|The Brewers had talked up lefty Chuck Lofgren’s situational relief possibilities since making him a big league Rule 5 pick last December. But could the 24-year-old stick with Milwaukee all season, as stipulated by the Rule 5 rules of engagement, or would he struggle in his first taste of the big leagues and need to be offered back to the Indians?
A spring training trade rendered the point moot, while clearing significant breathing room for the Brewers. For the full rights to Lofgren, including his three remaining minor league options, they traded 24-year-old righthander Omar Aguilar to the Indians as compensation.
Though not all that common, teams occasionally swing trades to retain their Rule 5 picks. Last spring, the Twins dealt righty Charles Nolte to retain Yankees righthander Jason Jones, and the Diamondbacks parted with righthander Brooks Brown for the privilege of keeping Tigers catcher James Skelton in the fold. In June 2007, the Nationals just had to have Twins righty Levale Speigner, so they sent outfielder Darnell McDonald to Minnesota.
If they could not clear room on their active roster for Lofgren, then the Brewers would have had to place him on waivers and, if he cleared, offer him back to the Indians for half the $50,000 draft fee.
|Chuck Lofgren, lhp
Born: Jan. 29, 1986 in Redwood City, Calif.
Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 190. Bats: L. Throws: L.
School: Junipero Serra HS, San Mateo, Calif.
Career Transactions: Selected by Indians in fourth round of 2004 draft; signed July 7, 2004 … Selected by Brewers from Indians in Rule 5 major league draft, Dec. 10, 2009.
Lofgren reigned in his wandering walk rate last season and authored his best work since 2006, when he went 17-5, 2.32 with 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings for high Class A Kinston. In the recent past, Lofgren had been tougher on righthanded batters, but he changed course last season and utterly handcuffed lefthanders. Lofgren struck out nearly 20 percent of the 117 same-siders he faced, while keeping them in check at .179/.256/.236. Because he was throwing more strikes, his consistent low-90s heat helped him set up a slow mid-70s curve and a solid slider. And like most good left-on-left relievers, Lofgren’s deceptive delivery provides ample camouflage.
|Omar Aguilar, rhp
Born: March 31, 1985 in Merced, Calif.
Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 220. Bats: R. Throws: R.
School: Merced (Calif.) JC.
Career Transactions: Selected by Brewers in 30th round of 2005 draft; signed June 25, 2005.
Aguilar had Tommy John surgery soon after signing, so his pro career did not begin in earnest until 2007. He made up for lost time by making it to Double-A as a closer a year later, in 2008, and then topped it off by being added to the 40-man roster that November. Aguilar then proceeded to walk 6.3 batters per nine innings in a repeat engagement with Huntsville, before tumbling to high Class A and then off the 40-man altogether last winter. One factor: His time in the Arizona Fall League included 11 strikeouts, 10 walks and 16 hits in 12 2/3 innings. Aguilar’s arm strength, including mid-90s heat and a mid-80s slider, is evident by his rate of 11.4 strikeouts per nine last season, but he’ll need to conquer the strike zone in Double-A (5.7 walks per nine over 51 appearances) before he realizes any sort of big league bullpen potential.