The Milwaukee Brewers are going through quite the changes this offseason, in a rarely seen plan by a team’s front office.
It’s safe to say that Brewers fans have been caught by surprise a little bit this offseason with some of the moves that GM David Stearns has made so far. Every move made so far appears to be in an effort to shed payroll, normally something done by teams entering a rebuild.
But the Brewers are not entering a rebuild. They are right in the middle of their contention window right now with three more years of Christian Yelich at least and coming off back-to-back postseason appearances.
With so much recent success, the front office has to be satisfied with their roster, right? Right? Wrong.
A lot of things went haywire in 2019, with the rotation being completely unreliable, half the offense in huge slumps, and injuries hitting some key players. Frankly, it was a miracle they made the playoffs in 2019 at all.
Going Through A Complete Roster Overhaul
So GM David Stearns has decided to overhaul the roster heading into 2020. There were so many glaring inefficiencies with last year’s Crew, so he’s trimming as much as he can and will start over almost from scratch.
Over half the 25 man roster is going to be turned over heading into 2020. That’s not a common thing to happen to back-to-back playoff teams. Normally, there’s a couple of changes with key players reaching free agency and one or two holes to plug per offseason. But the Brewers have put themselves in a spot with five or six holes to plug, and that’s not including the bench.
The last time the Brewers had this much roster turnover in an offseason, David Stearns was in his first year as GM and was beginning a rebuild process. This year, it’s not a rebuild, but a quick roster overhaul to make this a World Series caliber team for 2020 and beyond.
Emotionally, that can be tough to go through for fans as we get emotionally attached to certain players. But tough decisions have to be made.
Roster Holes To Plug
Before Opening Day 2020, the Brewers will need to find an answer at multiple positions, including:
- First base
- Third Base
- Starting pitcher No. 2
- Starting pitcher No. 3
- Middle reliever
- Lefty specialist
- Backup infielder
The biggest concern for the Brewers depth-wise right now is the starting rotation. That was also the concern during last season, but now Chase Anderson and Zach Davies are on new teams, while Jimmy Nelson was just non-tendered, and Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Lyles are free agents. That’s five starting pitchers that are off the roster. That’s a lot of bodies to replace.
While beating the kind of production most of those guys put up shouldn’t be that difficult, signing as many pitchers as it will take to fill out that rotation can be difficult, especially considering how Stearns has operated in the pitching market in the past.
After Brandon Woodruff, the rotation is filled with question marks. Roster Resource has the rest of the rotation currently filling out with Adrian Houser, Freddy Peralta, Eric Lauer, and Corbin Burnes. While there’s potential with that group, there’s not much in terms of guaranteed production. The Brewers are going to need at least one, preferably two, established starters to slot in after Woodruff.
The whole infield is being remade as well. Eric Thames, Mike Moustakas, and Travis Shaw are off the roster as well, creating holes at both the corner infield spots. The only guaranteed starting spot is Keston Hiura at second base, while Orlando Arcia and Luis Urias will battle it out at shortstop.
As always, acquiring another bullpen arm or two will be on the agenda this offseason. With Drew Pomeranz gone and Alex Claudio non-tendered, the only remaining lefties on the Brewers roster are Lauer, Josh Hader, Brent Suter, and Angel Perdomo. Lauer and Suter could figure into the rotation plans while Hader is being dangled in trade talks. Adding another left handed reliever should be on the to-do list.
Stripping It Down
David Stearns likely wouldn’t be going about this major overhaul, shedding payroll at every turn, without a plan in place that he is sure that he can follow through on.
The salary table the Brewers had was a bit of a clunky mess, with some players who weren’t performing earning some of the higher salaries in arbitration. Now, the highest paid starting pitcher from last year is Brandon Woodruff, who is making just over league minimum. Given that group’s overall production, that makes sense. Woodruff will get his money in time, but clearing everything else out of that group will help them acquire whichever pitcher they are targeting for that group.
As Haudricourt notes, $63 million in payroll has been freed up from last year’s payroll, which gives them plenty of money to work with to sign players to fill those openings before they even get to the ~$127MM payroll they had. If they choose to increase that payroll, which they probably should, that gives them even more room to work with.
There has to be at least one or two high-profile additions made to this roster in order for this overhaul to work. David Stearns is remaking this roster to his liking until he can finally get that World Series caliber team. It’s still early in the offseason, and a lot is yet to happen.
It’s rare to see this kind of roster overhaul in the middle of a contention window, but if Stearns can pull it off and fill those holes on the roster, this Brewers team is going to be in great shape heading into 2020 and beyond.
For Brewers fans, it’s going to make this offseason an exciting one. There will be a lot of moves made and fresh faces in 2020. Stay tuned to Reviewing the Brew as we’ll keep you updated on everything this offseason.