After leading the National League Central for much of the season, the Brewers have given way to the Cubs as their pitching has faltered since the all-star break. But general manager Doug Melvin hasn’t given up yet, and on Tuesday the Brewers acquired 33-year-old lefthander Ray King from the Nationals in an effort to fortify their bullpen. On Sept. 14, the Nationals acquired low Class A West Virginia’s Andrew Lefave to complete the deal.
The Big Leaguers
King spent his first three full major league seasons in Milwaukee. Originally a Reds draftee (1995, eighth round), King has proven to be a durable lefty reliever since making his big league debut with the Cubs in 1999. He’s primarily a lefty specialist, having more appearances than innings pitched in every full season of his career. While he has a 3.39 ERA over nearly 400 career innings, that’s chiefly a result of his low home run totals. He has given up only 32 homers over the course of his career. King’s 2007 season has been one of his worst, with a 4.54 ERA for the Nationals in 55 games (33 2/3 innings) and an 18-18 K-BB ratio. He’s on a one-year, $850,000 contract.
Lefave, 23, signed as a nondrafted free agent in 2006 out of Missouri Valley College, so getting a big league pitcher for a nondrafted free agent looks pretty good for the Brewers. That said, Lefave has hit as a pro, leading West Virginia to the South Atlantic League playoffs while winning the batting title. He hit .345/.432/.525 using an advanced approach. His bat stays in the strike zone a long time and he uses all fields, and he showed some ability to play left field, though he’s better suited for first.
The Brewers, like every other team this year, has found starting pitching hard if not impossible to come by on the trade market, so improving its pitching staff via the bullpen was its only alternative. It’s doubtful that King will make much of a difference, but he gives manager Ned Yost one more bullpen option and sends a signal in the clubhouse that the Brewers haven’t given up. Lefave has a chance to be one of the better hitters in a Nationals organization that can use the help.