Pitchers and catchers officially reported to Maryvale yesterday, signaling the start of the 2015 Milwaukee Brewers season. The Brewers hope to turn the page from their 2014 that saw one of the greatest collapses in the history of baseball.
While many fans were calling for the heads of manager Ron Roenicke and GM Doug Melvin following the season, Mark Attanasio allowed the dust to settle before deciding to retain two of his top lieutenants. Some talk show hosts called for the Brewers to complete wholesale changes to shake up the roster this offseason, but Melvin and company looked at the core of the team and decided they liked what they saw. Though there is still time for the team to make some moves before the season starts, here is a breakdown of the Brewers 2014-15 offseason:
LHP Zach Duke
LHP Tom Gorzelanny
1B Lyle Overbay
1B/3B Mark Reynolds
RHP Francisco Rodriguez
2B Rickie Weeks
OF Caleb Gindl
OF Kentrail Davis
1B/OF Sean Halton
3B Nick Delmonico
IF Jeff Bianchi
RHP Alfredo Figaro
LHP Miguel de los Santos
OF Jeremy Hermida
Signed to Major League Deal:
LHP Neal Cotts
Signed to Minor League deal:
RHP Hiram Burgos
C Nevin Ashley
IF Pete Orr
RHP John Ely
RHP Jaye Chapman
LHP Brent Leach
RHP Wirfin Obispo
2B Hank Statia
OF Ben Guez
OF Bryan Petersen
LHP Nick Additon
LHP Dontrelle Willis
RHP Chris Leroux
RHP Josh Roenicke
RHP Chris Perez
C Beau Wallace
IF Daniel Murphy
RHP Marco Estrada to Toronto Blue Jays for Adam Lind
RHP Zach Quintana to Atlanta Braves for OF Kyle Wren
C Shawn Zarraga to Los Angeles Dodgers for OF Matt Long and LHP Jarret Martin
RHP Yovani Gallardo and cash to Texas Rangers for RHP Corey Knebel, IF Luis Sardinas, and RHP Marcos Diplan
Claimed off Waivers:
GM Doug Melvin and the Brewers seemed to make a statement this offseason, choosing to trust their homegrown core and not pursue much help from outside the organization. Only two players that were brought in are expected to major contributors to the big league club: Adam Lind will see most of the at bats at first base, and Neal Cotts is assured a spot in the Brewers bullpen. The Brewers also traded their longest tenured player in Yovani Gallardo to Texas, allowing a spot in the rotation to open up for former top prospect Jimmy Nelson. With their young, controllable core of talent and improving farm system, an offseason reminiscent of the Padres didn’t make much sense for the Brewers.
Best Move: Adam Lind trade
The Brewers have had a major problem at first base over the past two seasons, posting league worst OPS marks at the position in 2013 and 2014. GM Doug Melvin acted swiftly to address that need, shipping the homer-prone Marco Estrada to Toronto for the lefty-hitting Lind. Though he comes with a checkered health past (playing in only 96 games last season) and platoon issues, his .860 career OPS verse right handed pitchers and four career seasons of 20+ home runs were no doubt attractive for the Brewers. Lind addresses the biggest offensive whole the Brewers have had in their lineup for awhile and makes the Brewers offense much more imposing to opposing pitchers.
Biggest Move: Yovani Gallardo Trade
The Brewers offseason was pretty quiet between the Lind trade and the middle of January, before Doug Melvin pulled off a blockbuster that no one saw coming. Yovani Gallardo had a career as one of the best pitchers in Brewers franchise history, but given his $13 mil salary in the final year of club control, the Brewers opted to move him and maximize their return. In moving Gallardo, the Brewers saved $9 mil in payroll, while also adding promising talents Corey Knebel, Marcos Diplan, and Luis Sardinas to their farm system. While the 18 year old Diplan is years away from potentially making an impact the major league level, both Knebel and Sardinas could have an impact on the big league club this season. Jimmy Nelson, who will take Gallardo’s spot in the rotation, may already be better than Yo by some accounts.
Biggest Head Scratcher: Neal Cotts Signing
The Brewers were looking to add another lefty to their bullpen mix, but Neal Cotts seems like a curious choice for me. His reverse platoon splits negate some of the value that his left-handedness would normally provide, and a $3 mil guarantee on a major league deal seemed a bit heavy. With other, more traditional lefty specialists like Phil Coke or Joe Thatcher available at the time that Cotts signed, I was slightly disappointed with the news.
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Overlooked Weakness: Bench
With Rickie Weeks, Lyle Overbay, and Mark Reynolds leaving via free agency, the Brewers bench from last season was greatly depleted of solid, veteran depth. While under-the-radar waiver claims of Luis Jimenez and Shane Peterson could pay off for the Brewers, they are far from sure things. With established and versatile players like Emilio Bonifacio and Gordon Beckham available in free agency, the Brewers would have been wise to pursue a veteran player more strongly.
Expect Another Addition: Bullpen
The Brewers are still on the lookout for bullpen help, with rumors tying them to a familiar face in Francisco Rodriguez (whose asking price is reportedly much too high) as well as beleaguered Phillies’ closer Jonathan Papelbon (though talks haven’t gained much traction lately). In addition to those two possibilities, Mike Adams (who I profiled as a fit), Brian Wilson, (who Pete profiled) and Phil Coke (who Jeff profiled) are still free agents. The Brewers will wait to announce a closer, with Jonathan Broxton the current favorite to handle the role. The door is still wide open for the Brewers to bring someone in before the start of the season.
Overall Grade: C+
The Brewers had a solid, if somewhat uneventful, offseason overall. The Lind trade and Gallardo trade were both smart deals, though I’m more convinced than some that Jimmy Nelson will have a solid season for the Brewers. Doug Melvin was smart not to part with any top prospects or draft picks, as the future of this team is looking better than most people seem to believe. The Brewers added some solid players via waiver claims and minor league trades, and they signed several minor league free agents with strong AAA track records (perhaps to stick it to the Sounds after their PDC wasn’t renewed). Still, while I’m a big believer in Luis Jimenez, it would have been nice to see the Brewers bring in a more established bench player. The bullpen also remains somewhat of a question mark. A player like Coke or Carlos Villanueva would’ve been a good addition to add starting pitcher depth, and I’m not the only one disappointed in the Neal Cotts deal. I don’t believe the Brewers and GM Doug Melvin are done, however, and we should see another one or two moves before the season begins. If the Brewers can add one more proven arm to their bullpen before Spring Training ends, it will tie a nice bow on their offseason and give them a better chance for a playoff run in 2015.