2. Acquire Robbie Ray OR Sign Dallas Keuchel
The Brewers need to raise the ceiling of their rotation. They elevated the floor with the additions of Brett Anderson, Eric Lauer, and Josh Lindblom. Now they need to improve the overall potential of that group.
Currently, the Brewers starting rotation is comprised of Brandon Woodruff and a group of No. 4 or No. 5 starters. Woodruff is the lone pitcher who has shown an ability to be a frontline starter in the big leagues. Guys like Freddy Peralta and Corbin Burnes have the stuff to get there one day, but with their struggles last season, counting on them to do so is unwise.
They need something closer to a sure thing atop the rotation. While someone like Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg would’ve been better for that role, there was no chance the Brewers were ever going to pay the salary those guys got. They need an established veteran starter that won’t command that kind of money.
Robbie Ray has only one year of arbitration left before free agency. Combining that with his projected salary being over $10 million for 2020, the prospect capital it would take to acquire Ray will be relatively low. Bringing in Ray will improve the rotation for 2020 but wouldn’t block pitchers like Peralta and Burnes going forward either.
Ray would immediately slot in as the No. 2 behind Woodruff, and is actually a legitimate No. 2, unlike when Zach Davies was the Crew’s “second best starter” but was legitimately a No. 4 or No. 5 guy. Having a true 1-2 punch atop the rotation will give the Crew something for teams to fear in the postseason. Look at this last World Series. The two teams in there had dominant rotations with multiple frontline guys.
Another option is for the Brewers to sign Dallas Keuchel instead of getting Ray. He’s also left handed, he has a postseason pedigree, and is an extreme groundball pitcher, which will play well in Miller Park. I don’t think the Brewers would go longer than three years in a deal for Keuchel, but he would also give them a legitimate No. 2 behind Woodruff and provide a postseason threat.
David Stearns has done a solid job of elevating the floor of the rotation so far this winter, but if he doesn’t raise the ceiling of that group, they aren’t going to be true World Series contenders.