Do the Brewers need to fish around the SP market?


Coming into this season, the Brewers were one of the only teams in baseball with five accomplished starters in their rotation: Zack Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf, and Chris Narveson.

Looking back, that rotation is literally in tatters.

Greinke was traded to the Angels when the Brewers thought they were out of contention. Marcum went on the disabled list for over two months, and has a 5.70 ERA in five starts since returning. Wolf was released towards the end of August after he was unable to ever find himself as a starter this season. Narveson went down after just his second start in April with a torn rotator cuff.

In other words, Gallardo has been the one staple of the rotation. The Brewers have had to dip into their farm system to find the rest of their current rotation. And, I have to say, most of them have filled in admirably. Marco Estrada, who pitched out of the bullpen to start the season, was the first guy the Brewers turned to, and, despite the fact he hasn’t been able to notch many wins, he’s been very solid. Mike Fiers, who was having just a mediocre year at Triple-A Nashville prior to his call-up, has come up and established himself as a perennial Rookie of the Year candidate. Mark Rogers was solid before his shut-down, but Wily Peralta has been dominant since taking his rotation spot.

Let’s say the Brewers don’t make any starting pitching-related moves this offseason. The 2013 rotation would look something like Gallardo, Estrada, Fiers, Rogers, and Peralta, since Marcum is leaving via free agency. There are plenty more prospects who will get a chance in ’13 Spring Training, but these pitchers are the ones with the most experience (despite the fact some of them still have very little experience).

There is definitely a lot of inexperience in that rotation, but, if they all pitch to their ability (and get solid run support while doing so), they could all be successful in the Majors. And, personally, I’d almost like to see the Brewers experiment with that next year.

But we know they won’t, because there’s too much risk involved. The Brewers will more than likely go after at least one free agent starter. But, many consider the 2012-13 offseason’s starter front to be one of the worst in years. The highlights will be Greinke, Marcum, Ryan Dempster, and that’s really about it, at least for big names. Greinke is definitely the safest of the three, and he expressed the possibility of re-signing with the Brewers this offseason. But we might have to wait and see if he’s still around after waiting for the $15 million per year that he isn’t going to get.

Since it’s more than likely the Brewers won’t pick up one of those three, I’d almost like to see the Brewers try an experiment of young, in-house starters in the rotation, like I said earlier, and I’d like to see that for a few reasons.

First off, it would keep the Brewers from thinking they need to make an actually unnecessary move that would make the team worse. The most recent examples of that are Wolf and Jeff Suppan. Now don’t get me wrong; I liked Wolf. He had a solid year and a half under his belt with the Crew prior to his release. But things weren’t clicking this year, which makes me worry about the Brewers signing a similar veteran over this offseason. I don’t think I need to explain my reasoning for Suppan.

The front office will probably think that veteran presence is needed in a young rotation, but Gallardo should be at the point of his career where he can start setting an example for the guys behind him and serve as that “veteran” (although he’ll only be 27 next year). Estrada hasn’t been on the Brewers for very long, but he’s been around. I don’t think the Brewers should waste money on getting that “veteran starter” this year.

My second reason is that the Brewers have something that they didn’t have previous years in which they needed a veteran guy: they have a ton of prospects that are big league ready. Fiers, despite his inconsistency recently (which could be due to fatigue from his first year in the Majors), should have a rotation spot locked up for next year. Before his shut-down, Rogers was giving the Brewers a chance to win every time out. It’s too early to say about Peralta, but, after three dominant starts, a good Spring Training next year could net him a rotation spot. And then there are all the prospects (i.e. Hiram Burgos) and the recent draft picks (i.e. Taylor Jungmann, Jed Bradley) that haven’t even made it to the Majors yet.

Even though Gallardo is the only pitcher who has a spot locked down for next year, the Brewers have so many starting pitching prospects that they’ll have to be able to get something out of at least some of them, particularly the ones who are getting big league experience this year. This could be the makings of a very dominant future rotation for the Brewers; why not get a glimpse of it next year?