Yesterday the Pirates DFA’d Garrett Jones and Kyle McPherson. First base is a certified national disaster so Jones does make some sense for the Brewers. He’s not very exciting and I really believe the Brewers are going to re-sign Corey Hart, or at the very least are going to try. If that’s true then Jones would make an expensive bench player. I’m not interested in Jones, but I find McPherson intriguing.
Kyle McPherson is a starting pitching prospect. Before the season began FanGraphs rated him as the Pirates 8thbest prospect. MLB.com currently lists him as their 14th best prospect, but had him at 7th before the season began. He has an above average fastball that sits at 93 mph. His curveball and change-up are both major league average and he has immaculate control as evidenced by his excellent BB% throughout the minors. Both project his ceiling as a mid-rotation starter and short of that a solid reliever. This is similar to the projection for the Brewers current top prospect Jimmy Nelson, however that’s more an indictment of the system than an endorsement of McPherson. It seems crazy that the Pirates would designate him, but his injury history is to blame. In 2012 he missed time due to a shoulder issue and unfortunately for him, early in 2013 he suffered an elbow injury leading to Tommy John surgery.
McPherson is a big risk considering his arm issues. The Brewers 40-man roster is currently at 39 so they do have a spot for him, but they may want to save that for Corey Hart or the upcoming Rule 5 draft. I wouldn’t let that stop me, however. Unless the Brewers are planning on signing a first baseman and filling out the opening day roster with what they have right now, they’re going to have to clear a couple of spots on the 40-man anyway. McPherson’s potential is as good, maybe better, than anyone they’d get from the Rule 5. I’ve previously advocated trading Nori Aoki and while I didn’t specify, I figured a prospect of McPherson’s level, albeit a healthy one, would be a likely return. Here is an opportunity to get that without giving anything up (It should be noted that the Pirates can still pull him back from waivers. They can use that leverage to orchestrate a trade with the Brewers). With the Brewers’ farm system being what it is (awful) I can’t see a reason not to claim him unless his medicals are just that bad. A healthy McPherson would rank top 10 in the Brewers’ system, maybe even top 5. Right now, despite the injury, he would still rank in the top 15.
Players can be put on the 60-Day DL starting in March and he’d be eligible to return in June, though it would likely be much later. When he does make his return the Brewers would put him in the bullpen. This allows them to monitor his elbow and limit his innings in his return to action. It’s not uncommon for teams to go through many relievers in a season and he may be a welcome addition to the bullpen. They should have several relievers with options meaning the Brewers can send them to AAA to make room without exposing them on waivers. Donovan Hand would be perfect. He’s probably going to be the low leverage/long man in the pen. That’s exactly the role you’d want McPherson in, at least at first. I think he’s a good candidate to take the Marco Estrada route to the rotation. When the Brewers first acquired him, they had him pitching out of the bullpen. Then he made a few spot starts and before you knew it he was one of their primary starters.
The Brewers would assume a lot of risk by claiming McPherson. It would also put them in an awkward situation with their 40-man roster at this point in the offseason. Tommy John surgery doesn’t carry the stigma it used to and there is no reason to believe he cannot come back from it. His potential is intriguing and I think it’s worth working around. If it pays off, the Brewers have a dirt cheap mid-rotation starter under team control until 2019. If the experiment fails, they wasted a 40-man roster spot for a season.