Milwaukee Brewers Face A Pivotal Offseason Ahead
By Dan Larsen
The Milwaukee Brewers weathered the storm that was the 2019 season to make it to the playoffs. Now that they’re out, they face a crucial off-season that could shape their title contention window for years to come.
It may not have ended the way many were hoping, but the Milwaukee Brewers season officially came to a close on Tuesday night in Washington D.C in the National League Wild Card game.
Though the loss was a heartbreaking one, it shouldn’t change how the Brewers year is viewed by fans and pundits alike. As I argued a few weeks ago, when the team was in the midst of their improbable surge back into playoff contention, Milwaukee faced about every possible obstacle imaginable this season. Yet, despite all of the difficulties they endured, they persevered and made their team, their city, and their state proud.
No matter what the expectations were back in March, there is no doubt that the Milwaukee Brewers 2019 season was ultimately a success given how they handled the year that was.
Now that the 2019 season is behind us, it’s already time to start looking ahead to the 2019-20 offseason.
Looking Ahead To The Offseason
Milwaukee is entering the winter in an extremely critical point in their team’s contention window. With Christian Yelich having just three years remaining on his team friendly deal, with Lorenzo Cain and Ryan Braun aging, key contributors in Yasmani Grandal and Mike Moustakas likely entering free agency, and other controllable guys approaching their first years of arbitration, the Brewers have a lot of difficult decisions to make in the coming weeks.
On the plus side, the Milwaukee Brewers should have ample payroll space to be big spenders in free agency if they so choose.
Milwaukee will enter the 2019 winter with about $89.35 million in salary commitments on their books. That figure could significantly change too depending on how the team handles contract options for players like Eric Thames and Chase Anderson, and what happens with Grandal and Moustakas, both of who are likely to decline their side of their mutual options so they can enter free agency.
The 2019-20 free agency pool presents a lot of enticing options at positions of need for Milwaukee. The starting pitching market is quite strong, with big names like Gerrit Cole, Zack Wheeler, Dallas Keuchel, and Hyun-Jin Ryu at the top of the list, and solid options in the mid-tier, like Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson, Wade Miley and Madison Bumgarner available too.
At shortstop, Didi Gregorius and Jose Iglesias are out there, though the quality gap between the two is quite big. Even third base is strong at the top, with Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson, and Mike Moustakas set to hit the open the market.
Addressing third base and short are especially pressing needs. Travis Shaw cannot be depended upon to hold down the fort at third given his struggles this season. and Orlando Arcia needs to face a legitimate competitor at short after having another sub-par year.
The Brewers do, however, have a strong core in several key areas of the team.
Their pitching depth looks solid, both in the rotation and the pen, especially with Corey Knebel returning from injury. Even if the top-line quality in the rotation could use improving upon beyond Brandon Woodruff and Adrian Houser, the Brewers have demonstrated that they can create a serviceable rotation from depth if they also have an elite bullpen.
A lot of the spots in their lineup remain in good hands too, from the potential league MVP in Christian Yelich, to good hitters like Ryan Braun, Keston Hiura, and potentially Eric Thames coming back next year.
The reason why this offseason presents risks, though, is that Milwaukee Brewers don’t have a ton of options to improving their team via trade, at least on the surface.
Milwaukee has one of the worst farm systems in baseball at the moment. Unless they’re willing to part with quality players from their Major League roster, it’s difficult to see a path for them to acquire any top-line talent that isn’t done through free agency.
The Brewers simply don’t have the pieces to compete for any of the potential big name players that could move on the market this winter, especially with several of their fellow contenders in the NL boasting extremely deep and talented systems.
Spending big in free agency to address major needs is also a big risk, especially for a team that has a limited payroll.
The Brewers have a chance, if they play their cards right, to take a leap into the top-tier and be legitimate World Series contenders next season and beyond. However, getting there will take a very successful offseason now to make the most of the opportunity that’s in front of them. If they miss, they risk getting bypassed by others ready to take the leap, and could end up wasting the prime years of Christian Yelich on a very team-friendly contract.
David Stearns has done a wonderful job of getting the Brewers to this spot. We’ll see if he can deliver the goods in the weeks and months to come.