The Milwaukee Brewers continue to add relatively cheap, veteran relievers with an apparent wait-and-see strategy for their 2018 bullpen.
The Milwaukee Brewers have enough arms to fill their current bullpen, and they even have depth beyond that as of February of 2018. However, the Brewers relief corps does not look nearly as formidable as teams such as the New York Yankees and Colorado Rockies who are stocked with big, proven arms.
The rotation will need help from bullpen
Unless the Milwaukee Brewers sign or trade for an innings-eating, frontline starting pitcher, the team will need a good bullpen. The Brewers starters do not match up with Central Division rival Chicago Cubs. They are young and do not have a history of going deep into games.
On January 25, 2018, the Brewers set the hot stove ablaze by trading for Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich and signing free agent outfielder Lorenzo Cain. Baseball fans and media have lamented a slow transaction market other than those Brewers moves.
That being said, the slow market has not stopped many relievers from signing contracts. The strategy of building a strong bullpen has become a trend.
Brewers bullpen strategy for 2018
The Milwaukee Brewers strategy to strengthen their bullpen as of February 2018 has been two-fold. Josh Hader will start 2018 as a reliever and the Brewers will have a group of veterans competing for a top setup spot. Brewers Manager Craig Counsell confirmed Hader’s 2018 role at Brewers on Deck.
“There are things that could happen that could change that, but right now that’s what we’re thinking,” Counsell said.
Last season, the Brewers traded for Anthony Swarzak to make games shorter. Swarzak teamed with breakout Brewers prospect Hader to shorten games and give the ball to breakout closer Corey Knebel. This worked well down the stretch. Milwaukee had the sixth best bullpen ERA in all of baseball during the second half of 2017.
What the Brewers bullpen looks like right now
If returning relievers Jeremy Jeffress, Jacob Barnes, and Oliver Drake cannot fill the key role Swarzak left, Milwaukee seems hopeful at least one of those veteran signees can have a big year. They have each proven to be capable of having a big year in their past.
Even if only one of those new relievers can step up and replace Swarzak and the rest are busts, it will be worth the total cost for all of the bullpen additions so far to Stearns.
As of now, this seems to be the Milwaukee Brewers bullpen strategy heading towards Spring Training. May the best man win the spot. From there, Counsell will have to manage the bullpen with a deft hand.
Hader and Knebel struck out hitters at an impressive rate last year. However, they are young and could be due a sophomore slump. Knebel, especially, used strikeouts to get himself out of danger. He created many baserunners with walks. The Brewers will remember how a high walk-rate was the downfall of popular closer John Axford despite his high strikeout rate. The Brewers will need someone to dominate in the setup role in case Hader has to close out games due to a Knebel collapse.