The Milwaukee Brewers will have to answer several questions about their starting rotation during the upcoming off season. Who stays, who goes, and who could the Brewers bring in?
Starting pitching depth was expected to be a strength of the 2019 Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers were lucky that they had options, but it’s hard to call any aspect of their starting rotation a strength.
Jhoulys Chacin, Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta, and Zach Davies started the year in the Milwaukee Brewers rotation. Chacin ended up DFA’ed, Burnes spent half of 2019 in the Minors, Peralta only made eight starts, and Woodruff spend almost two months on the Injured List. Of the original five starters, only Davies made more than 30 starts.
Who should return? Who needs a change of scenery? And who can the Brewers bring in?
Who’s already penciled in to the 2020 starting rotation?
Woodruff ended the year healthy, and will start the year near the top of the Milwaukee Brewers rotation. Woodruff enjoyed a mini-breakout that would have been a full blown breakout if he hadn’t lost almost two months to an oblique injury.
Davies will also start the year in the Brewers rotation. He can take the ball every fifth day, eat up innings, and generally not embarrass himself or the team.
Who else is in the mix?
Peralta struggled in the Majors in 2019, and ended up spending most of the year in bullpen or in the Minors. The Brewers could give him another shot in 2020.
Suter makes sense as the fifth starter for the 2020 Brewers, but he was so good in relief that he may have pitched himself into a bullpen job. He posted an 0.49 ERA in nine relief appearances. He worked 18 1/3 innings, and managed to strike out 15 while walking only one and giving up one homer.
The Brewers are rumored to want Lyles to return in 2020. After joining the Brewers, Lyles posted a 2.45 ERA in 11 starts. He struck out 56, walked 22, and was tagged for nine homers. The underlying metrics aren’t pretty, but the Brewers seem convinced that Lyles can continue to succeed. Lyles is an unrestricted free agent as soon as the World Series is over.
What about Burnes?
The Milwaukee Brewers can’t put Burnes back in the starting rotation until he figures out why his 2019 season went so wrong. He could either start the 2020 season in the bullpen or in the Triple-A rotation. It’s hard to envision a path for Burnes to start next season in the Major League rotation.
How about Jimmy Nelson?
The fact that Jimmy Nelson was able to work his way back to the Majors was a small miracle. However, he struggled once he arrived, and spent most of the final months on the Injured List. What happens with Nelson comes down to whether or not he gets DFA’ed and how his Spring goes if he doesn’t.
Nelson is projected to make over $4 million after arbitration. The Milwaukee Brewers could choose to cut Nelson loose if they need that money for other additions. If Nelson sticks around for the 2020 season, it really depends on how he looks in Spring Training. There’s a non-zero chance that Nelson starts the 2020 season in Triple-A. He could also work his way into the fifth starter’s job. Nelson’s status is impossible to predict until the team indicates which way it’s going to go.
Will the Brewers find an ace?
The Milwaukee Brewers are about to start their third consecutive off season of their ‘ace’ search.
Madison Bumgarner, Gerrit Cole, Hyun-jin Ryu, and Dallas Keuchel are the top starters who are known to hit free agency. Stephen Strasburg and Yu Darvish could both opt out of their contracts and hit the open market as well.
The Milwaukee Brewers could also look to add an ace through the trade market. The Phillies, Mets, or D-Backs could look to move on from expensive hurlers and start a rebuild. There are options for the top of the rotation, but the Brewers will have to make a decision to go after one of them, and hope that the player they’re interested in wants to come to Milwaukee.
For the Milwaukee Brewers to take the step from Wild Card contender to World Series contender, they need to find a true top-level starter to anchor the starting rotation. Adding an ace would allow Woodruff, Davies, and Lyles to follow, and the team has more than enough options for the fifth starter position. GM David Stearns has to figure out to top spot in his starting rotation in order to consider the off season a success.