Despite the success of the bullpen, the Brewers are rumored to be on the lookout for a late inning reliever.
After a couple of bullpen meltdowns in the past weeks and "eighth inning guy" Will Smith morphing back into a mortal, the roars for that last back-end bullpen arm have become stronger. General Manager Doug Melvin has never been afraid to swing a deal for a late inning arm in the midst of a pennant race. The successful example being trading for Francisco Rodriguez during the All-Star break in 2011 and the unsuccessful version being the trade for Scott Linebrink in 2007.
The main difference between these two trades was what was given up. In KRod's case the Brewers did not give up much of anything because they were willing to eat a large portion of his contract. With Thatcher the team gave up three minor league arms (Will Inman, Joe Thatcher and Steve Garrison) for just 25.1 innings of Linebrink.
Melvin learned a lot from this deal and has expressed that in quotes this season when asked about potentially acquiring an arm. From an interview with MLB.com's Adam McCalvy, "Look at the Trade Deadline, and it's no different than the offseason. There's a lot of acquisitions you can make in the offseason, and all it does is make you look better on paper. It doesn't make you necessarily a better ballclub. You still have to play well as a team. That's the way I look at the Trade Deadline. You can go out and acquire a relief pitcher, and he may pitch eight innings for the month."
Melvin's words have rung even more true when looking at the trades for relief pitchers that have been made already. In order to get closer Huston Street, the Angels had to part with their top hitting and pitching prospects as well as some other pieces. Today's trade of Joakim Soria to the Tigers netted the Rangers a very solid starting pitching prospect as well as a future bullpen arm. The Royals may have gotten the best deal so far acquiring Jason Frasor for a 26-year-old minor league reliever who is pounding on the door of the majors in Spencer Patton. But as a whole the price of relievers this July is too high for too little reward.
The Brewers also have the added benefit of having minor league depth for their bullpen. Jeremy Jeffress made is first appearance of the season for the Brewers on Wednesday afternoon and looked electric sitting at 97-98 MPH and running a pitch up to 100 in a 1-2-3 ninth inning. Jim Henderson is nearing an end to his rehab stint and according to reports is getting his velocity back to the mid-90's for the first time this season. Adding a couple of internal, hard throwing options could be just what the Brewers need in the stretch run of the 2014 season and could save them from losing pieces for the future.
Unless the price of relievers drastically falls by July 31 or unless Melvin is able to find a bargain on the waiver wires in August, I expect the Brewers to stay put with what they have in the bullpen instead focusing their energy on upgrading the bench, specifically finding a backup outfielder that can play centerfield.