Brewers acquire Linebrink from Padres

Brewers acquire Linebrink

CINCINNATI -- They had to part with three valuable pitching prospects to do it, but the Brewers accomplished their primary trade deadline goal by acquiring reliever Scott Linebrink from the San Diego Padres on Wednesday.

The Brewers had to give up prospects Will Inman and Steve Garrison plus left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher. The most striking name included in the deal was Inman, a 20-year-old right-hander who was rated the third-best prospect in Milwaukee's organization by Baseball America. Thatcher was rated 23rd and Garrison was rated 27th.

Linebrink is 30 and a free agent after the season. But the Brewers were looking to bolster a bullpen that already is relatively solid for the team's first legitimate run at the postseason in at least a decade, and they had their eye on Linebrink for the past year, Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said.

"The month of August is always a very tough month for bullpens, and we think we got one of the better guys out there," said Melvin.

Melvin stressed that the move does not indicate displeasure with their current relief corps, particularly setup man Derrick Turnbow. Following Wednesday night's game, the Brewers have a 56-45 record and a two-game lead over the second-place Cubs in the National League Central, and they're trying to hold on for what would be their first postseason appearance since the 1982 World Series.

With that in mind, it was a milestone trade for a team that typically has made deadline deals to add prospects or, in the case of last summer's Carlos Lee trade, has parted with impending free agents to avoid getting nothing but Draft picks when they sign elsewhere after the season.

"It's the first time that we've been serious about the postseason since I've been here," said Melvin, who took the job in September 2002, when the Brewers were finishing a 106-loss season.

In 44 games this season, Linebrink is 3-3 with one save, a 3.80 ERA and a .240 opponents batting average. He was much better at pitcher-friendly PETCO Park, posting a 2.10 ERA there versus 6.05 everywhere else. His strikeout numbers are way down, from better than eight per nine innings in each year from 2004-06 to five per nine innings this season.

Over parts of eight seasons with the Astros, Giants and Padres, he has a 3.19 ERA in 357 games. Linebrink spent the past five seasons with San Diego.

"I was kind of surprised," Linebrink said in Denver, where the Padres had just finished a series against the Rockies. "I knew we were getting close to the deadline and hadn't heard anything. I knew last year my name was thrown out there all over the place, and nothing ever happened. But I've been thinking about it the last couple of days."

But there was a silver lining.

"To go to a team that's playing for something to win is an exciting opportunity," Linebrink said. "The fact that you're wanted there makes it all the better. I'm looking forward to it."

He has allowed seven runs in 2 2/3 innings over his past three outings, but prior to that had a 2.55 ERA and was holding opponents to a .228 average. The recent struggles prompted the Padres to remove Linebrink from the setup role that he had filled since the start of 2005 in favor of Heath Bell.

Brewers scout Chris Bourjos had been following Linebrink and "was not backing off" on his positive reports, Melvin said.

Linebrink has served for the past 2 1/2 seasons as the primary setup man for Padres closer Trevor Hoffman, and from 2004-06, he led the National League in holds. He fits the mold of the pitcher the Brewers were after: an experienced power arm to complement Turnbow. Padres ace Jake Peavy called the news of Linebrink's departure "devastating."

"He has a plus fastball in the 93-94-[mph] range, and he goes right at you," Melvin said. "He doesn't throw a lot of pitches. One of the things that impressed us is that he goes out there and usually has some pretty quick innings. ... He's a good power arm and he's durable. He'll fit in with our bullpen."

Linebrink was previously scheduled to spend Wednesday night in Austin, Texas, where his wife, Kelly, is due to give birth next week. The Padres begin a series against the Astros on Thursday, but instead Linebrink will travel to St. Louis on Friday to join the Brewers. The team will have to make a corresponding roster move at that time.

Linebrink and Brewers closer Francisco Cordero will both be free agents at season's end and will likely command significant multi-year contracts. Both are Type A free agents, meaning if either signs elsewhere, the Brewers would get two high Draft picks as compensation.

"That's the one thing," Melvin said. "We'll see. We're not going to get into contract negotiations with anybody this year. We'll wait until the year is over, and at that point, we will look at it.

"We probably wouldn't do this if it wasn't for the [possible] Draft choices. It would have been tough to do, to give up three guys not knowing if you would get Draft choices back."

The Padres expected Thatcher, 25, to join their bullpen on Thursday in Houston. The Brewers signed him out of an independent league in 2005, and he briefly was invited to Spring Training camp this year. Thatcher had a 2.08 ERA in 24 appearances this season for Triple-A Nashville.

The key player from San Diego's perspective could be Inman, a third-round Draft pick in 2005 who entered the year 16-2 with a 1.77 ERA in his first two Minor League seasons. Inman has split this year between Class A Brevard County and Double-A Huntsville, going 5-8 with a 2.97 ERA in 21 starts. Garrison, also 20, has spent the entire season with Brevard County and was 8-4 with a 3.44 ERA in 20 starts.

"We still have some top prospects," Melvin said, rattling off pitchers like Manny Parra, Yovani Gallardo, Luis Pena, Zach Jackson and Tim Dillard. "We have players. Will Inman is a top prospect and Garrison is a prospect. You have to give up something to get something. [Padres GM] Kevin [Towers] had a couple of clubs knocking on his door, and in the end, we stepped up and put a third pitcher [Garrison] in the deal to get the deal done."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.