Now that the off-season has arrived, it’s time for the Milwaukee Brewers to look ahead to this winter where they will almost certainly be making big changes to this roster. David Stearns & Co. will have their work cut out for them as this season has given them a lot to think about.
Every team has the same problem every off-season. What positions do we need to address and how do we fix them? Identifying problems isn’t that hard, but finding ways to address the position can be.
There are numerous ways for these positions to be addressed, as our 2018 off-season preview detailed. David Stearns could find his solutions in free agency. Last year, he found his first base solution in free agency with Eric Thames.
He could find solutions in the trade market. Travis Shaw solved the Brewers third base problem after coming over via trade. Stearns can even find solutions on the waiver wire. Jesus Aguilar and Jared Hughes are a couple examples of that.
So finding the right players seems to be a talent for Stearns. It has to be in his profession, and he makes excellent decisions when building a roster. He’ll need to do it again this winter as the Milwaukee Brewers can no longer sneak up on the NL Central. They know the Brewers are there and will prepare accordingly. Stearns must do the same.
Teams have already began placing their chess pieces for this winter. Now that the Brewers are at the tail end of their rebuild, this winter will be crucial in the success of the franchise for the next several years. Making the right moves sets the Crew up for a long term run at the NL Central crown. While a couple of bad moves could set the team back a year or two.
The Milwaukee Brewers seem to have a lot fewer needs than they did at this time last year. Last year there were question marks at third base, first base, catcher, rotation, bullpen, and outfield. During the season, a lot of those questions were answered. But some of those questions remain, some will be re-phrased, and some new questions have come up altogether.
Need #1: Clear up the Outfield picture
The Milwaukee Brewers have a logjam of talent in the outfield. This isn’t new information. Ever since David Stearns began hogging every single outfielder he could find, everyone knew that at some point Stearns would have to trade some of that talent away. We’ve reached that point.
Brett Phillips has made a great impression. Lewis Brinson is ready as well. But the incumbent starters, Ryan Braun, Domingo Santana, and Keon Broxton are all pretty good too. So what to do with all this talent? Some of it is going to have to be traded.
All of them have value no matter your opinion on Keon Broxton’s bat. As inconsistent as he is, he did have a 20-20 season this year. Stearns can get something for Broxton, which is great considering the Brewers got him for basically nothing.
Domingo Santana has garnered interest but David Stearns will need to be blown away to even consider trading Santana. Ryan Braun has been injured, has a large contract, and hasn’t been performing like his usual self. Finding a suitor will be difficult.
In terms of best chances to get traded away, it would go: 1. Keon Broxton 2. Ryan Braun 3. Domingo Santana.
Now here’s something perhaps no one will expect. Since Brett Phillips came on strong in September, the Brewers brass has said he’s given them a lot to think about. Could they possibly be slightly more open to dealing Lewis Brinson for a big trade this winter? I wouldn’t expect it but anything is possible.
Need #2: Starting Pitching
Coming out of Spring Training in 2017, the Milwaukee Brewers had seven starters for five spots and had a lot of depth at that position. They didn’t look like a playoff caliber rotation at that point with only two pitchers locked into the rotation to start. Most of that rotation was back-end arms with no one who looked like a true ace or even a #2 starter. But they stepped up.
Chase Anderson and Zach Davies will be the top two starters going into next season. Beyond that is anyone’s guess. Jimmy Nelson was turning into the stud ace everyone believed he could be but a shoulder injury will keep him out for a significant chunk of next season. So instead of a three headed monster, the Brewers have a question mark.
There’s a lot of prospects who could pitch in the rotation but Craig Counsell will likely want at least one new starter that’s not on his rookie season. Brandon Woodruff, Josh Hader, Aaron Wilkerson, and Corbin Burnes could all make a push for the rotation in Spring Training. There’s 10 major league starts between all four of them.
With the loss of Nelson at the top of the rotation, Craig Counsell will need someone else to step in at the top of the rotation. None of those rookies can immediately front a rotation. With how short the Brewers were on starters in September, David Stearns will need to add a starter to this rotation before Spring Training. Don’t be surprised to see a trade for a starter with Milwaukee giving one of their outfielders in return.
Need #3: Second Base
After 2016, the Milwaukee Brewers seemed to have second base set for years to come. Jonathan Villar has just hit .280 with 19 homers and 62 stolen bases. David Stearns felt so confident in Villar’s abilities he even offered him a contract extension with about $20 million in guaranteed money.
Villar declined, bet on himself, and lost. Now, the Brewers have their largest question mark at second base. Villar, Eric Sogard, Neil Walker, and even Hernan Perez saw time at the keystone position in 2017. Sogard and Walker are free agents and Perez plays too many other positions to stay at second base full time. So now who can Counsell turn to?
The Brewers are stacked with middle infield prospects. Mauricio Dubon is just about ready to take over, Isan Diaz and Keston Hiura also lurk in the background. But none of them may be the best option for a Brewers team with playoff expectation. Maybe someone not currently in the organization is the best hope to man second base next year.
Every other position in the Milwaukee lineup has players lined up in starting spots. Second base has a gaping hole where a productive player needs to be.
There are a lot of potential solutions to these needs. David Stearns is currently working on a shopping list for this off-season. This year’s list won’t be as long as last years but perhaps it’s more important than last years.