MILWAUKEE — With two months to go in the regular season, Craig Counsell’s job just got a little bit tougher.
The Milwaukee Brewers manager was given another potent bat Tuesday when general manager David Stearns acquired second baseman Jonathan Schoop from the Baltimore Orioles for infielder Jonathan Villar and two minor league prospects. The move shored up a position of concern for the Brewers, but one they also thought was addressed when Travis Shaw moved from third base after the team acquired third baseman Mike Moustakas from Kansas City last Friday.
Now, Counsell will try to find ways to get all three of those players regular action as the Brewers try to lock down a playoff berth.
“We acquired another really good offensive player, and I think we have tremendous options every day,” Counsell said Tuesday as the Brewers prepared to face the Dodgers in Los Angeles. “The challenge is going to be kind of mixing and matching with the playing time.”
Counsell has been in this position plenty of times already this season. The Brewers began the year with what appeared to be a surplus of outfielders and first basemen. A rash of injuries helped alleviate that problem but at this point in the season, injuries are the last thing anyone wants to see.
That leaves it to Counsell to figure out a rotation that works for all involved.
“There’s at-bats for everybody,” Counsell said. “We have 55 games left but it’s not going to be 55 games of at-bats. But it’s going to be enough to contribute, and to hopefully to get us into October.”
Said Stearns: “We think we’re getting better and we think we’re adding to our overall depth. When we had an opportunity to do that, we jumped at it.’’
Getting to October — specifically the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons — is the ultimate goal and the reason Stearns acquired Schoop, an All-Star a year ago who batted .244 with 17 home runs and a .720 OPS in 85 games for Baltimore this season.
It’s also why Shaw, Milwaukee’s starting third baseman since coming over from Boston in a Dec. 2016 trade, agreed to slide over to second base — a position he’d never played at any level — when the Brewers acquired Moustakas and is willing to see what the future holds now that Schoop is on board.
“There’s going to be a lot of moving parts,” Shaw said. “I don’t know how they’re going to navigate that right now, or what the plan is. But it’s something that they’ll have to tell you or tell us.
“We’ll roll with it.”
Since taking over as the Brewers’ manager in May 2015, Counsell has preached the importance of being a good teammate and taking a team-first mentality. “Stay connected” was the overriding theme of spring camp this year and the tight-knit clubhouse fostered from those tenants has helped make it possible for Counsell to weave players in and out of the lineup on a regular basis.
Stearns is counting on that chemistry to make this situation work, too.
“It’s going to take a continued commitment to winning and sacrifices by certain people to make this work,” Stearns said.
“We’re confident that we’re going to be able to do that.”
The trade not only gives Milwaukee one of the more formidable lineups in the National League, it also adds some potent depth. Depending how the starting lineup looks on any given night, Counsell could have some mix of Shaw, Moustakas, Ryan Braun and Eric Thames at his disposal in the later innings. Pairing that group with a bullpen that’s been dominant all season and the Brewers could have one of the deepest teams among the second-half contenders.
Schoop, 29, has hit safely in 22 of his past 23 games, batting .360 (36-for-100) during that run with nine home runs and 19 RBIs, and brings a 12-game hitting streak to the Brewers.
He is slated to earn $2.83 million for the rest of this season and has one more year of arbitration remaining, giving Milwaukee control over his contract through 2019.
Along with Villar, Stearns also sent right-hander Luis Ortiz and infielder Jean Carmona to the Orioles.
Besides Moustakas and Schoop, Milwaukee also traded for reliever Joakim Soria from the Chicago White Sox last week.
But the Brewers did not add a starter, which was an area of concern following injuries to Brent Suter (elbow) and Zach Davies (shoulder). Jimmy Nelson (shoulder) remains sidelined after getting hurt late last season.
Stearns said the team could still look to deal in August, though he voiced confidence in a rotation currently headlined by Jhoulys Chacin (10-3, 3.45 ERA).
"I think we've probably had a little bit more confidence in our group throughout this year then perhaps there's been externally and that's fine," Stearns said. "Certainly we were open and active to add to that group but at this point, we were unable to do so."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.