The Milwaukee Brewers will win this slow offseason by making shrewd, late free agent signings.
Other than the Yankees, no team has thrown many logs onto the MLB “Hot Stove” this winter.
Rumors of trades abound. Names such as Chris Archer, Manny Machado, and Josh Donaldson seem to be affecting the free agent market.
Furthermore, Jake Arietta is represented by super-agent Scott Boras who is known for getting top-dollar for his clients. Reports claim Arietta’s early asking price is near or over $200M.
The Milwaukee Brewers probably will not spend this much on one player this offseason
The Brewers have a history of waiting out the market and striking late.
Milwaukee Brewers Recent Free Agent Starting Pitcher History
The Brewers signed starter Jeff Suppan to the biggest pitching contract in the team’s history back in December of 2006. They broke that record when they signed starter Matt Garza in January of 2014. Neither of those players played up to contract expectations.
In 2013, the Milwaukee Brewers waited until late March before signing starting pitcher Kyle Lohse to a gem of a contract. Lohse put up a dynamic 2.86 ERA during his 211 innings the previous season.
Lohse declined a one-year qualifying offer of more than $13M from the Cardinals only to get lost in the free agent market. The Brewers got him for a discount of $11 M over three years. Lohse gave Milwaukee two of his three best WAR seasons in his career during that contract.
The December and January big money contracts of Suppan and Garza hurt the Brewers. The cheap, March Lohse signing looks good in hindsight.
This history shows that good deals can be had in MLB with extreme patience.
However, none of them turned the Brewers into a winning team.
Furthermore, the Brewers have no history of making splashy trades for big players to make a push for a title. Home grown players fully developed in their minor league system did that.
Milwaukee Brewers Savor Prospects and Build From Within
The Milwaukee Brewers made it to Game 6 of the National League Championship Series in 2011. Look at who made up the key players on that postseason roster.
In the outfield, Brewers homegrown talent Ryan Braun and Corey Hart provided power and speed.
On the infield, second baseman Rickie Weeks andmfirst baseman Prince Fielder brought their power bats to the 2011 playoff team. They also came from Brewers system.
Jonathon Lucroy broke out as the team’s best catcher, and the ace was Yovani Gallardo. Gallardo started Game 1 and Game 5 of the National League Division Series to help the Brewers advance. Both of those players were homegrown.
Even closer John Axford came from the Brewers system.
How History Teaches Brewers to Hold On To Prospects
This leads us to the 2018 season.
If a great trade or free agent discount comes up due to the slow market, the Brewers might strike. However, do not expect Brewers to make big headlines otherwise.
Milwaukee will be patient and develop from within. General Manager David Stearns has only had two years to work. The Brewers already have a top minor league system with many prospects.
2018 prospects should be allowed a little more time to grow into the type of contributors that former prospects became for the 2011 team. Then, the Brewers should use left-over prospects to make a Zack Greinke type trade to make a final push.
Who Can Brewers Sign In 2017-2018 Offseason?
The Brewers might invest in Howie Kendrick, Chase Utley, Jose Reyes, or Brandon Phillips. Any of those veterans might be available late in the offseason.
They could represent time-gaps to prospects Isan Diaz and Mauricio Dubon. They could also provide veteran leadership in a young clubhouse. If they play well enough, the players could also be dealt during the 2018 season for future Brewers gains.
The Milwaukee Brewers signed Yovani Gallardo and Jhoulys Chacin as cheap options to fill in bullpen or replace Jimmy Nelson while he rehabs. Another buy-low free agent reclamation project available is Tim Lincecum.
Otherwise, perhaps the team can luck into another Kyle Lohse-like discount deal for a player such as Andrew Cashner.
A Brewers Championship Window Opens When Their Own Players Open It
The Brewers have plenty of financial flexibility to sign a good pitcher, but this might not be the best time. After the 2018 season, the Milwaukee Brewers will have a better idea of who to keep, who to trade, and who to sign when the market looks better.
Brewers fans enjoyed last year’s 86-win season. This season’s roster looks similar on paper. Furthermore, more prospects will make their debuts to add to the excitement.
Milwaukee can win the offseason by investing in low-cost/low risk options and not trading away their best prospects.
The best prospects will become the foundation of the next great Brewers team, and then they can sign what they need from the huge free agent class of 2018.