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Yesterday, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Ron Roenicke and Doug Melvin had discussed the idea of moving Ryan Braun to first base. Roenicke made it clear that these talks were just preliminary, but his observations were worrying.
Roenicke stated that the addition of Gerardo Parra has opened up options, and that the team is working out how they will use the two-time Gold Glove winner going into 2015. This is particularly troubling because at this point in his career, Parra should be considered a very good fourth outfielder, but not as an everyday starter.
This of course all depends on the seriousness of the talks that Melvin and Roenicke have undergone. As a fall-back, the plan is reasonable, but this should be an option only if the team cannot entice any promising first basemen in free agency.
There are some decent names becoming available this winter, and the team must first make a strong push for one of these sluggers before settling for yet another year of under-producing at an important offensive position. As in 2013, the Brewers used stopgaps this year in Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay, but this has again proved insufficient.
Mike Morse, Michael Cuddyer, and Adam LaRoche are all expected to enter free agency after this season, and each would be a huge step up from the players that have occupied first since the start of 2013. While none of these players are likely to be household names in Milwaukee, they would be huge pieces to the Brewers’ playoff puzzle.
Cuddyer and LaRoche each have .800+ OPS over the last three seasons, and should be the first two players the Brewers call this off-season, while Morse bounced back this year after struggling in Seattle in 2013. Morse and Cuddyer have also logged considerable time in the outfield, useful given Braun’s recent injury problems.
There are of course still the in-house options of Matt Clark and Jason Rogers, but both players will need more time to prove their worth to the Big League club, and the team likely wants Rogers to remain a full-time third baseman.
The idea of moving Braun to first is no great surprise, but I certainly did not expect these talks so early on. Braun will be 31 in the 2015 season, and is signed through 2021. As his age climbs, I expected more talk about converting the outfielder, but the idea of moving him for 2015 is premature.
Moving Braun to first base would quell fears about filling that position for the rest of the decade, but then right field is obviously undermanned. The Crew needs to have more success in free agency than they did last season, and any of the aforementioned first basemen would be very welcome.