With Spring Training now here and the roster basically set, the Milwaukee Brewers have essentially finished their offseason work. Let’s look back at the moves made and grade the offseason as a whole.
At the outset of the offseason, Milwaukee Brewers President of Baseball Operations David Stearns told us that this offseason was going to be a bit quieter than last offseason. With most of the roster returning, there weren’t that many holes to fill.
Stearns was certainly correct in his assessment that there wasn’t going to be as much activity from him this offseason. He filled a few holes and has put his team in place once again to compete for the NL Central crown and a World Series title.
If we had to grade his offseason, what grade would we give it? First, we need to take a closer look at what he did.
The Offseason Moves
Additions: Alex Claudio, Ben Gamel, Cory Spangenberg, Bobby Wahl, Yasmani Grandal, Mike Moustakas
At the Winter Meetings, which were uncharacteristically uneventful this year, David Stearns made one move, the acquisition of reliever Alex Claudio from the Texas Rangers. The Milwaukee Brewers sent their 2019 Competitive Balance Draft pick to Texas in return. With Dan Jennings and Xavier Cedeno non-tendered, the Crew needed another lefty in the bullpen alongside Josh Hader.
Ben Gamel came over from Seattle in the Domingo Santana trade and replaces Santana as the fourth outfielder. He’ll see a decent amount of playing time as he will fill in for Ryan Braun during his regular rest days. As a lefty hitter, Miller Park is well suited for him and he also thrives in a pinch hitter role, something Santana couldn’t do. The Crew also got young righty Noah Zavolas in the deal.
Cory Spangenberg was signed as insurance in the middle infield and would’ve presented a nice platoon option with Hernan Perez if necessary. But the re-signing of Mike Moustakas has made that not necessary as Moose will come back on a one year deal to play second base. Bringing Moose back was another solid addition to this team after what he brought in 2018.
Bobby Wahl came over with two others in the Keon Broxton trade with New York. Wahl struggled in the big leagues last year but thrived in Triple-A. He figures to be a part of that bullpen rotation this year and is another high powered arm to add to the mix for Craig Counsell.
The premier addition this offseason is Yasmani Grandal. He upgrades the catching unit, giving Milwaukee one of the best offensive catchers in the league, as well as the league’s best pitch framer. Playing on a one year deal, Grandal presents virtually no long term risk to this organization and allows Jacob Nottingham another year to develop.
Departures: Jonathan Schoop, Dan Jennings, Xavier Cedeno, Joakim Soria, Jordan Lyles, Wade Miley, Curtis Granderson, Gio Gonzalez, Domingo Santana, Keon Broxton
Jonathan Schoop was a failure in Milwaukee, plain and simple. He did not live up to expectations and Stearns’ plan for Schoop to take over second base in 2019 did not come to fruition as he was non-tendered in November. Stearns took the blame and admitted he made a mistake in acquiring Schoop, which you don’t hear often from GMs.
Lefties Dan Jennings and Xavier Cedeno were also non-tendered. Neither was particularly bad, but they also weren’t particularly great. Cedeno struggled in the postseason as well. They’ll be replaced by Claudio.
Joakim Soria had his mutual option declined and signed with Oakland while Jordan Lyles signed with PIttsburgh and will try to be a starter. Curtis Granderson joined the Marlins and it was never thought he would return.
Wade Miley was the big name free agent some wanted back in Milwaukee, but he ultimately signed with Houston. With how bad Miley’s peripheral stats look, he’s likely to see regression in 2019 and the Milwaukee Brewers made the right move in letting him go. Gio Gonzalez is still a free agent, but the Brewers aren’t presumed to be in on his market right now.
Two outfielders got traded this offseason. Domingo Santana went to Seattle, where he’ll get the regular playing time he needs and the Brewers got back a lefty outfielder with a minor league option in Gamel and a recent draftee that the Brewers wanted in Noah Zavolas.
Keon Broxton got sent to the Mets in an absolute steal for the Brewers. Wahl and prospects Adam Hill and Felix Valerio came to Milwaukee in return and to get that much for Broxton is a great deal that cleared up the outfield picture.
I give this offseason a B+ for the Milwaukee Brewers and David Stearns. Stearns did a great job addressing the catcher and second base positions. He upgraded at catcher and brought back Moose to upgrade the infield.
He also addressed that outfield logjam and moved two outfielders in Santana and Broxton who were out of options and could’ve been DFA’ed and brought back pretty solid returns for them. Santana and Broxton were coming off down years where they spent most of their time in Triple-A. The Broxton trade was an absolute miracle considering how little leverage Stearns had and how poor a season Broxton just had. Three good players for him is fantastic.
Stearns also made a few minor adjustments to the bullpen with Alex Claudio and Bobby Wahl and added some depth guys.
But what prevents this offseason from being an ‘A’ is the starting rotation. Stearns did nothing to address that group. While the Brewers front office believes in their starting rotation more than outside pundits do, there still should’ve been something done with this group. Chase Anderson and Zach Davies are coming off bad years and might not be good enough for the rotation. Young guns Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta, and Brandon Woodruff are big league ready and were big contributors down the stretch and in the postseason last year.
Burnes, Peralta, and Woodruff are all deserving of rotation spots this year, but there’s a logjam at the back of this rotation. And while starting pitching depth is important and you can never have enough of it, it’s going to be extremely difficult to cut this group down to five pitchers.
In an ideal world, Chase Anderson and his $6.5 million salary for this season would’ve been traded elsewhere after his ugly 2018 campaign. He’s a fly ball pitcher and Miller Park isn’t a great fit for him. But his stock was low and Stearns either didn’t find a deal to his liking or believed in a strong bounceback campaign for him.
They also didn’t add an established starting pitcher this offseason and will be relying on a healthy bounceback year for Jimmy Nelson and a repeat of a career performance from Jhoulys Chacin to lead this rotation. The Brewers like their chances, but that’s a very risky game they’re playing.
Overall, it was a strong offseason for David Stearns and the Milwaukee Brewers, but it wasn’t perfect. The position player group is set and the bullpen has been fortified. But the starting rotation still has a bunch of question marks, and for that, it’s a B+ offseason for the Crew.
The Brewers will address any remaining needs they have at the July Trade Deadline. By the way this roster is looking, that rotation will be the big area to address in July.