Who’s been the best shortstop in baseball this year? Fernando Tatis is probably the first person that comes to mind. I agree with that. Who’s number two? Bogaerts? Correa? Turner? Crawford? Bichette? Story? Yeah, those are all very good players.
Who’s been the most impactful player traded this year? Is it one of the All-Stars: Nelson Cruz, Joey Gallo, Kyle Gibson, Max Scherzer, Trea Turner, Adam Frazier, Craig Kimbrel, or Kris Bryant? Sure, they’re all great players. But there’s another name on that list everyone seems to be forgetting. He wasn’t a move made at the trade deadline. He was traded on May 21 and since then he’s been one of the best players in baseball.
Meet Willy Adames, shortstop, Milwaukee Brewers. Since being traded, Adames ranks second among MLB shortstops in WAR (3.1) behind only Tatis (3.3). Since being traded, Willy Adames ranks 6th in batting average among shortstops with at least 100 plate appearances. He’s second in slugging to Tatis, second in OPS to Tatis, and third in hard-hit percentage to Tatis and Story.
Before May 21, the Brewers were 21-23, and were in third place in the NL Central. Since adding Adames, the Brewers have gone 44-21 and are currently tied for the second-best record in the bigs.
However, it hasn’t just been Adames’ production that’s made him so invaluable to the Brew Crew. Adames has also been one of the most clutch hitters in the league. Since joining the Brewers, and when his team is trailing going into the fifth inning, Adames has recorded six home runs and four doubles. In situations where his team is tied or trailing by three or less heading into the sixth inning or later, Adames has 43 plate appearances, he’s gone 20-for-39 (.513 BA). His three-slash in those situations is .513/.558/.949. That gives him an OPS of 1.507 in clutch situations. Yeah, that’s not bad.
In a year where Christian Yelich can’t seem to get it going, the Brewers were in dire need of someone to carry their offense. Omar Narvaez had been decent, but he wasn’t that cog in the middle of the lineup that they needed. Avisail Garcia has been having a solid year, but if he’s your best hitter, your team isn’t going to compete for a World Series any time soon. The addition of Adames (and Rowdy Tellez, but this isn’t about him) has breathed new life into the Brewers lineup. What was once a team that relied on Burnes, Woodruff, Peralta, Williams, and Hader to carry them to victory, has become a team capable of outscoring even the most potent offenses. While the Brewers were once near the bottom of the league in OPS, they’re 14th in that category since adding Adames. While the Brewers were once outside the top-20 in runs per game, they’re fifth in that category since adding Adames.
Bryant is great. Rizzo is solid. Scherzer is a stud. Turner is phenomenal. Kimbrel shuts down opposing hitters as good as anyone. Nelson Cruz is the best power hitter of the 2010s. But it would be a miracle if any of them had as much of an impact as Adames has had on the Brewers. Adames almost single-handedly brought Milwaukee from mediocrity to World Series contention. As of right now, the Brewers and Padres are the only teams in the National League capable of taking down the Dodgers in my opinion.
We can thank Willy Adames for making that a possibility — the best trade acquisition of 2021.