The Milwaukee Brewers need one more piece to complete their bullpen. The Brewers should add two pieces in my opinion.
As of January, 10, MLB’s Brewers beat writer Adam McCalvy guessed the bullpen would look like this on Opening Day:
Closer: Corey Knebel
LH setup: Josh Hader
RH setup: Jacob Barnes
LHP Boone Logan
RHP Jeremy Jeffress
RHP J.J. Hoover
The Brewers direly need one more potent setup/closer type. Jacob Barnes only looked good for the first two months in 2017. He is young and maintained a good strikeout rate the whole year, which is promising. However, he has not earned the top setup honors due to inconsistency..
No one can guarantee that former Brewers closer Jeremy Jeffress can slide back into that role after poor results outside of the Brewers organization. Therefore, Milwaukee needs to sign or trade for that extra piece.
Oliver Drake struggled all season in 2017. His ERA snuck over 4.00 every single month. Perhaps Counsell overused him, but the team needs someone with a rubber arm. Junior Guerra could work as his replacement and potential longman. Depending on how the starting rotation pans out, Yovani Gallardo could be a great replacement for Drake as well.
Brewers General Manager David Stearns has done a good job of signing relievers off the scrapheap during the offseason. Boone Logan is one of these players. The back of Logan’s baseball card is hard to read due to a stint in Colorado and his being a lefty-specialist. Perhaps he can flourish for the Brewers by dominating big NL Central lefties such as Anthony Rizzo and Joey Votto late in games.
J.J. Hoover might not even make the Brewers roster. He signed a minor league contract, and he will compete for a spot on the big league roster during Spring Training. Hoover will likely provide depth in the organization while younger players such as Taylor Williams get a shot on the main Brewers roster.
The Colorado Rockies edged out the Brewers by one game for a postseason spot last year. That franchise has led an MLB trend to load up with a slew of great relievers. The Brewers do not need to break the bank this offseason, but they need to consider who they want to build their bullpen on going forward.
Last season, Josh Hader broke out and showed his ability to go multiple innings per appearance and maintain a K/9 of 12.84. For perspective, New York Yankees flamethrower Aroldis Chapman fell short of that K-rate last season.
Hader could project as a future closer, but he might be even more valuable as an Andrew Miller-type swingman. Having a dominant pitcher that can get more than three outs at any time has become a revelation in baseball strategy recently.
Brewers 26 year-old closer Corey Knebel built up a 3.7 WAR in 2017. Like Hader, Knebel struck out hitters at an elite rate. However, Knebel had a problem with control. His strikeouts got him out of jams more often than not, but the Brewers might look to trade Knebel for what could be a huge haul at the 2018 trade deadline.
The Brewers acquired Travis Shaw and highly-rated prospect Mauricio Dubon for Tyler Thornburg. Knebel could be worth more in July of 2018 than Thornburg was when he netted Milwaukee that haul.
History shows closers can develop and come out of nowhere. The Brewers have had four different players lead the team in Saves over the last five seasons. Moving Knebel in 2018 could greatly benefit the team going forward.
Stearns has done a good job building organizational depth in relief pitching this offseason with shrewd signings of players such as J.J. Hoover. That being said, the Brewers still need one more dominant setup man and could use another key arm to avoid injuries and compete.