The Milwaukee Brewers, who entered Thursday's day off a half-game behind the Colorado Rockies for the National League's final playoff spot, have had one of the majors' least-productive lineups this season. According to FanGraphs' catch-all metric wRC+, the Brewers ranked 27th in the majors, ahead of only the Arizona Diamondbacks, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Texas Rangers -- three clubs who were each four-plus games out of the race.
The Brewers made a move on Thursday with an eye on shaking up their lineup. Milwaukee acquired first baseman Daniel Vogelbach and designated Justin Smoak (who had started at the cold corner in 27 of the club's 36 games) for assignment, per The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal.
Vogelbach is now on his third team in two weeks, having been sent from the Seattle Mariners to the Toronto Blue Jays on Aug. 24. In 69 trips to the plate this year, he's batted .088/.246/.211 (31 OPS+). For his career, including his All-Star campaign in 2019, he's hit .195/.325/.395 (97 OPS+). Vogelbach has always been more effective against right-handed pitching, suggesting the Brewers would be wise to pair him with Jedd Gyorko once he returns from the bereavement list.
Smoak hit .186/.262/.381 (70 OPS+) in 126 plate appearances. The Brewers signed him to a low-cost deal (with a club option) over the winter based on the belief that he could bounce back from a down season. It was a logical play. Smoak had continued to exhibit a disciplined approach, and had hit the ball harder on average than he had in seasons. Alas, Milwaukee's bet didn't pay off. Smoak still hit the ball hard (he ranked in the 63rd percentile in exit velocity, according to Statcast), but he struck out and popped up more often, making him ineffectual.
Smoak isn't the Brewers' only offseason addition to disappoint, or to be shown the door. Milwaukee had previously discarded utility player Brock Holt after 36 plate appearances (-9 OPS+) and first baseman Logan Morrison after 28 (31 OPS+). Take a look at how Milwaukee's other positional player free-agent signings and trade acquisitions have fared so far:
- OF Avisail Garcia (two years, $20 million): 80 OPS+
- INF Eric Sogard (one year, $4.5 million): 41 OPS+
- C Omar Narvaez (trade): 57 OPS+
- SS Luis Urias (trade): 81 OPS+
- INF Jedd Gyorko (one year, $2 million) 149 OPS+
Not great, huh? It's been a rough, abnormal year in many respects, but it's hard to imagine the Brewers' offseason looking worse than that halfway through the season.
David Stearns' willingness to make changes is understandable. Whether those changes are enough to get the Brewers into the postseason, and whether they stop with the Vogelbach-Smoak swap on Thursday, is to be seen. This is, however, a rare instance where it seems as though things can't actually get worse than they have been.