Friday, December 3, 2010

Breaking Down the Carlos Villanueva Trade

In a surprising move to say the least, the Milwaukee Brewers traded reliever Carlos Villanueva to the Toronto Blue Jays Friday. In return, the Brewers will receive a player to be named later in the deal.

Pretty safe to say this one came out of nowhere.

Just one day after essentially cutting ties with Todd Coffey, the Brewers wasted no time in dealing Villanueva. What the Brewers are set to get in return could a difficult answer.

The player to be named later tag doesn't always mean garbage is coming back. Sometimes there are matters that do not allow the player to be named during the deal. One of those matters would be the impending Rule 5 draft. So likely, the Brewers will be getting back one of Toronto's Rule 5 candidates. After quickly looking over the list, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Brewers pick up Brad Emaus.

Emaus, 24, has put up solid numbers in each of the past couple season while playing in the Blue Jays minor league system. This culminated in 2010, where between AA and AAA, Emaus posted a .290/.398/.476 in 534 plate appearances. Those are some pretty impressive walk and power numbers from a second baseman. Also, selecting Emaus makes even more sense after recently letting Joe Inglett go. Better yet, Emaus is a right-handed bat, something the Brewers desperately need of the bench.

Of course, this is all speculation, but it seems like an okay return for Villanueva. I'm disappointed to see Villanueva go, but this is a much better way than if they were to just have non-tendered him. At least the Brewers are able to possibly get a useful piece in return.

Villanueva, 27, has a lot of talent. Last season, he struck out an incredible 11.45 batters per nine innings pitched. However, his inability to keep the ball on the ground usually is not a good recipe for success in hitter friendly Miller Park. Despite the high strikeout and low walk totals, Villanueva limped his way to a 4.61 ERA. His FIP would suggest he was a bit unlucky as he came in with a 3.74.

I've always like Villanueva. I think if he is put in the right situation, he would be a very good pitcher. I don't know if the right situation is Toronto though. The Rogers Centre is a tough park for a flyball pitcher like Villanueva to succeed. I hope he can bounce back, but it's tough to imagine running through the gauntlet of AL East lineups will help matters.

Time will tell if this move pays off, but the Brewers need to start it off correctly by selected Emaus as their return. Now down two bullpen arms, I expect the Brewers to heavily explore the free agent market for a reliever. Quite possibly, they could even select one in next weeks Rule 5 draft. One thing is for sure, as of now, the talent in the Brewers bullpen has talent a step back.

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