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Relief pitcher Tyler Webb made his major-league debut for the Yankees last month.

Brewers trade 1B Garrett Cooper to Yankees for lefty reliever Tyler Webb

After the Chicago Cubs made big waves in the baseball world by trading a package of top prospects to the crosstown-rival White Sox for starting pitcher Jose Quintana, many Milwaukee fans wondered – and some worried – whether the first-place Brewers would make a counter move to try and stay ahead of the defending World Series champions in the NL Central.

A few hours later, the Brewers did indeed make a move, though it wasn't exactly an equivalent-level deal – and that's presumably just fine for general manager David Stearns, who, while surely happy the club is having so much unexpected success this season, remains reluctant to sacrifice talent from the Brewers' formidable farm system as he builds for the future.

Milwaukee acquired left-handed reliever Tyler Webb from the New York Yankees on Thursday in exchange for minor-league first baseman Garrett Cooper. It's not a major deal, but is one that adds pitching depth to the organization and, potentially, a valuable lefty specialist to the big-league bullpen.

The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Webb made 21 appearances this year for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he went 3-1 with a 3.24 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP, logging 47 strikeouts and just three walks in 33.1 innings. Making his major-league debut three weeks ago, he pitched six less-impressive innings for the Yankees, going 0-0 with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP, striking out five and walking four. The Brewers contributed to that damage, scoring two of the six runs he allowed and coming back against him to tie and eventually beat New York last Friday.

Originally drafted by New York in the 10th round in 2013 out of South Carolina, Webb – who will turn 27 years old next week – was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Rule 5 draft last season but returned to the Yankees after this past spring training. He has a low-90s fastball, but also possesses a plus slider, an effective changeup and, as his minor-league walk rate indicates (2.43 walks per nine innings), he locates the ball well.

In 2016, Webb led Scranton-Wilkes Barre in appearances, with 31, going 4-2 with a 2.65 ERA and limiting left-handed hitters to a .215 average. In his five-year career, Webb has pitched in 150 minor-league games, with a 15-14 record, a 3.81 ERA and a 4.66 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Stearns has expressed often his desire to acquire young, controllable talent, and Webb has accrued just two weeks of major-league service time.

The Brewers initially announced on Thursday that Webb had been assigned to Triple-A Colorado Springs, but later said his assignment hadn't yet been determined. As a lefty reliever with good control, it's likely he'll be in the majors at some point this season.

As for what Milwaukee gave up, Cooper was having a monster year for the Sky Sox, leading the Pacific Coast League in batting average and ranking second in RBI. Recently named a Triple-A All-Star, he put up an eye-popping .366/.428/.652 slash line with 17 home runs and 82 RBI in the thin air at Colorado Springs. A career .305 hitter who never previously had more than nine homers and 69 RBI in a season, Cooper has yet to get a major-league plate appearance.

Going to New York is a great opportunity for the 26-year-old, as the Yankees are badly in need of a first baseman while they wait for Greg Bird to return from the disabled list. The Brewers apparently viewed Cooper's path to the big leagues blocked by slugging first basemen Eric Thames and Jesus Aguilar – though the former is 30 and the latter 27 and both are having unanticipated career seasons.

Thursday's trade may not be one that ultimately has much of an impact for either team. But even if Stearns' club doesn't win the division, the Brewers (and their fans) can be encouraged that their surprising success forced Chicago to raid its farm system – the Cubs parted with top hitting prospect Eloy Jimenez, top pitching prospect Dylan Cease and two other minor leaguers to get Quintana – in order to keep pace with the upstarts in Milwaukee.

The Brewers return from the All-Star break tomorrow with a weekend series against the Philadelphia Phillies, which includes a celebration of the 35th anniversary of the 1982 American League Championship and a reunion of that team on Saturday.


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