Brewers send Smith to Giants

Milwaukee to get top prospect Bickford, catcher Susac in return

Brewers send Smith to Giants

SAN DIEGO -- The Brewers on Monday flipped left-hander Will Smith to the Giants for a top pitching prospect plus a catcher in a Trade Deadline deal that re-emphasized the high demand for relievers.

The Brewers received 21-year-old right-hander Phil Bickford, who was No. 1 on MLBPipeline.com's list of the Giants' Top 30 Prospects and No. 65 among the Top 100 Prospects in the game, plus 26-year-old catcher Andrew Susac, a former top prospect who was blocked in San Francisco by Buster Posey.

Bickford was the 18th overall pick in the 2015 Draft out of Cal State Fullerton and has progressed to Class A Advanced San Jose, where he has a 1.000 WHIP in his first 33 innings this season. Between two Class A levels in 2016, he has a 2.71 ERA and 105 strikeouts in 93 innings. He's No. 65 on MLBPipeline.com's list of the top prospects in baseball.

"He was a premium prospect coming out of the Draft in the first round and has performed exceptionally well throughout his Minor League career, pitching in a difficult environment this year in the California League," Brewers GM David Stearns said. "He really has done what you hope a first-round Draft pick will do."

The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder also drew praise recently from Giants reliever Sergio Romo, who made injury rehabilitation appearances with San Jose and saw Bickford start twice. Said Romo, "The kid's the real deal, you know what I'm saying? You could tell that he's still trying to figure out what he can and cannot do -- his limits. That's kind of part of the process while he's still young."

Romo described Bickford's stuff as "electric," adding, "He was throwing this slider-cutter-type pitch on some of the hitters and he was overpowering them. His fastball was really live at 94-95 [mph]. I can see why they took him so high. …

"His stuff can only get better. You're like, 'Wow, put some meat on him, he's going to be something to think about.'"

Susac, who hit .309/.407/.716 in 243 plate appearances for the Giants in 2014 and '15, will begin his Brewers tenure at Triple-A Colorado Springs. But he is a good bet to make it the Majors by the end of the season after the team traded starting catcher Jonathan Lucroy to the Rangers in a subsequent deal at Monday's nonwaiver Trade Deadline.

Between the two trades, the Brewers acquired three of baseball's top 100 prospects at the cost of their starting catcher and two of their best relievers.

Smith, 27, appeared at least 76 times for the Brewers in each of the past two seasons, and he is 1-3 with a 3.68 ERA in 27 appearances this season after missing the first two months with a torn ligament in his right knee. Smith rehabbed the injury without surgery and is pitching with a brace.

Smith's value was enhanced by the fact he has more than three years of club control remaining. He was arbitration-eligible last offseason as a Super Two player, and he isn't projected to hit free agency until following the 2019 season.

"We all know it's a business," Smith said, "but there's always a bittersweet side to it. You build these relationships for three years, and then one day it's like, 'See ya.' You have to say goodbye to people and move on.

"There's a lot of good people there in Milwaukee that will be missed, but you play the game to win a ring, so it's an exciting time to go to San Francisco as well."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.