On Saturday evening, it was announced that the Milwaukee Brewers had agreed to a deal with righty Yovani Gallardo. His role on this team is currently unclear.
For years, Gallardo was the workhorse of the Milwaukee Brewers rotation. He, along with Zack Greinke, carried the pitching staff and the team to an NLCS appearance. For the past three years Brewers fans haven’t been able to see Gallardo pitch in a Brewers uniform. He’s spent a year each in Texas, Baltimore, and Seattle. His stops in Baltimore and Seattle weren’t very successful.
As a soon to be 32 year old pitcher, the question surrounding Gallardo now is, what is his role on the team? He hasn’t performed well enough of late to be given a spot in the rotation simply by signing a contract. It’s doubtful that GM David Stearns guaranteed Gallardo a spot in the rotation in negotiations.
In our Twitter poll regarding Yo’s role on the team, 36% of the voters believe he belongs in the bullpen, while 22% thinks he should be a starter. 25% believe he’s only here to bring nostalgia while another 17% think he should be a power bat off the bench.
While there obviously isn’t a consensus on his role on the field, there is one thing that Gallardo will be useful for.
With the return of Gallardo, the Milwaukee Brewers now have two players remaining from that 2011 NL Central championship squad, joining Ryan Braun. As a veteran pitcher who has been in the postseason before, he can help bring along this young pitching staff. No one else on this staff has been in the postseason. None of them know what it’s like to start a postseason game. Gallardo does.
He can be the calming veteran presence as these young pitchers mature. He’s been through the same things they are going through right now. Matt Garza is now gone and there isn’t another veteran in this rotation or that has been in a starting rotation that can help them.
That will be his primary role on the team. Being a leader and a teacher to these young pitchers will be what Gallardo is needed for most. What time in the game he pitches, is secondary to the clubhouse presence that he will be.
Rotation vs. Bullpen
This is the big debate among Brewers fans. Some think he’s no longer good enough to be in the starting rotation while others think that the rotation is where Gallardo belongs. To be completely honest, as things stand right now, Gallardo is in the starting rotation.
He is not the only acquisition the Milwaukee Brewers will make regarding the rotation this winter. There will be at least one more, hopefully to deal with the top of the rotation. But right now, he should be penciled in as the #4 starter behind Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, and Brandon Woodruff. The fifth spot is up for grabs between guys like Brent Suter, Junior Guerra, Josh Hader, and Aaron Wilkerson.
Gallardo’s arm has regained some velocity so it’s not out of the question for him to remain in the rotation even after another pitching acquisition. So let’s say the Milwaukee Brewers do acquire a top of the rotation starter. The rotation would look something like this: Pitcher X, Anderson, Davies, Woodruff, and Gallardo/Suter/Guerra. Gallardo moves back to being the fifth starter in the rotation. That’s not a guarantee of a spot.
With another pitching acquisition, Spring Training will make the final decision as to Gallardo’s role. If he pitches well in spring, and is better than guys like Suter and Guerra, he will have earned the final spot in the rotation. And he will be that guy at the end of the rotation that is out of a job once Jimmy Nelson returns. He could simply be the placeholder keeping a seat warm for Nelson.
Gallardo will likely be pitching out of the bullpen at some point in 2018. In Seattle this year, he posted a 1.69 ERA in six relief appearances covering 16 innings. If he earns the rotation spot out of camp, he won’t have to move to the bullpen until Nelson returns. If he isn’t in the rotation to start the year, he will likely become the long reliever out of the bullpen.
It seems that Gallardo and Suter will be battling for the same positions during Spring Training. One will enter the rotation and one will be the long man out of the ‘pen. But once Jimmy Nelson returns, what do the Brewers do? They can’t keep two long relievers in the bullpen. In that scenario, Suter will have to get the boot because he has minor league options remaining while Gallardo does not. With a guaranteed major league deal, it’s unlikely that the Crew would simply cut him before the season started.
He adds depth where the Brewers had little and he adds veteran leadership on a very young team. If anything, he can always add a little pop off the bench as a pinch hitter. Overall this is a low risk, low cost move that could potentially have a very high reward.
David Stearns is still working the phones trying to make a deal this winter. He still has a couple more tweaks and alterations to make to this roster to ensure that the Milwaukee Brewers can not only compete for a playoff spot this time, but actually make it into the playoffs.