Blue Jays trade Rowdy Tellez to Brewers

The Brewers have been baseball’s most active team on the trade front so far, and they’ve now struck another deal to bring depth to the field. Milwaukee is a commercial reliever Trevor Richard and minor league right-hander Francois Bowden to the Blue Jays in exchange for a first baseman Rowdy Tellezthe two teams announced on Tuesday.

Tellez, 26, brings another powerful left-handed bat to a Brewers club that recently lost first baseman Daniel Vogelbach to a hamstring injury. He’s oscillated between Triple-A and the big leagues with the Jays over the past few seasons, sometimes looking like a possible long-term answer to first baseman/designated hitter for the Jays.

However, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.The team’s move through the diamond from third base to first base reduced Tellez’s opportunities, and the team’s signing of George Springer created a four-way carousel between the outfield and DH when everyone is at full strength; Springers, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Theoscar Hernandez and Randal Grichuk are all in line for regular bats when the comp is healthy. That, coupled with Tellez only hitting .209 / .272 / .338 in 151 plate appearances earlier in the year when Springer was on the disabled list, likely prompted the Jays to leave Tellez.

Despite those struggles, Tellez is an intriguing bat to buy low on for Milwaukee. He crushed a .283 / .346 / .540 clip with eight home runs and five doubles in 127 plate appearances with the Jays in 2020 and won 21 home runs for them in 2019. Entering the season, Tellez made .250 / .309 / .488 batting line with 33 home runs, 33 doubles, a 6.9 percent walk rate and a 25.7 percent strikeout rate in 609 trips to the plate.

Tellez struggled during his first exposure to the Triple-A ball as a 22-year-old in 2017, but his production at that level has steadily increased; he’s hit .298/.400/.638 in 55 plate appearances so far in 2021 and has batted .366/.450/.688 in 26 games (109 plate appearances) in 2019 as well.

Surely the hope for the Brewers is that Tellez can provide an immediate boost to a position that has been a point of frustration so far in 2021. Keston Hiura struggled to get to first base and was picked twice for Triple-A Nashville, though to his credit, Hiura has hit pretty well since his last call-up. Vogelbach helped cement the position with a solid performance through the first few weeks of June, but the aforementioned hamstring injury came with a recovery schedule of at least six weeks.

It’s unclear exactly how the Brewers will distribute playing time – particularly once Vogelbach is healthy – but Hiura and Tellez apparently make an intriguing field. Tellez can also be freely chosen for the remainder of the current season, so he could be an up-and-down fixture in Milwaukee for now, just like he was with the Jays. Longer term, he is under the club’s control for a further three years beyond the current campaign and will be eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter.

For the Blue Jays, this is the second under-the-radar reliever they have picked up in the past week. They are not even a week away from acquiring Adam Cimber and injured outfielder Corey Dickerson (whose left-handed bat could potentially replace Tellez on the depth chart if he returns this season) in a trade that sent Joe Panic and minor league right-hander Andrew McInvale to the Marlins.

Trevor Richard

Richards, like Cimber, was not an obvious business candidate. He had just joined the Brewers in mid-May, coming from the Rays as part of the willy adames trade, and is controllable throughout the 2024 campaign. So far in 2021, the 28-year-old has had 31 2/3 innings of 3.69 ball ERA while striking out 31.7% of his opponents against a walking rate of 9.8%. He gives the Jays a pitcher with extensive experience in both the bullpen and the rotation, having started 48 games between the Marlins and Rays from 2018-19.

The 2020 season has been miserable for Richards, who limped to a 5.91 ERA for Tampa Bay while posting the worst strikeout and homer rates. It came in a sample of just 32 innings, however, and it rebounded well in the first three months of the season. Overall, Richards has a 4.34 ERA, 23.1 percent strikeout rate and 9.5 percent walk rate in 325 1/3 innings at MLB level.

Francis, 25, was Milwaukee’s seventh-round pick in 2017 and has had a solid season between Double-A and Triple-A so far. He worked exclusively as a starter, totaling 59 2/3 innings with a 3.62 ERA, 27.3% strikeout rate and 7.1% walk rate. Francis is an extreme fly ball thrower who ranked 25th among Milwaukee farmhands in FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen last week rankings. Longenhagen notes that a newly added slider has quickly become the best of Francis’ four pitches in 2021 and calls him a potential arm back from the spin with great pitching feel but mostly fringe stuff on the mound.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic first reported that Tellez was heading to the Brewers in exchange for Richards (Twitter link). Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi tweeted that Francis was also going to the Jays in the deal.

Neal T. Doss