Milwaukee Brewers Roundtable: Should Crew Sign or Trade For an Ace?

MILWAUKEE, WI - SEPTEMBER 16: Manager Craig Counsell
MILWAUKEE, WI - SEPTEMBER 16: Manager Craig Counsell /

There has been a lot of speculation of late that the Milwaukee Brewers could be in the free agent market for a front-line starting pitcher.

They were also in the trade market for front-line starters back in July. And that got us here at Reviewing the Brew thinking. Should the Brewers sign or trade for an ace pitcher? Let the roundtable begin.

David Gasper

This is one of those debates where there’s really no right answer and there’s no wrong answer. I could see the Milwaukee Brewers going after one of the top free agent starters. But I could also see them try to package their surplus of prospects together to swing a deal on the trade market. It’s really a matter of what the Brewers want to eat into: their prospect depth or their payroll flexibility.

For a small market, rebuilding team like the Brewers, having a lot of prospect depth is important to continuing to churn out major league talent. But having as much payroll flexibility as possible is key to keeping your talent. And preventing them from leaving for larger contracts in larger markets.

Without payroll flexibility and without prospects, teams will end up in the current state of the Kansas City Royals. Their entire core is leaving and they have a barren farm system and are looking at a long rebuild. Milwaukee will look to avoid that.

GM David Stearns built up a surplus of prospects for a reason. If they don’t have a future on the MLB roster because there aren’t any spots for them, they can be traded to fill other holes. Starting pitching is a hole right now. With Nelson down, someone is needed at the top of the rotation. Those guys don’t come cheap.

Grabbing one of the top free agents in Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, or Lance Lynn will cost at least $20 million a season, if not more. Plus all of these players are over 30 years old. Just adding one of those players will mean that half of the payroll is caught up in them and Ryan Braun.

Eventually long term contracts will need to be signed with the young players to keep them in Milwaukee and that will get expensive. Especially if one of these starters is signed to a five or six year deal.

If the Brewers grab one of the young, controllable, cheap starters, the payroll will be in much better shape. There are two big names that could be traded this winter in Chris Archer of Tampa Bay and Marcus Stroman of Toronto.

Archer is under control through 2021 for less than $9 million each year. It is one of most team-friendly contracts in history. Stroman has three years of arbitration remaining and is projected to earn slightly over $7 million this year. Both of those contracts are absolute steals.

The Milwaukee Brewers were in the market for controllable front-line starters in July but missed out on both Sonny Gray and Jose Quintana because of their unwillingness to deal Lewis Brinson. Because of the emergence of Brett Phillips, David Stearns might be more willing to include Brinson in a deal.

Those deals in the summer told everyone what the market was at. A team’s top pitching and position prospect would need to be centerpieces. That means Lewis Brinson and Luis Ortiz could be sent away together, again.

Is it worth giving up a potential All-Star outfielder and #2 starter for years to come for a guy like Stroman or Archer? Given the rest of the depth of the system, I would argue yes.

Monte Harrison has been coming on strong after finally getting healthy and is showing everyone why he was a second round pick. He could be ready before we know it. He is still at least a year away from making an impact at the big league level. But his performance could help make Brinson expendable.

There’s simply not enough room in the current outfield for Brinson. Trading Keon Broxton makes sense to clear some playing time but Brett Phillips has earned the chance to start as well.

Domingo Santana has earned a spot as well. And Braun isn’t going anywhere right now. Maybe a move to first base is in the future for Braun, but not while Eric Thames is there. He still has two more years to go on his deal. If Braun can move to first base that clears up room in the outfield for Harrison but it will happen too late for Brinson.

Why would the Milwaukee Brewers want to hinder their payroll flexibility the year before one of the best free agent classes in history?

Why go all out on this class when they have a chance next year to grab someone possibly even better?

At that point, it will be two years of success in a row and free agents will realize Milwaukee may be a great destination. But if the Brewers can’t pay them, the opportunity will be wasted. Trading for a younger, cheaper starting pitcher makes more sense to me than signing one of the top free agents.

Matt Yeazel

The Brewers’ rotation is in a very good place as it is right now. But an ace could certainly take the unit to the next level. It is a rotation full of younger and older guys, but none of them are experienced in the playoffs. And getting an ace could certainly help with that.

A big question mark of the Milwaukee Brewers rotation for next season is if Josh Hader will be starting or relieving. This brings up two points of question for David Stearns: Whether to try and bring in one or more starting pitchers, and whether to go after a righty or a lefty.

Assuming Hader is a member of the rotation, the Brewers highest priority would probably be just finding the best possible pitcher they can, no matter righty or lefty. Having at least one lefty in the rotation is very important for anyone, and other than Brent Suter, the Brewers did not have a left handed starter all year.

However, if the Brewers were going to go after a pitcher, they would need to be willing to give up a good amount of either money or trade value in order to get a legit top of the rotation guy. I don’t see a point in going and signing lower level pitchers for cheaper with all the young pitching talent there is in the Brewers rotation and farm system.

The Brewers could easily pull off a trade for a stud with all the outfield and overall depth they have in the minor leagues. The outfield situation will be addressed eventually, and that means one or more of the very talented outfielders will have to be gone, and a trade is the perfect place to dump them.

I would love to see a deal done involving Keon Broxton, and if Milwaukee could include him in a deal for an ace (in addition to other players) that would be a win-win. Trading away from a position of depth, and adding to a position of need, as well as not dealing with the significant inconsistencies of Keon Broxton.

If Milwaukee can get a deal done for a legitimate ace, with playoff experience and the ability to pitch in a hitter friendly park, then the Brewers should definitely pull the trigger. However, it won’t be the end of the world if they don’t add anyone.

There already is a lot of talent at the big league level. And more talented prospects that could come up and be great additions to the Brewers rotation for now, and the future.

Isaac Buttke

It’s easy to say that teams should emulate the Houston Astros since they just won the World Series. However, their approach to acquiring an ace pitcher is the right way for the Milwaukee Brewers to approach it this offseason.

There was a lot of pressure on Houston to acquire more pitching during the offseason. Especially given how close they were to the title in the years prior to 2017. However, they waited to acquire an ace until the trade deadline. Opting to make a couple of smaller splashes in free agency. Like landing Charlie Morton. This is the route I’d like to see the Brewers to go.

As things stand now, the “sure things” for the rotation are Zach Davies and Chase Anderson, with Jimmy Nelson hopefully returning to the fray shortly after the season begins. Brandon Woodruff also seems like a good bet to make the rotation.

That leaves one spot open for Junior Guerra or Brent Suter. Maybe even Josh Hader if the Brewers opt to move him out of the bullpen. Which does not seem likely yet. This rotation is capable of winning plenty of games, as was on display last season. Although it certainly could use an upgrade or two if the Brewers are intent on making the playoffs this year.

However, as Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza proved, big off-season splashes don’t necessarily always pan out. The Brewers have the money to spend. But even with strong options like Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish available, there’s no saying that their stuff will transfer perfectly to Miller Park.

In my mind, making a move for a second- or third-tier starter makes the most sense. Let the big-market teams outbid each other and mortgage their future for the top arms. The Brewers can land a solid pitcher who can put them in striking distance of a playoff spot. And for a lower cost.

We have the prospect depth to use our lower-tier prospects in a trade for a player like Jeff Samardzija, otherwise we can make a low-profile deal like we did last off-season to address our need at first base.

Long story short: the Brewers shouldn’t sign or trade for an ace…yet.

Trevor Hooth

It is time for the Milwaukee Brewers to get an ace. Unfortunately, it is hard to see that happening over free agency. It is hard to convince free agents that Milwaukee is the best place to go for them. That may change now that the team is contending, but for now free agency is not the answer.

Trading, however, might be. There are several options to trade for. The most expensive, but most exciting, is Chris Archer from Tampa Bay. He is cheap as far as contract, and controllable. But his talent means he will cost a top prospect. Something that the Milwaukee Brewers are able to sacrifice if that is what it comes down to. Especially for a talent like him.

The other worthwhile option would be Jeff Samardzija. He sits fifteenth in WAR among pitchers. So while his other numbers may not show it, he wins games. It is his good command that helps him succeed. After a down year, it may be time to help the Giants unload a pitcher to help the Crew rotation.

If Jimmy Nelson were healthy, this could be a different story entirely. But he is not. So, the Milwaukee Brewers need a player to fill the hole effectively in his absence. Then, upon return from the DL, look out for that rotation.

Just about the only other option is the off-chance Shohei Ohtani decides to play for Milwaukee. He could be a great starter in that rotation. Although there are some suggestions that he might need to start in Triple-A.

There really is no definitive answer other than something needs to be done. If nothing happens it will be shocking. This team was so close last year. And the addition of just a little star power could go a long way. That star power would look great in the Milwaukee rotation in 2018.

Matt Dewoskin

The need for an ace on the Milwaukee Brewers is obvious. But they also need to develop their current group of prospects and continue the rebuild. Taking a shortcut to contention usually ends in a team contending for a single season or two.

The Brewers want to build a sustained winner. To do that they need young talent to develop into key pieces for the Major League roster. However, if they find a deal that makes sense from a resources standpoint, meaning dollars and talent headed the other way, adding an ace this offseason may make sense.

The aces available on the free agent market come with issues.  Lance Lynn appears to have the most upside of the available top starters. However it looks like he’s heading into a bidding war. Spending big on Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta may work out in the short term. But either signing could have a huge impact down the line.

If the Brewers tie up $20-25 million plus per year on ace for the next five years, signing younger stars like Travis Shaw could be an issue for a team that has to watch its bottomline.

Trades are probably the best option for the Brewers in 2018. The Milwaukee Brewers have a glut of outfield and middle infield prospects in their system. Spinning a few guys that they’re not as high on into a top of the rotation starter with a few controllable years could put them in a better position to contend when the current prospects develop.

Next: The prize of the international prospect pool

Chris Archer or Gerrit Cole make sense for the Milwaukee Brewers. However, dealing for any starting pitcher over 30 probably isn’t the best idea for a team that may not contend for a few seasons. A 32-year old in 2018 will turn 35 by 2021. That’s a lot of years of a lot of innings to ask to take starts deep into October.