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Sunday, February 17th 2019
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Brewers Sign Yasmani Grandal

2015 All-Star catcher Yasmani Grandal is the newest member of the Milwaukee Brewers. Late Wednesday night, phones of Brewer and MLB fans were aglow with the news of Grandal agreeing to a one year, $18.25 million dollar contract. I know what you are thinking, “Don’t you mean ‘Yasmani Passedball?’” It’s hard not to remember the rough days behind the dish for Grandal in the 2018 NLCS, but I am asking you to take a deep breath, let the negativity leave your body, and keep an open mind regarding the former La La Land backstop because I had to do the exact same thing initially.

 

True to his less than spectacular moniker, Grandal has accumulated 64 passed balls giving him an roughly 16 passed balls per 162 games.  Despite the issue of passed balls, Grandal has proved to be a plus defender over his seven years in the MLB. He has posted a career fielding percentage of .994 as well as finishing second in WAR among catchers in 2018 and first among catchers in runs saved with 39 over the last three seasons. Yaz has also shown ability at first base where he has appeared in 50 games. His versatility could prove to be a major key in a Craig Counsell led squadron which emphasizes essentially “positionless” baseball.

 

The switch hitting, former Miami Hurricane has built a career on finding his way onto the basepaths. In his seven seasons, he has posted a modest .240 batting average, but has an solid OPS of .782 including an OBP of .341. This is large in part to a 13% walk rate over 2660 plate appearances. He has also mashed 113 home runs along with 339 RBI. Grandal does most of his damage against right handed pitchers in 2018 with 20 home runs and a line of .252/.351/.492 totaling to an OPS of an impressive .844. He has not, however, hit well at all in the playoffs, which is a major strike against him with the Brewers positioning themselves for a deep run. Yaz has only three postseason extra base hits, slashed .107/.264/.200 with a .464 OPS, and struck out 35 times in 75 plate appearances.

 

Love or hate the move, this shows Brewer fans that the pocketbook is open and there is an emphasis of winning right now. Be on the look for more moves as the hot stove continues to heat up.

Brewers Offseason Pitching Transactions

In 2018, the Milwaukee Brewers were one game away from clinching their first World Series since 1982.  Just two seasons ago, they were projected to be one of the worst teams in the MLB, but quickly rose to one of the top teams in the league in 2018.  It is crazy to think that in 2016, the Brewers roster was completely different than what it currently is today. David Stearns has certainly done a phenomenal job as the youngest GM in the MLB.  Coming from one of the top farm systems in the league, the Brewers have turned average players into superstars, in players like Christian Yelich and Josh Hader. Now, it is time to look ahead into next season and decide what moves need to be made.  The Brewers have already made a few transactions this offseason, including trading outfielder Domingo Santana to the Mariners and outfielder Keon Broxton to the Mets. Milwaukee received minor league prospect pitchers in both trades, which will give them more depth in their bullpen.  The pitching rotation is an area that Milwaukee needs more strength at, and there are several ways they could go about making this more lethal.

Re-Sign Key Players

Wade Miley– From a minor league prospect at the start of the season to a top notch force in the postseason,  Wade Miley became a big part of the Brewers this year, ending with a 2.57 ERA and one of the main areas of success in the Brewers rotation this postseason.  Wade Miley should be a key player for Milwaukee to keep around. This year, it was almost as if he was on a “prove it” contract, making only $2.5 Million on a minor league deal at 32 years old, and Miley definitely improved coming off of a struggling 5.61 ERA season in Baltimore.  

The Brewers also have Gio Gonzalez as a key free agent, who is a former NL Cy Young Award winner, but in order to make big transactions this offseason, Wade Miley would be the smarter move for Milwaukee to keep.  Even though Gonzalez has more experience in the playoffs, he also struggles majorly in big games like that. Wade Miley would be the better move at helping the Crew win a ring in the next few years.

Sign Players

Dallas Keuchel– As one of the top farm systems in the league, the Brewers would have enough money to make a move on Keuchel.  This is a solid veteran with playoff experience coming off a 3.74 ERA during the 2018 season. Keuchel has a total of 4 Golden Glove Awards, including one in 2018, and is one of the best pitchers in today’s game.  The former 2015 AL Cy Young pitcher has one World Series ring earned in 2017, which would help the Brewers to have another guy in their rotation familiar with the playoff atmosphere. He also has had an average WHIP of under 2.00 ever since he has entered the league in 2012, which shows how consistent he is throughout the season.  Keuchel will receive numerous interests from other teams, and Milwaukee should definitely be a contender to sign him.

Trade for Key Players 

Corey Kluber– This is another veteran pitcher that would help Milwaukee substantially with his consistency on the mound.  Cleveland has been to the postseason for 3 consecutive years, including 1 World Series appearance. Kluber had the 5th best ERA in the American League last year, finishing with a 2.89.  He also captured a 20 win season, which was the 2nd highest in the AL. His numbers were impressive in 2018, as he is one of the best pitchers in the league when it comes to staying consistent throughout the regular season.  Kluber might require Milwaukee to give up more than they would like, but he would help improve their rotation immensely at times when it matters most.

Madison Bumgarner– Bumgarner has been in trade talks with various teams for quite some time.  As of right now, the Brewers seem to be one of the frontrunners to acquire the 12-year veteran.  The Brewers have just what the Giants need to give up for him, it is just a matter of if they will make the move.  Corey Ray, a top prospect of Milwaukee who many believe will make a great impact in 2019, has started to enter the trade mix for the Brewers in acquiring a top pitcher like Bumgarner.  Madison Bumgarner has 3 rings with San Francisco and was the MVP for them all. He has had an average ERA of 3.03 his entire MLB career. His numbers in the postseason are jaw-dropping.  Of his 4 year playoff appearance, Bumgarner’s postseason ERA is 2.11 and has an 8-3 record out of the 12 opponents he has faced. In the 2014 World Series, he had a 0.43 ERA in 21 innings pitched, averaging out to be one of his best years in baseball.  Madison Bumgarner is one of the most successful pitchers of this era and very well could be on the move soon, garnering interest from Milwaukee and several other teams. 

The Milwaukee Brewers can only get better from here and that starts with pitching, something that was strong in the 2018 postseason, but there is always room for improvement.  The Brewers starting rotation struggled with injuries last season. For example, they will most likely lose Brent Suter for the 2019 season due to Tommy-John surgery late in the year.  The Brewers need a big playmaker that will make an impact in their rotation, and transactions like these will make a difference and improve their consistency throughout the year.

 

 

 

 

 

New Year, Same Brewers

As the new year gets under way,it is the social norm to reflect on what the last year has brung. Looking at the Brewer’s past year, they made their first postseason berth since 2011. However, I can’t help but think about what came before to make the postseason roster. If you look at all the Brewers have done from drafts to trades, there are several bright spots.

Everything started after the 2014 season when the Brewers fell apart in the second half of the season. In 2015, they tried to patch things together but it didn’t work. That is when it was decided they were in operation rebuild. The following is looking back at key parts that brought us to the success of 2018.

Key Trades

Trading Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress

You may be thinking about how this trade helped propel the Brewers to the postseason. At the trade deadline in August of 2016, the Brewers traded  Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress. In return they got a young outfielder in Lewis Brinson and RHP Luis Ortiz. Ring a bell?

Luis Ortiz later was  traded to the Orioles for Jonathan Schoop. As much as that was a bust, Lewis Brinson makes the trade worth while.

As you all remember, almost a year ago (January 25) Lewis Brinson was traded to the Marlins in exchange for now MVP, Christian Yelich. If there is someone out there who doesn’t think Yelich was a huge push for the Brewers, please click off now. Posting a 7.6 WAR and a HUGE wOBA (weighted on base average) of .422. This one was a pretty easy connection. Safe to say, without Yelich, the Brewers may not have ended in the same place.

Trading Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers

I am going to bring it back to July of 2015 when the Brewers made the first blockbuster trade. They received OF Brett Phillips, OF Domingo Santana, RHP Adrian Houser, and LHP Josh Hader in exchange for Gomez and Fiers.

I’ll talk about the elephant of the room first, Hader made a hefty impact on this past season. As for Houser, he has been a steady option to bring up from the minors for bullpen relief. As for Phillips, he had a pretty good impact in the first half of the season. He was then traded to Kansas City for Mike Moustakas.

Moose came to Milwaukee and made an immediate contribution. Not only was his “one the field play” valuable, but his playoff experience was huge for a young team going into the postseason for the first time.

Domingo Santana also had an impact in 2018. However, his biggest impact may come in the future with being involved in an off-season trade with the Mariners.

Trading Tyler Thornburg

A sometimes overlooked trade has brought great success. Gaining the underrated INF Travis Shaw for Tyler Thornburg has given the Brewers a steady LHH and great versatility. His value really shined this past year after agreeing to play 2B to make room for Mike Moustakas.

For a player who was fairly “inexpensive”, he has “boomed” in a Brewers uniform. The other part of that trade was acquiring young prospect Mauricio Dubon. Dubon struggled with an injury in 2018 but still carries a lot of potential. He is definitely a young face to keep your eye on.

After looking back to see how last year’s squad was formed, it’s important to look to the future. Since David Stearns has taken over, he has had multiple very good drafts. His first draft in 2016 has already proved plentyfull.

Coming out of that draft was RHP Corbin Burnes who has already proved himself in the majors and is slated to start in 2019. Another top pitcher is Zack Brown. He spent the 2018 season in AA. He put up very good numbers and is starting to prove himself as a future ace. The last player coming out of 2016 was Corey Ray. Whether he makes it to the majors in Milwaukee or is part of a trade, he is slated to have a big impact.

Moving into the 2017 draft, Keston Hiura takes “the cake”. He is a natural born hitter who adds a little power. It is easy to see him having an impact later in the 2019 season and for  years to come. The latest draft is hard to see a major league impact so early, however first round pick Brice Turang thrived in his first year in the minors.

It is easy to see that Brewers have made many key moves that brought them the 2018 success. Those same moves and drafts ensure that their success carries into years to come.

Analyzing the Brewers’ Return for Keon Broxton

The Brewers made some noise on Saturday amid a relatively quiet offseason for the club by sending Keon Broxton to the New York Mets in exchange for three players. While Broxton appeared to have a breakout year in 2016 when he posted a slash line of .242/.354/.430, he has consistently been plagued by strikeout rates that exceed 30%, leading to underwhelming results in 2017 and 2018. Given the Brewers current outfield depth and Broxton’s lack of remaining minor-league options, he made sense as a trade candidate.

The Brewers received three players in return for Broxton: Bobby Wahl, Adam Hill, and Felix Valerio. Let’s take a look at which each could offer in the future to the Crew.

Bobby Wahl, RHP

Wahl fits the profile of a prototypical power-reliever. He has a fastball that reaches into the upper-90 mph range, paired with a power slider that can generate whiffs. He is a strikeout artist, as he recorded 14.4 K/9 in the minor leagues last year to accompany a 2.20 ERA.

He has some brief major-league experience, throwing 13 innings over the last two seasons with little success. In these appearances, he has a combined 6.92 ERA and a 1.92 WHIP. The one area Wahl struggles with most is his control, and to be effective at the major-league level he will need to reign it in. He also has an injury history, as he missed extensive amounts of time in 2015 and 2017 with a nerve injury in his elbow and thoracic outlet syndrome, respectively.

Wahl will compete for a bullpen spot on the opening day roster, and we are certain to see him in Milwaukee during 2019 barring injury. If he improves his control, he could turn into a high leverage arm.

Adam Hill, RHP

The Mets selected Hill with their fourth-round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. While he pitched mostly out of relief in his first taste of professional baseball after signing, he is a starting pitching prospect with the potential for a solid three-pitch mix. According to Hill’s MLB.com pre-draft scouting report, his fastball is his best pitch, which tops out at 95 mph. He pairs it with a pair of average pitches in his slider and change-up, each of which flashes potential to be “plus” pitches. Hill fits the profile of being a collage arm lacking polish that the Brewers have had success developing over the past few seasons (e.g. Corbin Burnes, Zack Brown), so hopefully they see some untapped potential here that could turn him into a legitimate prospect. If all goes well, he could be an arm that fits in the middle of the rotation.

Felix Valerio, INF

Valerio is the lottery ticket of this trade. He spent the 2018 season with the Mets’ affiliate in the Dominican Summer League and played well, hitting .319/.409/.433. In the field, he mostly played second base, where he committed four errors over 66 games played. Valerio is a small guy, as he stands 5’7” while weighing in at 165 lbs., so it is fair to say his power projects to be modest as best. However, he has clearly shown a penchant for getting on base given his .400+ on-base percentage. Look for him to spend the 2018 season with one of the Brewers’ stateside rookie affiliate clubs.

What the Corey Spangenberg Signing Means for the Brewers

The Brewers took a step on Thursday towards solving their hole at second base by signing free agent Corey Spangenberg to a one-year contract. The deal will pay Spangenberg $1.2 million if he makes the major-league roster and $250K if he ends up in the minors, making this a very low-risk signing for the Crew.

Spangenberg has spent his entire career up until this point with the San Diego Padres, who selected him with the 10th overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft. He owns a career slash line of .258/.307/.390, while logging the majority of his innings at second and third base. He also has played nearly 270 innings in left field, giving him some of that positional flexibility that the Brewers seem to value highly. Spangenberg’s finest season as a professional came in 2015, during which he hit .271/.333/.399 while accumulating 2.0 wins above replacement.

The main downside to Spangenberg’s game is he strikes out… a lot. He has a career strikeout percentage of 26.4%, with that number being elevated to 32.8% during the 2018 season. Spangenberg’s swing and miss tendencies hurt his offensive profile significantly given his general lack of power, and that is something that he will need to improve upon if he hopes to be a meaningful contributor to the Brewers in 2019.

If he makes the big-league roster, Spangenberg likely would form one-half of a platoon combination at second base, acting as the left-handed hitting option. With the roster’s current composition, the other half of that platoon would almost certainly be Hernan Perez. Spangenberg offered above-average production against righties last season, registering a 101 wRC+ mark while hitting .261/.332/.393. Perez, accordingly, hit .277/.304/.479 while putting up a wRC+ of 104 against lefties. The 2018 Brewers struggled to get any semblance of consistent offense prior to the Mike Moustakas trade in July, so having a league-average combination like Perez and Spangenberg would be a large improvement over the Crew’s situation at the start of last season.

Due to the low-risk nature of Spangenberg’s contract, the Brewers are not removed from exploring other second base options. They could still look to bring in an established player like Jed Lowrie, Brian Dozier, or Josh Harrison. In addition, they could still dip into the third base market and shift Travis Shaw to second base, which would significantly alter Spangenberg’s chances at making the roster. However, this signing to me says that it is very likely they will continue to look at stop-gap options like Spangenberg to plug the hole until either Keston Hiura or Mauricio Dubon is ready to take over at the big-league level.

The Brewers trade Domingo Santana for Ben Gamel and Noah Zavolas

               The Milwaukee Brewers traded outfielder Domingo Santana to Seattle for outfielder Ben Gamel and pitching prospect Noah Zavolas. Santana only appeared in 85 games for the Brewers last season after his breakout 2017 campaign where he hit 30 homeruns. Santana was probably the biggest Brewer casualty from the acquisitions of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain. He was sent down to AAA in late June and did not return until he became a September call-up. Last off-season there were many rumblings about a potential trade last off-season, so this may not come as a surprise.

               Ben Gamel is a left-handed hitting outfielder. Ben is the younger brother of former Brewer Mat Gamel. He has spent his last 2 seasons with the Mariners. Gamel had a late start to last season while he was sidelined at the end of spring training and most of April with a sprained right oblique muscle. Gamel primarily plays in the corners making 48 appearances in left field and 40 in right. However, he did show some slight versatility making 4 appearances in center field and 1 at first base. He played in 101 games total for the Mariners last year slashing .272/.358/.370. He doesn’t offer much power only hitting 1 homerun last season. He had a 20.8% K rate last season which was a full 12.0% lower than Santana’s last season.

               Gamel offers more positional versatility than Santana. Another key factor in this trade is the fact that Gamel has a minor league option left. David Stearns has proven time and time again that he covets the flexibility that comes with having a minor league option brings. Gamel also has one more year of team control than Santana had.

               The mostly unknown piece in this deal is Noah Zavolas. He was an 18th round pick in 2018 out of Harvard University. He is a right-handed pitcher who pitched in relief for the Mariners Low-A and High-A teams last season. He made a total of 19 appearances spanning 38.2 innings. He had an ERA of 3.03 while striking out 41 hitters.

                This trade may not be popular amongst most fans as Santana was beloved, however this trade was further proof that the Brewers love versatility. Santana was a good player in 2017, but an odd power outage last year hurt his profile. Gamel adds not only positional flexibility, but also helps the rosters flexibility with his minor league option. While also adding a lower strikeout rate. Zavolas is a lottery ticket, but what’s life without a little risk. With this trade the Brewers wanted to add versatility and that’s what they did, this may not be popular but having major league talent with minor league options certainly helped last year.

Baseball Mockery

As the dreaded off season continues, talks have begun about eliminating the shift thanks to the baseball commissioner Rob Manfred. The reasoning lies in creating more offense so baseball can be more attractive to more people. Yes ladies and gentlemen, a pitching dual where every pitch matters is no longer entertaining enough.

With these discussions, baseball is now leaning towards the play of the offense. That sounds fairly familiar. What other sports favor the offense? That’s it, the NFL. Looks as though Rob Manfred might need to take a meeting with the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to see how far baseball can go in favoring the offense.

Eliminating the shift is erasing all defensive strategy, so where do they stop. Strategy is the beauty of baseball, it’s chess not whack a mole. So here are additional rule changes to really help the offense get the upper hand.

X marks the spot- I think we need to go back to the roots of every baseball player. MLB needs to get in touch with the little league coach in themselves and create X’s on where each infielder must stand in the field. Even shading so slightly to get a head start is just too much of an advantage.

No sprinting, just jogging- Having fast outfielders like Lorenzo Cain is just too much of a “step up” for the defense. No more sprinting to a ball because outfielders may rob a double that could produce more runs for the offense.

All starting pitchers must go at least 6 innings before using a bullpen pitcher- That’s right, discount what the Brewers did in 2018. Changing the pitcher every couple of innings is too hard for the hitters because they can’t get multiple looks at a pitcher. Dang players can’t adjust!

No bullpen days- Piggybacking off the last rule, bullpen games will not be allowed. Discounting again what the Brewers used to be successful in 2018.

Don’t forget players safety, no pitches over 90 mph- We can’t forget about the gem in players safety. Pitching over 90 mph puts the batter at extreme risk of getting severely injured if they get hit. Any pitch over 90 mph will result in an automatic walk.

Just a couple after thoughts to go along with the new rules of baseball are, shrinking the strike zone, instituting a computerized Ump instead of a human (eliminate the human error).  What about going from 3 outs an inning to 5 outs?

Obviously this is just poking fun of the discussions of limiting the shift. Although it is something that could severely hurt the Brewers. They use so much strategy every game to cover up the fact that they don’t have the money to go out and get nine studs to fill a lineup like the Yankees. As said before, the beauty in baseball is the chess game and taking the chess away to result in more offense may indeed create more offense. However, let’s be honest, will adding a couple more runs a game really increase viewership or would it just take away some of the fun of baseball for hardcore fans?

Brewers Bolster ‘Pen with Acquisition of Alex Claudio

David Stearns and the Milwaukee Brewers struck a deal on the final day of the Winter Meetings, acquiring left-handed reliever Alex Claudio from the Texas Rangers in exchange for the Brewers’ competitive balance pick in the 2019 draft. The trade fills the need of having a second left-handed reliever behind Josh Hader, as the Brewers failed to tender contracts to both Dan Jennings and Xavier Cedeño at the outset of the offseason.

Claudio comes to Milwaukee with a history of solid on-field performance during his time in Texas. He owns a career ERA of 3.20 spread over 230 innings of work, appearing in 208 games in that span. The lefty saw his best success during 2017, when he hurled 82.2 innings over 70 games, racking up 11 saves and a 2.50 ERA. He experienced somewhat of a step back in 2018, as he saw his ERA rise to 4.48, but many of his peripherals stayed essentially the same.

Claudio fits the profile of being an extreme ground ball pitcher. In 2018, he induced a ground ball on 61% of balls put into play against him, and that number was even higher in 2017 at 67%. This is the type of pitcher that could see great success in Milwaukee, where the Brewers’ aggressive defensive shifting tends to allow ground ball pitchers to see great success. That should allow him to return to sporting an ERA in the low-3.00 range, which will make him a welcome addition to the middle of the Brewers’ bullpen.

One area in which Claudio does struggle is striking hitters out. For his career, he holds a K/9 rate of 6.16, and logged a rate of 5.4 K/9 in 2018. This is certainly not ideal for a relief pitcher, with many of the most successful ones in the game today being strikeout artists. However, Claudio makes up for his strikeout deficiencies by greatly limiting the number of batters he walks. Last year, he only walked 1.71 hitters per nine innings, which is an excellent mark. Pairing this with his ground ball prowess is what makes him effective.

The return to the Rangers is somewhat surprising on the surface, as the Brewers will give up the 39th overall selection in this year’s MLB Draft. Given all of the deadline deals that sent Brewers’ prospects packing in 2018, that 39th selection could have immediately jumped into the Brewers’ organization top-10, and perhaps the top-5 even. However, Stearns seems to be going for the “win-now” mode of operating, as that draft pick likely would have arrived in the major leagues in 2021 at the earliest, and more likely in 2022 or 2023. By then, Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain would have been nearing the end of their contracts, and the team perhaps could be falling out of contention. There is a lot of uncertainty involved with trying to look at what the Brewers’ competitive scenario will be 4 years into the future. Given that Claudio has three years of controllability remaining, this deal makes perfect sense given the current outlook of the team and their “win-now” mentality.

Claudio will join a bullpen that is led by the trio of Josh Hader, Corey Knebel, and Jeremy Jeffress. Given the acquisition of Claudio, it is likely that Stearns will not go for any of the big names on the relief market, and will fill out the rest of his bullpen with either low cost or internal options.

Brewers Potential Trade Targets: Noah Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner

   It has been over a month since the Brewers’ deep and thrilling playoff run ended at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers in game seven of the NLCS. Now that the 2018 season is in the rearview, it is time for David Stearns & co. to explore their options to reload the team to ensure last season’s contention was not an aberration.

Something Milwaukee lacked in 2018 and has lacked for quite some time is a bona fide, all-star level starting pitcher. While it is true that manager Craig Counsell’s philosophy values relief pitching to an extreme degree, that style of management isn’t sustainable throughout the course of a 162-game regular season like it is over a playoff run where every single pitch is critical. That said, there are some intriguing starting pitchers potentially on the market for the Brewers to use their deep farm system to trade for. Two names stick out in particular, Noah Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner. Let’s explore these possibilities and what it will take to pull them off.

 

Noah Syndergaard:

The 26-year-old, flame-throwing right hander is one of baseball’s top pitchers when healthy. Combine his talent with the fact that he does not hit free agency until 2022, and you’re looking at one of the most attractive potential trade targets in baseball. On Wednesday, Andy Martino of SNY singled out the Brewers and the Rockies as two teams expressing interest in trading for Syndergaard. The Brewers’ front office has showed reluctance in giving up the organization’s top prospect, Keston Hiura, so with that in mind, my potential package will not include him. With Orlando Arcia showing this postseason that he is capable of being the shortstop of the future and Hiura looking like the second baseman of the future, infield prospect Mauricio Dubon makes sense as a part of this potential trade. All in all, I believe the Brewers would have to give up Corey Ray, Mauricio Dubon, and Zack Brown to get the Mets to bite on a deal.

 

Madison Bumgarner:

Another ace-level hurler Milwaukee may be considering making a move for is 2014 World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner. This potential deal is a bit risky, given that Bumgarner only has one season of team control and he hasn’t been his normal dominant self the last two seasons due in large part to injury. However, his services might be worth the risk because the Crew could re-sign him once his contract expires, and he could be the missing piece to the elusive World Series title. He has already won three commissioner’s trophies with the San Francisco Giants, and has proven he brings his best stuff to the table in the biggest of games. The asking price for Bumgarner would certainly be lower than Syndergaard, so with that being said I think the Brewers could entice the Giants with an offer of fourth-ranked organizational prospect Tristen Lutz, and RHP Cody Ponce as a complimentary piece.

 

As is abundantly clear from last season, The Milwaukee Brewers bullpen does not need improvement. Led by Josh Hader and Jeremy Jeffress, the Brewers pen was the consensus best in the National League. Also of note is that some Brewers starters, namely Wade Miley and Gio Gonzalez are free agents and could very well be pitching elsewhere next season. This offseason has already seen a large-scale trade involving a starting pitcher, or should I say, “initial out-getter”, with James Paxton getting moved to the New York Yankees. Clearly the Brewers aren’t on the Yankees’ level in terms of market size, but who says they can’t follow suit and snag a big time starter of their own?

 

Brewers Offseason Outlook: Free Agency

With a farm system that doesn’t provide many opening-day ready solutions at the moment, the Brewers will likely look to free agency to fill the holes that their current roster has. Given the likely non-tender of Jonathan Schoop, second base looks to be a position of need, and you can assume that the Brewers would welcome upgrades at catcher and to their rotation, if reasonable. The Brewers also will give bullpen pieces a look, but those are expected to be complimentary pieces rather than the elite options the market may have. Let’s take a look at some potential targets at each of those positions:

(Note: the options listed are not exhaustive lists of free agents at that position)

Second Base

Top of the Market Options: Asdrubal Cabrera, Marwin Gonzalez, DJ Lemahieu

Middle Tier Options: Ian Kinsler, Jed Lowrie

Cost-Conscious Options: Derek Dietrich, Daniel Descalso

Notes: The Brewers are likely not looking for long-term fix due to presence of Keston Hiura and Mauricio Dubon in minors. Josh Harrison could come on a one-year deal after a down 2018 season, but it remains to be seen whether he is an upgrade over an in-house option like Hernan Perez. The Brewers have had reported interest in Kinsler in the past, which could make him a target… Given that Cabrera, Gonzalez, and Lemahieu sit atop the market and will command longer term deals, the Brewers are likely out on them. The Brewers have previously had interest in Dietrich, and he fits their model of having versatile players (has experience at 1B, 2B, 3B, and LF). However, he plays none of those positions particularly well and has only logged 77 innings at second base since 2016. Descalso is another option, and has extensive experience at second base.

Starting Pitching

Top of the Market Options: Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel

Middle Tier Options: Nathan Eovaldi, J.A. Happ, Yusei Kikuchi, Anibal Sanchez

Cost-Conscious Options: Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley, Ervin Santana

Although the Brewers have a plethora of rotation options already on the roster, if David Stearns finds the right fit at the right price he will pull the trigger. The Brewers probably will not be able to compete financially for Patrick Corbin, so he is likely out. Keuchel will also likely command too high of a salary. Happ and Eovaldi could each make sense at their price points (about $15 million annually), and the Brewers have been linked to Happ in the past. Eovaldi could also appeal to the front office given their emphasis on taking an analytical approach, as Eovaldi possesses some great peripherals.

Anibal Sanchez is an option the Brewers have been loosely connected to as well. Sanchez is coming off a phenomenal season that saw him post a 2.83 ERA and 8.89 K/9 over 24 games started for the Atlanta Braves. He developed a lethal cutter this season as his new go-to pitch while allowing the lowest rate of hard contact of any pitcher. Both of those are legitimate improvements, and should translate over to 2019. Sanchez will likely command a multi-year deal, but it could be a risk the Brewers are willing to take if they believe his 2018 successes were not a fluke

Of the cost-conscious options, Miley is the most likely option given the organization’s familiarity with him. Miley will likely seek a multi-year contract, so it is up in the air if the Brewers are willing to do that based on 80 innings pitched in 2018. Although he was successful in preventing runs (2.57 ERA), some of the peripherals point towards regression in 2019, such as a career low 5.58 strikeout rate and HR/FB (home run to fly ball) ratio of 5.2% that is sure to increase. Cahill fits the same profile as Miley, being a veteran option coming off a successful season but having somewhat hazy projections for how he will perform in 2019. The Brewers could also take a flier on a rebound candidate like Chris Tillman or Marco Estrada, much like they did with Miley last season.

Catcher

Top of the Market Options: Yasmani Grandal, Wilson Ramos

Middle Tier Options: Martin Maldonado

Cost-Conscious Options: AJ Ellis, Nick Hundley, Jonathan Lucroy

Other than Grandal and Ramos, the catching market is not very inspiring. I cannot think Grandal has left a good impression on the Brewers following his lackluster performance in the NLCS, and he likely is out of their price range anyways. Ramos could be an intriguing fit, as he would be a great offensive upgrade (.845 OPS in 2018) while not sacrificing much defensively from the current combination of Piña/Kratz. He will command a 3-4 year deal in the range of $10-12 million annually, so as with every other player, it depends on if the Brewers are willing to commit that much payroll space, especially to an older player with an injury history like Ramos.

Maldonado could be a fit, as he is still an outstanding defender but leaves much to be desired with the bat. He may not be a large enough upgrade over Kratz/Pina for the Brewers to make the move.

AJ Ellis could be an under-the-radar target, and he would likely welcome an opportunity to play in Wisconsin, where he trains during the offseason. He is coming off a surprising 2018 that saw him post strong numbers offensively. He recorded a 14.2% walk rate and a .378 on-base percentage en route to a 105 wRC+, which signifies that he was 5% better than the league average hitter. That’s quite the mark for a catcher in today’s game, where catchers that offer meaningful offensive contributions are hard to come by.

Relief Pitcher

Top of the Market Options: Zach Britton, Jeurys Familia, Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Miller, Adam Ottavino

Middle Tier Options: Cody Allen, Brad Brach, Joakim Soria

Cost-Conscious: Ryan Madson, Adam Warren

Given the bullpen’s already-strong core of Josh Hader, Corey Knebel, and Jeremy Jeffress, the Brewers are unlikely to look at the top of the market. All three options in the middle tier could be interesting. Allen may be the most interesting of all, as he is formerly an elite closer but experienced some troubles in 2018 en route to posting a 4.70 ERA. If the Brewers sign him and can iron out whatever issues exist, he could be a high-impact add.

With bullpen pieces, you really never know what the Brewers are going to do. They will likely take some fliers by signing players to minor league contracts to invites with spring training, much like they did with J.J. Hoover in 2018.