The Milwaukee Brewers posses one of the best offenses in baseball. They also boast one of the best bullpens in baseball, headlined by National League Reliever of the Year, Josh Hader. Both of these things are necessities for a championship team, but there is a part that the Brewers are missing, starters. Not just any starters, aces. Pitchers who dominate every time they step on the mound. The Brewers do have some very fine starting pitchers in Zach Davies and Brandon Woodruff, but they are not what you would call aces. When they take the mound one does not have certainty that they will go at least six innings and give up three or less runs. The Milwaukee Brewers are so close to becoming the team Brewers fans have craved for years, and quality starting pitching is surely the answer they need.
With one of the lowest budgets in Major League Baseball, it is difficult to entice big name pitchers to Milwaukee. The Brewers did it with CC Sabathia in 2008, but it was only for a single season, as the Brewers could not afford to pay him for multiple years. The Brewers have proved they are a playoff contention team over the past couple seasons and that could result in expensive pitchers being willing to take a pay cut in order to join Milwaukee. There are quite a few starting pitchers who will be free agents in the 2019/20 off-season and the Brewers must sign at least one of them. Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants is the most glaring option. Having played for one of the worst teams in baseball this past season, Bumgarner was still able to post an ERA under four, struck out over 200 batters, and had a WHIP of 1.127. Bumgarner also has loads of postseason experience, which for the Brewers would be immense. He is now 30 years old which means he will also be relatively inexpensive. His $11 million salary is half that of the Boston Red Sox’s Rick Porcello as well as the Chicago Cubs’ Cole Hamels, two other big name free agents this off-season.
The biggest name in free agency this year, with respect to pitchers, is undoubtedly the Houston Astros’s Gerrit Cole. Cole is the front-runner for this years A.L. Cy Young award with an ERA of 2.50, over 300 strikeouts, and an outrageously low WHIP of 0.895. The Brewers would be lucky to grab him, with his current salary at a measly $13.5 million this year, but with the way he pitched for the Astros this season, his salary is unlikely to remain that low. If the Brewers were to splurge on signing him, they would be forced to regress in other areas and that is something they can not afford to do to remain competitive.
The last viable option remaining is the New York Mets’ Zach Wheeler. He had a tough start to the 2019 season but improved vastly as the season progressed. Like Bumgarner, Wheeler is 30 years old but is much less known than his Giants counterpart. This bit of anonymity could help the Brewers land Wheeler. He is by far the cheapest option of the top pitching free agents this year, with a salary a shade under $6 million. Although an ERA under four and WHIP of 1.259 isn’t as impressive as the aforementioned pitchers, being able to pitch behind the Brewers offense may allow more room for error.
There are plenty of pitching options for the Brewers this offseason, but the ability to sign them remains to be seen. With one of the smallest markets and budgets in baseball, the Brewers will need to convince potential signers that it is about winning, and not money. But in today’s climate, that may not be so easy. If the Brewers are to become the team they have the potential to be, they must acquire proven, quality starting pitching.