The Brewers traded right-handed reliever Carlos Villanueva to the Blue Jays on Friday for a player to be named later.
Villanueva, 27, fell down the depth chart in Milwaukee in 2010, when he posted a 4.61 ERA in 50 appearances and drew a surprise demotion to Triple-A Nashville in late July. Villanueva was recalled in September, but he was used sparingly and is arbitration-eligible for the second time. He earned $950,000 last season.
“I talked to him today and I think he was a little disappointed or shocked or whatever,” Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. “He’s a good pitcher and I hope he does well there. His strikeout rate is pretty good.
“But, sometimes we have to turn things over and look at some other people.”
That’s what the Brewers are poised to do. They non-tendered reliever Todd Coffey on Thursday, an indication club officials feel covered with developing arms like closer John Axford and left-hander Zach Braddock in key roles. Braddock and right-handers Mike McClendon, Brandon Kintzler, Jeremy Jeffress and Mark Rogers all made their Major League debut in 2010 and impressed. The Brewers also have the more veteran LaTroy Hawkins and Kameron Loe slated to return in 2011.
Minus Villanueva, the Brewers’ 40-man roster stands at 35, and Melvin indicated that he and other club officials had already reached out to express interest in “a number” of players who joined the free agent pool Thursday when they were nontendered.
The Brewers tendered Villanueva a contract on Thursday instead of releasing him to the free-agent market, perhaps with the trade to Toronto in mind. Deals at this time of year often include players to be named later if some of the prospects in question are eligible for next week’s Rule 5 Draft.
Melvin said the player does not have to be named until April 1. He could not say whether the player would be a pitcher or a position player.
Acquired at the end of 2004 Spring Training from the Giants, Villanueva pitched for the Brewers from 2006-10 and went 20-24 with a 4.34 ERA in 203 relief appearances and 20 starts. The 2010 season was his first as a full-time reliever.