Milwaukee Brewers GM David Stearns has done a good job of assembling a cheap, but solid squad to replace some of the team’s major departures so far this off-season. However, the team continues to have a gaping hole at third base as Spring Training approaches.
Things have been quiet recently for the Milwaukee Brewers.
After a flurry of movement on the free agent market a few weeks ago, the trail has gone cold regarding any additional moves that David Stearns may have in the works for this team.
Though it’s quite unlikely that the Brewers are done assembling their 2020 roster, it’s worth taking a moment to look at the team as it’s currently constructed to see where the team may look next in free agency, or on the trade market.
Coming into the off-season, Milwaukee was going to have to address their starting rotation, as well shortstop, third base, first base, and catcher. So far, Milwaukee has made moves to address all of those positions. They’ve made notable trades for a starter, shortstop, and catcher, while bringing in some decent free agents at starting pitcher and first base.
One position, however, remains a glaring hole on the roster as it’s currently constructed: third base.
What’s happened at third base so far?
To address the losses of Mike Moustakas and Travis Shaw in free agency, the Brewers have only managed to bring in Ryon Healy in their place so far. Healy certainly brings a good deal of pop at the plate, and has some untapped potential. However, he’s been a negative WAR player, according to FanGraphs, in each of the past two seasons.
Beyond Healy, the team lacks any clear options internally to compete with him for a starters role. Luis Urias, who was acquired via trade a few weeks ago, figures to be competing with Orlando Arcia for the starting role at shortstop rather than being diverted to third. Eric Sogard, who the team has had on their roster before, will be a factor to play at third base, but he’s better utilized in a utility role across the diamond rather than as an every day third basemen.
Are there any answers in the minors?
The farm system is unlikely to provide an answer either, especially after the team’s best third base prospect, Lucas Erceg, struggled significantly at the plate in the extremely hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League in Triple A this past season. Though the potential is certainly there for him to rebound, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll start the season on the Major League roster given what happened in 2019.
How can the Brewers strengthen third base for 2020?
Milwaukee’s answer at third base, then, will have to come from outside the organization, at least if they’re serious about contending for the playoffs next season.
Free agency doesn’t present many intriguing options right now. The one big free agent third baseman that remains available is Josh Donaldson. If rumors are true, however, it appears that the amount of money and years he may get on the open market, at least $100 million over four years, is too much of a risk for the Brewers to take him on, especially given his recent injury history and age.
The best option on the free agent market, if Donaldson’s rumored cost is accurate, is Todd Frazier. He may not be the all-star caliber player that he was a few seasons ago in Cincinnati, but he remains a solid option, having produced 1.5 and 1.9 fWAR in each of his past two seasons with the Mets. Frazier would fit the profile of another lost cost, short-term option with some potential surplus value, much like the Sogard and Justin Smoak signings could bring.
Could the Brewers make a trade?
If Frazier is not the man, then the Brewers only realistic option to get a starting quality third baseman is to get one via trade. Though there appear to be several cornerstone third basemen potentially on the move, such as Kris Bryant and Nolan Arenado, such a trade would be extremely difficult for Milwaukee to pull off.
It’s impossible to envision the Cubs trading a franchise talent within their own division, especially to a chief rival. Arenado’s asking price is likely out of the Brewers range as well. Any deal would have to center around Josh Hader and Keston Hiura, a package the team would likely find to be too steep, even for someone of Arenado’s talent.
If rumors linking the New York Yankees with Josh Hader are true, then the most realistic option for the Brewers to get at third base via trade would be appear to be Miguel Andujar. Major question marks remain about his ability to play third base long-term, but there’s no doubt that his bat presents some real potential. His limitations, though, mean he’s unlikely to be enough to headline for one of the league’s top relievers.
Regardless of what they do, though, the Brewers need to do SOMETHING at third base before the season begins if they want to be legitimate contenders for the playoffs next season. We’ll see what moves Stearns has in store for that position in the days and weeks ahead.