Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Corey Hart (1) fields a ball at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports
The off-season is the best time to be a Brewer fan. Oh, the optimism! Best Case Scenario is an opportunity to dream in “what ifs” and see what happens when the Brew Crew catches all the breaks. This Brewer cocktail is made up of two parts dreaming big and one part reality. Feel free to shake your head and pour over ice.
So far we have covered the outfield and middle infield. So far, so good. Today, we look at the corners (first base and third base). This is where it gets messy. Keeping in mind the self-imposed one part reality rule not only makes this difficult, but downright depressing.
Yuniesky Betancourt (3B) 2013 WAR -2, 2014 Projected WAR 3.5
[Waits for everyone to stop spitting out their beverage]
Okay, just kidding. Clean up your mess.
Aramis Ramirez (3B) 2013 WAR .5 (92 games), 2014 Projected WAR .5
In 2012 Aramis Ramirez was brought in to fill (part of) the giant hole left from Prince Fielder’s departure. Ramirez stepped up with a WAR over 5. Last year, slowed down by injuries, Ramirez hit .283 with only 12 home runs. His durability wasn’t the biggest problem; it was the lack of depth to support while Ramirez healed. This has still not been addressed.
Without anyone ready to step in, it will be difficult for the Brewers to part ways with their third baseman (even if now is the best time to part ways and bring youth to the hot corner). If there are takers and there is a serviceable (replacement level) player available plus mid-range prospect to fill the future void I hope the Brewers pull the trigger. I am skeptical there is anything as teams (rightfully so) are skeptical of the health and age of Ramirez. Yes, Taylor Green is here, but so far he has battled more injuries than pitching, with a negative WAR to show for it. Omar Infante could also provide a stop gap as well as support other areas of the infield, but both immediate and future needs are a huge concern here. At the time of this posting there is no future here.
Corey Hart (1B) 2012 WAR 2.0, 2014 Projected WAR .5
I am weary of agencies releasing tapes “proving” the health of their clients; however, this is another area the Brewers have found themselves between a rock and hard place. They can gamble on Hart, who missed last year due to two knee surgeries or turn over first base to unproven candidates Juan Francisco, Sean Halton, or Hunter Morris. Francisco and Halton saw action last year and underwhelmed for the most part. Keep in mind; they were more ready than Morris. Do any of these players have a future at first? Possibly, Morris is the highest rated prospect of the three, and both Francisco and Halton are showing improvement in the Dominican League. That’s the positive spin, reality is it doesn’t look like there will be an All-Star at first anytime soon.
Of course, there is also the free agency option. If the Brewers do not come to an agreement with Hart then expect a free agent signing. As always, each player comes with their own risks, mostly salary concerns and diminishing returns (as most are coming off good years). Possible first baseman free agents include Ike Davis, Mike Napoli, Justin Morneau, or Paul Konerko. My hope is that Hart is healed, signs a “home team discount friendly” deal and contributes for the next three years. I’ll say it again, what a mess.
Fact: Last year replacement level players were a step up from the Brewers starters at the corners.
Both positions are critical to the future of the organization and as of right now there is no clear plan. My gut says they are going to make a free agent move at first base and it will not clear up the uncertainty of the future. Best case is a bleak one game above replacement, brining their 2014 projected win total to 75. Starting and relief pitching still too come…
The “best case” dream is starting to look nightmarish. Drinking helps, I swear.