Just a couple hours after we first learned of the Brewers interest in adding a first baseman via trade this month … they did. Blue Jays up-and-down first baseman Rowdy Tellez is heading to the Brewers in exchange for recently acquired right-handed reliever Trevor Richards.
Brewers acquiring 1B Rowdy Tellez from Blue Jays, sources tell @TheAthletic. Return believed to include RHP Trevor Richards. Unclear if other pieces are in deal. Tellez has been in Triple A since June 22. Richards came from Rays in Adames trade.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 6, 2021
First baseman and former top-100 prospect Rowdy Tellez, 26, has spent parts of four seasons in the big leagues, most notably breaking out last year for the Blue Jays over 35 games: .283/.346/.540 (133 wRC+). However, that may have featured some big time short-season magic (and some help from being a bit of an unknown), because he’s down to .209/.272/.338 (65 wRC+) in 50 big league games this season. And he’s spent plenty of time in the minors this season, including the last few weeks.
HOWEVER, he’s generally been a really solid minor league hitter for most of his career, pairing sub-20% strikeout rates with enough power and patience to be well above-average at almost every stop along his journey (he hit a little speed bump during his Triple-A debut back in 2017, but otherwise was dominant there in 2019 (186 wRC+) and this season (171 wRC+).
Obviously, the Brewers are hoping he can continue to develop into an actual offensive upgrade at first base (not just an extended Four-A player) perhaps by recapturing some of that big league success from last season (which, again, probably had a lot to do with being an unknown throughout the league and not enough time for pitchers to adjust). Now that there’s more of a book on him, it’s tough to say just how much of an immediate impact he can make.
For a little extra context on the Brewers first base situation, let’s re-visit Ken Rosenthal’s note from earlier today:
The Brewers’ internal options at the corner-infield spots are more promising than they were a month ago, but still might not be good enough. At first base, Keston Hiura has batted .244 with an .848 OPS since returning from his second minor-league demotion on June 23, and Daniel Vogelbach could return from his strained left hamstring in mid-August. At third, Luis Urías is in a 1-for-19 slump, but prior to that had batted .300 with an .865 OPS in his previous 101 plate appearances.
The seeming revivals of Hiura and Urías and potential return of Vogelbach, however, will not stop the Brewers from seeking upgrades at the deadline. Club officials also could pursue bullpen help and a backup catcher, recognizing the team is capable of making a deep run in the postseason if the front of the rotation and back of the bullpen stay healthy.
Tellez can be something of a short-term replacement for Vogelbach, until he returns.
So the Brewers made a trade, sending reliever Trevor Richards, whom they just acquired alongside Willy Adames from the Rays at the end of May, to the Blue Jays, who had no spot for Tellez with Vladimir Guerro Jr. at first. Funny enough, it was probably a bit of a “buy” trade for Blue Jays, as well, who are four games over .500 and just 4.0 games out of a playoff spot.
First baseman Rowdy Tellez is headed to the Brewers, as @Ken_Rosenthal said. Didn’t have a spot in Toronto. Jays need relief, and right-hander Trevor Richards, sources said, is going to Toronto. He’s now been dealt twice in the last six weeks.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 6, 2021
Here are the percentile rankings of RHP Trevor Richards, the relief pitcher the #BlueJays received in return for Rowdy Tellez.
Fastball/changeup are his dominant pitches, with a .289 wOBA, 30.9% whiff rate, 3.69 ERA, and 1.14 WHIP.
Solid move. pic.twitter.com/K3EKDbIhSs
— Lukas Weese (@Weesesports) July 6, 2021
I hate to say it, but the Brewers are pretty good at uncovering and acquiring this sort of player, turning him into something more than he seems on paper at the time of the deal. At the same time, unfortunately, Tellez is not quite a big enough name to really help the infield trade market (by reducing the supply), from which the Cubs will likely try to deal this month.