Background: Nick Bucci is a 21 year-old right-handed starting pitcher who pitched 150 innings of 3.84 ERA ball at High-A this year. Despite moving from A ball to High-A in 2011, he managed to lower his walk and homerun rates while keeping his strikeout rate pretty much constant. John Sickels graded Bucci as a C+.
Reasons for obtaining him: Though he projects as a #5 starter or middle reliever, Bucci has the potential to be a solid #3 starter. He is still fairly young, so there is no reason to rush him.
Reasons he is obtainable: Bucci was an 18th round pick in the 2008 draft, so he doesn’t come with a high pedigree. While he has posted good strikeout, walk and homerun rates, Bucci’s upside is limited because he doesn’t have any one dominant trait. He also hasn’t pitched in the past High-A yet.
Notes: From a statistical standpoint, Bucci reminds me of Bobby Bundy: both players just posted sub-4 FIPs at High-A in their age-21 seasons; both are 6’2" right-handers; and both were drafted after the 5th round in 2008. I have no idea how the players compare on a scouting/stuff basis, and Bundy is more highly-regarded, but I like the idea of developing Bundy and Bucci on the same timetable.
Background: Fiers is a 26 year-old right-handed starting pitcher. He started 2011 in Double-A, pitching 61.1 innings of 2.64 ERA in mostly relief appearances (8 GS, 22 G). He was bumped up to Triple-A for 64.2 innings (10 starts in 12 games) of 1.11 ERA before getting a 2-inning cup of coffee in the majors. Sickels rated Fiers as a borderline B-/C+.
Reasons for obtaining him: Sickels says that Fiers "could be like Josh Collmenter." That probably represents Fiers’ ceiling: a league-average, cost-controlled starter. If he cannon stick as a starter, Fiers could still become a high-strikeout set-up man.
Reasons he is obtainable: Fiers will be pitching as a 27 year-old in 2012. It’s very possible that he has already hit his peak. He is expendable because the Brewers’ quartet of Peralta, Thornburg, Jungmann and Bradley could all be ready for the majors between 2013 and 2014. Furthermore, Fiers was never well-known prospect until his 2011 season.
Notes: The Brewers might see Fiers as an older prospect with a low ceiling. If that’s the case, the Orioles should have no problem acquiring him. On the other hand, if the Brewers view Fiers as a rotation candidate in 2012, they might not give him up so easily. He is already on their 40-man roster, after all.
The Brewers seem to be gearing up for another run at the NL Central division title in 2012. They signed Aramis Ramirez to a 3 year deal, they signed Alex Gonzalez to 1 year deal, and they traded Casey McGehee for Jose Veras to solidify their bullpen. These moves all improve the team without mortgaging their future. The Brewers could make a few more low-risk moves to improve their chances at returning to the playoffs.
The Brewers rotation was very lucky in 2011 - their only significant injury was Zach Greinke’s fractured rib, and that only kept him out for 5 starts. Only six pitchers made starts for the Brewers in 2011, compared to 12 pitchers for the Orioles. The Brewers can’t expect to be so lucky again. Guthrie makes sense for the Brewers because he represents an upgrade over their current back-of-the-rotation options and he allows the Brewers to break camp with 6 pitchers who have considerable starting experience in the majors. In the event that one of the Brewers’ top five starters is injured, Chris Narveson will be able to step in and give them above-replacement starts.
Since the Brewers opted to pass on the Prince Fielder Sweepstakes and sign Ramirez to a three year deal, they are committed to giving playing time at first base to lefty Mat Gamel. While Gamel has shown that he can hit well (122 wRC+ at Triple-A in 2011), his skills have failed to materialize in 85 games (82 wRC+ in 194 PAs) at the major league level.
Mark Reynolds will give the Brewers depth at the corners and a good platoon bat for Gamel at first. Reynolds’ large career splits (.377 wOBA vs LHP, .341 vs RHP & .882 OPS vs LHP, .791 vs RHP) show that he could be an excellent platoon bat. He could also start regularly if Gamel falters or one of the other starters is injured.
In Guthrie and Reynolds, the Brewers get the depth that they will need to make another run at the playoffs. In return, the Orioles get two undervalued prospects with the potential to become solid, cost-controlled starting pitchers. I think that this is a sold trade for both sides, but it could be inhibited by the sheer lack of depth in the Brewers' farm system due to trades and graduations. My only other thought on trade is that the O’s would probably have to send some money along with Guthrie and Reynolds, as the pair will earn roughly $16M in 2012.