Milwaukee Brewers: Are They Done Making Big Additions?
As we close in on the new year, the Milwaukee Brewers continue to tinker with their roster. So far, the biggest move they’ve made is signing Jhoulys Chacin to a two year deal. Could that be the big move of the entire offseason?
The biggest need that David Stearns had heading into the offseason was adding innings to this pitching staff. He can say that is done after signing Chacin and Yovani Gallardo. Does he need to make any major additions?
The short answer is no, he technically doesn’t. If the season started tomorrow, the Milwaukee Brewers could put out a major league caliber starting rotation, lineup, and bullpen. But the Brewers shouldn’t want to just put out a major league caliber rotation, lineup, and bullpen. They should want those parts of the team to be playoff caliber.
What do they need to do to make each part of this team playoff caliber?
Second base is the big area of need in the lineup, and it’s really not as dire as it may seem. Yes, Jonathan Villar is coming off of a terrible season. Yes, Eric Sogard is highly unlikely to repeat the success he had in 2017. But that doesn’t mean the two of them can’t hold down the fort and be productive next season.
If things stay the way they are, Villar and Sogard will battle for playing time in Spring Training. Villar, being the young, mostly untapped talent that he is, will likely be given the benefit of the doubt. He will get the chance to regain his 2016 form with Sogard and Hernan Perez filling in from time to time. If Villar struggles again, he will not be in the lineup for long. Enter Mauricio Dubon.
Dubon needs a little more seasoning in Triple-A and could come up mid-season. He doesn’t have much power but he gets on base and could be the ideal leadoff man if Villar cannot get back to his old self.
The Milwaukee Brewers have three of their top 10 prospects that are second baseman. Isan Diaz and Keston Hiura are not too far behind Dubon. Why should they spend big on adding a long term solution at second base? They have multiple low cost, homegrown options that will be ready soon.
Most of us at Reviewing the Brew are big fans of Whit Merrifield of the Kansas City Royals. He has five years of control remaining and the Royals will have a very high price on him. It will be difficult to see Stearns pulling the trigger on a massive deal for a second baseman when he could simply wait a few months into the season for his top prospect to be ready. The lineup is close to being playoff caliber, if it isn’t already.
The rotation is certainly deeper with the additions of Chacin and Gallardo. However, it may not have made many strides forward from last year. Chacin is notoriously inconsistent, having been unable to string together two full quality seasons back to back during his career. He may provide a slight improvement over Matt Garza’s production the last four years but fans shouldn’t expect high level production out of him.
Chacin and Gallardo can fix up the back end of the rotation but with Jimmy Nelson out for an unknown period of time, this rotation is in need of a boost at the top if it’s going to be playoff caliber. Chase Anderson turned in a great season but he can’t carry the rotation by himself and Zach Davies doesn’t perform well at home.
Stearns has been bargain hunting in free agency all winter. He’s staying away from the expensive section of the free agent market and that’s the smart move. But he is going to have to go into the expensive section of the trade market if he’s going to find a top of the rotation arm. The Milwaukee Brewers have the prospects to outbid anybody on the trade market and if they want a rotation capable of going to, and winning a playoff series, they will need to make a deal for a big time pitcher.
The farm system is strong enough to take a hit in a deal for an ace and still be one of the best in the league. Stearns is obviously weary of the high prices on the pitching market. He may feel this rotation will be playoff caliber once Jimmy Nelson returns and that could lead him to be hesitant to make a blockbuster trade when he may not have to.
After losing Anthony Swarzak and Jared Hughes in free agency, the bullpen is in need of adding a few arms. There is no clear cut option to pitch in the eighth inning. Jacob Barnes is the current favorite but he’s been inconsistent and may need to return to the seventh inning to regain his footing. Jeremy Jeffress is a solid option but he’s shown his share of struggles lately.
If the Brewers stay in-house to fill the last two bullpen spots, the ‘pen will lack experience. The Milwaukee Brewers have a playoff caliber closer in Corey Knebel, but outside of that, there are few good options. Josh Hader can only pitch so much and will likely not have a set role in the bullpen, if he even stays there. Brent Suter is a long reliever and Oliver Drake is not reliable enough to pitch in the seventh or eighth innings.
There will need to be at least one more veteran addition to this bullpen, preferably two. With Swarzak and Hughes out the door, someone will need to come in to take each of their places in the seventh and eighth inning. The bullpen lacks needed depth and the position is becoming more important than ever. Good depth is vital for any playoff caliber bullpen.
Are the Brewers done adding?
No, not at all. They absolutely need to make more additions in the bullpen to fortify it. But, don’t expect any blockbuster additions.
They don’t need to add anyone at second base. With a stud group of position players around the keystone, the lineup is still strong. The only issue is what happens with the leadoff spot because the second baseman was generally the player leading off in 2017 for the Brewers. Orlando Arcia could hit in the leadoff spot while Villar tries to regain his 2016 form. Outside of that, there are few good options.
The rotation is tricky. As it stands right now, a top of the rotation arm is necessary for any playoff caliber rotation. But it’s very possible that David Stearns feels that Jimmy Nelson is that ace that this team needs. And if Nelson will return later in the year, why should he pay a premium for someone else’s ace starter? He will make the move only if the perfect deal comes along.
Setup men do not count as blockbuster additions but they are the likeliest to happen at this point. The major addition that Brewers fans have been waiting for, may never come. A lot of things hinge on Jimmy Nelson’s return. When he returns and how he returns will have a tremendous impact on the plan moving forward for the Milwaukee Brewers.
There are still a bunch of the top free agents on the market. But the free agent market is being held up by the trade market at the moment. If Stearns wants to strike, he may have to strike quickly before the best pickings on the trade market move elsewhere. If he waits until after the trade market runs dry, and the same happens in the free agent market, Stearns will not have a lot of choices. But the price might be just right.
Next: Potential Starting Outfielders in 2018
David Stearns has a plan of action that we trust to be the right course. While fans may sometimes disagree with the plan, it will yield the best results for the Milwaukee Brewers.