeze. That’s little surprise, given that the rebuilding Bucs are probably open to offers for everyone on the roster, save perhaps Bryan Reynolds or Ke’Bryan Hayes. Yet it remains to be seen if Newman would draw enough interest to make a trade worthwhile for a Pittsburgh club with very little certainty in the middle infield. The right-handed hitter is coming off a poor offensive showing, with his .226/.265/.309 mark checking in 46 percentage points below the league average by measure of wRC+. No other player who tallied 500+ plate appearances did less damage at the plate, although the mere fact that Newman commanded that level of playing time speaks to his contributions on the other side of the ball. Public metrics like Defensive Runs Saved and Statcast’s Outs Above Average were fond of his glovework, and he was a Gold Glove finalist at shortstop. Coupled with a modest $1.95MM salary, perhaps Newman could attract interest from teams like the Yankees or Twins seeking a stopgap pickup at the position, but his lack of productivity at the plate suggests he’s probably better suited for a utility role with a hopeful contender.

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