The Brewers Are Selling — Are the Astros Buying?

Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Brewers have announced to other teams they’re willing to sell. With a 5-17 record, the Brewers’ hopes for the 2015 season may already be dashed. They have the worst starting rotation ERA in the National League, have committed the second-most errors in the league, and are sporting the NL’s third-worst offense in terms of average runs scored per game.

Nightengale writes that the Brewers are making veterans Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza and Aramis Ramirez available.

That at brings us to the Houston Astros and their five man rotation or the lack thereof in the back end. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow has a history of keeping himself surrounded by those familiar with him, those from the St. Louis Cardinals organization. His staff is filled with former St. Louis employees, including Dan Radison (Special Assistant to the GM/player development) and Mike Elias (Special Assistant to the GM/Amateur Scouting), as well as Kevin Goldstein (Director of Pro Scouting) and Sig Mejal (Director of Decision Sciences).

On the field, last year Luhnow brought in former St. Louis Cardinal Rick Ankiel and gave him a shot in the outfield. This season he signed former St. Louis Cardinal oufielder Colby Rasmus.

Luhnow is familiar with Lohse. Lohse posted some very good numbers in St. Louis, good enough to earn him the nod as the Cardinals Opening Day starting pitcher in 2012, after leading the Cardinals with 14 wins and a 3.39 ERA in St. Louis in 2011.

The Brewers signed Lohse to a three-year, $33 million contract to get him to move to Milwaukee and pitch in one of the most hitter-friendly parks in Miller Park. In his first season, Lohse adapted well to his new surroundings, going 11-10 with a 3.35 ERA over 198 innings pitched.

This season, Lohse is 1-4, with a 7.28 ERA, but he did pitch somewhat effectively against the Reds on Thursday night, picking up his first win of the season, pitching seven innings and giving up four runs on seven hits and a walk. Nothing to write home about, but perhaps Lohse still has something left in the tank.

Lohse has a pitching arsenal that features a two-seam fastball he developed in St. Louis with legendary pitching coach Dave Duncan. He has a slider, a changeup and a 12-6 curveball. He can’t depend on his four-seam fastball like he did early in his career, but he has learned to pitch by refining his off-speed pitches and has become known as a good command pitcher and doesn’t give up a lot of bases on balls.

This season, the Brewers are 5-18, in dead last place, already 11.5 games back of the Cardinals, and appear to have given up on the season already and are willing to have a yard sale to dump several of their veteran players and move into a five- or six-year rebuilding stage.

The Astros could get the 36-year-old Lohse, a proven veteran, a known winner with a 2011 World Series Championship ring on his right hand, that could provide that veteran leadership in Houston, if the Astros are able to make a run at the postseason this year.

Lohse, who will be a free agent in 2016, is owed $11 million this year, seven million of it deferred from 2016-2018. There is a potential deal here for both parties. The Astros have a stockpile of young prospects on the farm who are the victims of a logjam of talent at the Major League level; those minor league players could be part of a potential deal.

Lohse is salvageable and he should fare much better moving to the American League, where most hitters will be facing him for the first time, and pitching in Minute Maid Park, the most pitcher-friendly ballpark in the Majors, compared to one of the worst parks for a pitcher in Milwaukee.

A rotation of Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Scott Feldman, Lohse & Brett Oberholtzer could be good enough for the Astros to play baseball in October.

A pennant race. Lohse has been there before, and Luhnow knows it — he was with him.

Is Lohse on Jeff Luhnow’s radar screen?

He should be.

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