The Milwaukee Brewers are set to start the season with only one of their three-headed closer monster on the active roster. How do they build a bridge to Josh Hader until everyone gets healthy?
Jeremy Jeffress was already expected to start the season on the injured list when Corey Knebel was diagnosed with damage to his right ulnar collateral ligament. Knebel’s status isn’t decided yet, but it’s not looking good.
The Milwaukee Brewers will have to get by with Josh Hader alone as the late inning hammer to nail down close wins. Who bridges the gap between the starter and Hader?
What do they do without Jeffress and Knebel?
Well, the good news is the Milwaukee Brewers have pitching depth to absorb a few injuries for the short term. They still have Jacob Barnes, Junior Guerra, and Alex Claudio to fill in the gaps while Jeffress and Knebel are on the mend.
Matt Albers can’t be as bad as he was in 2018, right? He can provide a few useful innings…maybe?
Jake Petricka has looked solid this Spring, and has probably wrapped up a role in the Brewers’ bullpen at least until Jeffress and Knebel return. Taylor Williams and Adrian Houser have also shown promise, and now is as good a time as any to step up.
The Brewers have internal options that they can cobble together to form a representative Major League bullpen.
What about Chase Anderson?
Chase Anderson lost his starting role, and will start the season in the bullpen. However, he’s essentially a well-paid mop-up guy until he shows that he can work an inning or two without getting knocked around. Anderson won’t serve as a bridge to Hader.
Are there other options?
Actually, there’s one.
What if the Milwaukee Brewers decide to move Corbin Burnes back into a relief role when Jimmy Nelson returns? If they need a rotation spot when Nelson is ready, it wouldn’t come as a shock to see Burnes move back into relief and help take some of the pressure off Hader and the other guys in the back end of the bullpen.
What about the free agent market?
This is where the situation gets interesting. It was odd that the Milwaukee Brewers were revealed to be in advanced talks with free agent closer Craig Kimbrel. The story makes a lot more sense now that we know that Knebel will likely miss the start of the season. If Kimbrel is willing to take a one-year deal with options, or the Brewers are willing to step up with a multi-year deal, their bullpen situation improves quickly.
Kimbrel would take the ball in the ninth inning, and Hader would serve as the ‘bridge’ to him. A Kimbrel / Hader combo would shorten the game to seven innings, and give the Milwaukee Brewers the best bullpen in baseball when everyone gets healthy.
The last few days have been an absolute roller coaster for fans. The high of a move for Kimbrel was followed by the low of another injury to a key member of the bullpen. The roller coaster could go on the way back up if the Milwaukee Brewers sign Kimbrel or get good news on Knebel’s test results. It could also go even lower if Knebel requires Tommy John surgery.