The Milwaukee Brewers are facing a pivotal offseason, and GM David Stearns has a big task ahead of him.
The needs for the Milwaukee Brewers are numerous as we are less than two weeks away from the Winter Meetings in San Diego.
With Yasmani Grandal signing with the White Sox, Eric Thames and Mike Moustakas as free agents, Travis Shaw‘s down season, and the struggles of the pitching staff, the Brewers have plenty of holes on this roster to address. GM David Stearns needs to fill all of these before Opening Day.
The need that is clearly the largest moving forward, is the starting rotation. There is no ifs, ands, or buts about it. The starting rotation is the spot on the roster David Stearns absolutely needs to find an upgrade at this offseason.
Why The Time Is Now
For the past two offseasons, it’s been a well known fact that the Brewers needed more and better starting pitching. But they were able to get by with a mediocre starting staff and a dominant bullpen. Stearns seemed justified in his moves because the team was still performing well and meeting expectations.
But expectations are higher now, and getting by with a rotation of Jordan Lyles, Adrian Houser, and Brandon Woodruff just isn’t going to cut it. Sure, the unexpected regression of Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta set them back in 2019, and it’s tough to blame Stearns for that. But they need a veteran, battle-tested starting pitcher that can pitch in front of, or right behind Woodruff for 2020 and beyond.
It’s a tough line to walk, wanting to give starting opportunities to your young starters while being prepared if they fail but not wanting to block them. But Stearns is going to have to find a way.
The big reason why the time is now to make that starting pitching acquisition is because of how the roster rules are changing for 2020. Teams will be limited with how much they can expand their active roster in September, being able to add only one pitcher, limited to 13 rostered pitchers through the rest of the season, and back to a 15 day IL for pitchers. The Brewers can’t “bullpen” their way through September like they did the last two years.
That whole plan can’t work now. They need another bona fide starting pitcher that can carry them, going seven or eight strong innings each time out there.
It’s too risky to bank on Jimmy Nelson, Peralta, and Burnes to turn into the ace type starting pitchers that they *could* be in 2020. The Brewers need insurance in case they falter again.
Who Could They Get?
The good thing about this offseason is that there is a bunch of free agent starting pitchers available that could have a huge impact in Milwaukee.
Pitchers like Zack Wheeler, Dallas Keuchel, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Madison Bumgarner all could make sense for the Brewers and their price range. In the trade market, guys like Robbie Ray, Jon Gray, Kyle Freeland, or Dylan Bundy could make sense as well.
With Woodruff leading the rotation, then one of those pitchers behind him, and a combination of Nelson, Burnes, Davies, Houser, Peralta, and Suter rounding it out, the Brewers could have a great rotation that can lead them to the promised land. If Nelson, Burnes, and Peralta can improve and start to reach their ceiling in 2020, this rotation could be full of all No. 3 or better pitchers. That would be a huge improvement on the group of No. 4’s and No. 5’s that they’ve had the past two years.
Even if the disappointing starters from 2019 still don’t live up to expectations in 2020, they’ll have two bona fide starters in Woodruff and whichever free agent/trade acquisition they get and they can get enough out of the rest of their rotation options to still make a bunch of noise and possibly make a run in October 2020.
Without the ability to bullpen their way through September, adding a big time starting pitcher is absolutely crucial this offseason. Even with their needs at catcher, first base, third base, and shortstop, the need for better starting pitching trumps all of that. Now is the time to make that acquisition. It cannot wait any longer.
If the Milwaukee Brewers don’t add a starting rotation upgrade this offseason, they’ll once again be banking on their current group to reach their potential and with nothing for fallback options. It could pay off, but that’s far too risky of a move.