Image credit: Matt Bush (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
Hours after trading away closer Josh Hader, the Brewers made a move to bolster their bullpen late Monday night. The Brewers acquired veteran reliever Matt Bush from the Rangers in exchange for prospects Antoine Kelly and Mark Mathias.
Bush, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 draft, quietly posted a 2.95 ERA in 40 appearances for the Rangers this year and is having his best season at age 36.
Antoine Kelly, LHP
Kelly is the Brewers No. 7 prospect and represented them in the Futures Game in Los Angeles just two weeks ago, a testament to his talent after he missed most of last year recovering from thoracic outlet surgery. He posted a 3.86 ERA in 19 starts for High-A Wisconsin this year with 119 strikeouts in 91 innings, but he also averaged more than five walks per nine innings. Kelly is a tall, lanky lefthander who comes around the side with a low-three quarters delivery that gives all of his stuff a difficult angle for hitters. His fastball sits in the mid 90s and touches 98 mph and his sharp slider is a devastating swing-and-miss pitch that makes lefthanded hitters look foolish. Kelly has a changeup but doesn’t throw it very often and his control is below-average, leading to projections he will eventually end up in the bullpen. Even if he doesn’t stick in the rotation long term as most expect, he has the stuff and deception to be a dominant reliever who pitches at the end of games.
Mark Mathias, 2B
A third-round pick of the Indians in 2015, Mathias briefly reached the majors for 22 games over parts of two seasons but has primarily remained in the minors. He hit .318/.421/.518 with eight home runs, 30 RBIs and eight stolen bases for Triple-A Nashville this season. Mathias has struggled with repeated shoulder injuries throughout his career that have sapped much of his offensive ability. He controls the strike zone and uses the whole field, but he primarily hits the ball on the ground. He hits fastballs and changeups well but struggles against breaking balls. Mathias can bounce between second base and third base and has played right and left field in previous years. He’s mostly organizational depth, but he could be a useful callup when the need arises.
Matt Bush, RHP
Bush’s story has been long told as a former No. 1 overall pick whose life and career were nearly derailed by alcoholism. He missed all of 2020 and most of 2021 after having Tommy John surgery and was outrighted off the Rangers’ 40-man roster after last season, but he made the Rangers Opening Day roster in camp this year and emerged as one of their best relievers. Bush’s fastball is back up to 97-99 mph this year after dipping in his initial return from injury and is an overpowering pitch that gets swings and misses in the strike zone. He complements his heater with a diving curveball that generates swings and misses as well and gets righthanded batters flailing. Bush rarely gets squared up and has held opponents to a .199 batting average this year. He will step in to pitch in late relief in the Brewers bullpen and try to help them withstand the loss of Hader.