During Sunday’s start against the Diamondbacks, Brandon Woodruff exited the game with an oblique strain. He’s already been added to the 10-day IL, but it’s possible that he’ll miss a few weeks and perhaps more. Cole Hamels suffered a similar injury at the end of June, and he has yet to return and might not before the end of July.
Losing Woodruff for a month could be devastating for the Brewers. Woodruff stepped up to be the Brewers’ ace this season. His 3.75 ERA undersells how dominant he’s been. In 117 2/3 innings, Woodruff has struck out 136 batters while only walking 29. Woodruff’s 2.79 DRA ranks eighth in the National League. Losing a pitcher like that would hurt for any team, but for the Brewers, it could be a death sentence.
Milwaukee’s starting pitching has been questionable to say the least. Jhoulys Chacín took a step back after two emergent, slider-heavy seasons. Freddy Peralta hasn’t been effective or healthy. Zach Davies is skating by with an ERA a run and a half under his FIP. Gio González has been effective, but he’s missed time with dead arm.
Despite this glaring weakness, Milwaukee finds themselves a half-game up in the second Wild Card spot, and just two games back of the Chicago Cubs. Without their ace, Milwaukee’s tenuous grasp on a playoff spot could slip. They’re already on borrowed time as they’ve failed to outscore their opponents this year. Even with Woodruff, it was going to be tough to chase down the Cubs or to hold off the Cardinals, Phillies, Diamondbacks, and Giants(!).
Going into the trade deadline, Milwaukee already figured to be in the market for a starting pitcher. Woodruff’s injury only increases that need. The Brewers have already depleted their major-league ready arms, and if they’re looking for a dependable replacement, he will have to come from another team.
The Brewers probably will (and should) add another starter before the deadline, but I don’t know if this drives up what they’re willing to spend. If the Brewers fall into a bidding war for, let’s say, Zack Wheeler, I don’t know that the loss of Woodruff will compel them to increase their offer beyond what they were willing to part with previously. I get the sense that teams have an idea of what a player is worth, and they won’t move from that price regardless of the context. I’d expect the Brewers to stand pat before I expected them to pay through the nose on a rental.
In other words, this won’t be what forces David Stearns to make an offer for Madison Bumgarner that Farhan Zaidi can’t refuse.
Losing Woodruff was the worst possible outcome for the Brewers, and this could be what ultimately keeps them from October.