A Recent History of the Brewers’ Last Second Acquisitions
While you’re settling into your couch or your seat at Miller Park today, the newest Brewer will be settling into a new team, city and organization. The Brewers waited until the last minute to announce their Opening Day roster on Sunday and did so by jettisoning all internal candidates for the last spot in the bullpen and going off the board, signing former Pirates reliever Jared Hughes to a major league deal.
Hughes joins a new NL Central team after spending portions of the last six seasons in Pittsburgh, where he had appeared in 206 games and posted a 2.41 ERA over the last three seasons. All told, his 313 career relief appearances were the eighth most in the 136-year history of the Pirates franchise. He posted an ERA over ten in ten Grapefruit League appearances this spring, however, and Pittsburgh saved over a million dollars on his non-guaranteed contract by letting him go.
This isn’t the first time, or even the first time in recent memory, that the Brewers have finished off their roster by adding a player from outside the organization. Some of those additions have been more successful than others:
Carlos Torres, 2016
Torres was released by the Braves on March 31, signed with the Brewers on April 2 and pitched in Milwaukee on Opening Day on April 4 a year ago. He allowed multiple runs in that game, which isn’t something he did often in his first season in Milwaukee.
Torres led the Brewers in appearances (72) in 2016, which seemed unlikely when he allowed six runs in his first eight games. He was lights out after a rough start, however, posting a 2.36 ERA in his next 64 outings, and was in the conversation to be the Brewers’ closer in 2017 before the Neftali Feliz signing. All told, David Stearns and company did pretty well getting Torres for less than a million dollars.
Yuniesky Betancourt, 2013
Sadly, not every acquisition is a good one.
The Brewers had no excuse for not knowing exactly what they were getting when they brought Yuni back into the organization for the second time on March 26, 2013. Mercifully, they waited almost a full week into the season before installing a longtime below-average middle infielder as their first baseman. The move actually worked out for a while, as he carried a .570 slugging percentage (but still a sub-.300 OBP) into the first week in May.
Unfortunately, that hot start bought Yuni much more playing time. He batted .193 with a .223 on-base percentage and .295 slugging in his last 112 appearances in Milwaukee, which non-coincidentally were also his last major league appearances.
Nyjer Morgan, 2011
The Brewers were only four days away from Opening Day and mere hours removed from Doug Melvin saying he had no interest in acquiring Nyjer Morgan when they turned around and did exactly that on March 27, 2011. The move sent Lenny Dykstra’s son Cutter to Washington in exchange for a player some idiot referred to as “an older, less talented version of Carlos Gomez.” This was before Gomez’s breakout. The comparison was not meant to be a compliment.
To be fair, most people would not have predicted that Morgan, who had developed a reputation as a malcontent in Pittsburgh and Washington, would become one of the most beloved and memorable figures on the greatest regular season Brewers team in franchise history. Winning turns eccentricities into endearing traits, so fans overlooked, and at times even embraced, Morgan’s alter ego “Tony Plush,” and it didn’t even seem that odd when he celebrated in an army helmet after his walkoff single propelled the Brewers to a playoff series victory.
Unless he shows up to the ballpark this week with a new “J-Plush” persona, it’s likely safe to assume that Hughes likely won’t have the long-term cultural impact on Milwaukee that Morgan did. If he can do anything close to what Carlos Torres did a year ago, though, then the Brewers’ latest addition could fit nicely into a long tenure in Milwaukee.