The Milwaukee Brewers need a front-of-the-line pitcher, but ace Chris Archer does not have to be that guy.
Many Brewers fans feel that the team is ready to turn the corner. Milwaukee won 86 games in 2017 and narrowly missed the playoffs.
All these breakout performances put the Brewers organization in a good position. However, the team will not be ready to compete for a championship in 2018. This is true even if they pick up a top pitcher such as Chris Archer.
When Will the Milwaukee Brewers Be Ready?
The Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros won the past two World Series after rebuilds. The Milwaukee Brewers started their rebuild just before they hired David Stearns as General Manager in September of 2015.
Brewers GM David Stearns always stuck to the premise that he had no timeline for the Brewers rebuild. He has focused on quality, young talent acquisition, and patience.
“You need to acquire, develop and keep controllable young talent; quality major-league talent. If you look at sustainably competitive teams throughout industry, regardless of market size, regardless of city, that’s what you have to do,” Stearns said in a press conference when he joined the team.
But history shows one can put a bit of a timetable on Brewers-like rebuilds.
Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs Rebuild, Win World Series
In 2011, the Astros signed Jeff Luhnow to be general manager to rebuild the team. They won the World Series in 2017.
The Cubs hired Boston Red Sox hero Theo Epstein to President of Baseball Operations and rebuild its franchise in 2011. They won the World Series in 2016.
Since the Brewers signed Stearns in September of 2015, fans should hope Milwaukee’s window to start around 2020, not 2018.
Chris Archer Can Boost a Rebuild, But Brewers Do Not Need Ace Now
The Cubs acquired Lester early in their rebuild. This contract kept him there long enough to contribute when the team was ready. And the Astros gave up minor league talent to acquire Verlander midway through their World Series winning year.
The Brewers trade for Archer, however, holds more risk. Archer has accumulated big innings and strikeout numbers over his young career. This makes the flamethrower’s FIP and other analytics look good.
On the other hand, Archer’s ERA rose to over four during the last two seasons. This happened mostly due to an increase in home runs allowed. He went from surrendering under one to over one during this time.
His HR/9 is comparable to Matt Garza’s career numbers with Brewers. That is despite Archer pitching in a pitcher’s friendly park in Tampa Bay while Garza struggled in the hitter’s friendly park in Milwaukee.
These stats show that Archer might not be a good match for Milwaukee and Miller Park.
The Astros traded away some of its best prospects for Carlos Gomez in 2015 to speed up its rebuilding process.
Brewers fans fondly remember this as the trade that netted them Santana, Josh Hader, Brett Phillips, and Adrian Houser. Three of those players had positive roles in last season’s surprisingly good Brewers team.
Astros like to forget this trade as Gomez never created the impact they wanted. They released him before retooling and winning the World Series later.
The Brewers and their fans do not want to put themselves in that risky position. They do not need to. It will not change anything.
Milwaukee Brewers Rebuild Is Not Done
Brewers fans focus on all of the positives heading into 2018, but there are negatives as well. Jimmy Nelson will miss most of the 2018 season after blowing out his arm in 2017.
It might be too much to rely on another 30-homer season from Eric Thames. He is unlikely to ambush National League pitching with another 11 home runs in April of 2018. Furthermore, things trended down for Thames as pitchers made adjustments on him. He notched a 1.276 OPS in April but just .691 OPS in August.
Keon Broxton hit 20 homers and ran for 21 stolen bases in 2017. On the downside, he was a wildly inconsistent hitter who picked up 175 strikeouts.
All this being said, the Milwaukee Brewers organization looks like it will be in a great place by around 2020 when top prospect Lewis Brinson and others will have more experience. That would reflect the Astros and Cubs rebuild and win timeline better.
Milwaukee Brewers Should Avoid Risk, Hoard Prospects
The Brewers should consider adding a frontline pitcher, but beware the risk. Archer has a HR/9 red flag reminiscent of Matt Garza. Going back a bit further, look at the Brewers signing of Jeff Suppan. He did not work out in Milwaukee and came in with a HR/9 a little over one that just got worse in Miller Park.
Archer is young and very good. He has a great contract that is long and cheap. He has a 200 plus inning history and usually racks up more than 9.0 K/9
But, Milwaukee has no reason to send away many of their best prospects for a player with even one red flag.
They can acquire their Verlander later when they know that’s what they need, and it is time to win it all. It worked for the Astros. And, the Cubs did not sacrifice prospects when they signed Lester midway through their rebuild.
Stearns will target and likely pick up a good pitcher before 2018 season, but he won’t mortgage the system. He should not give up number one prospect Brinson until he knows how well Brinson plays with more big league at-bats.