Analysis of the Brewers offseason
With a large chunk of the roster being turned over this offseason, the Brewers had a lot of moves to make. At one point, the 40 man roster was down to just 32 players. With a lot of holes to fill, the Brewers opted to make depth signings across the board, rather than splurge on a star player. The closest thing to a star player that they signed was Avisail Garcia, who plays a position the Brewers really didn’t need help at, which was interesting.
After extending the payroll to $134MM last year, the Brewers shrunk back to a more comfortable level, currently sitting at a projected $108MM payroll for the 2020 season. This drew heavy criticism from fans, with some of it being warranted. Shrinking payroll in a contending year and not spending to greatly improve the roster around a star player in his prime seems like a “give up” move. They instead opted for improvements on the margins of the roster and are depending on bounceback seasons from a myriad of players.
However, the Brewers also realize they want to sign Christian Yelich to an extension, and the best way to do that is to have as much long-term money available to them as possible, which means short-term, lower money signings that could have bigger upside. They signed five free agents to one year deals with club options for 2021.
The Brewers also signed five infielders in free agency: Sogard, Smoak, Healy, Gyorko, and Holt. There’s only two positions available for them, first and third base. Keston Hiura has second base locked up and the Orlando Arcia/Luis Urias combo will handle shortstop. Healy is the only one of these players with a minor league option remaining. They’re deep as deep can be in the infield.
The starting rotation needed addressing after the disaster that was the 2019 group. They gambled on a group of youngsters, it didn’t pay off, and they needed to add experience to the group and improve the group’s potential. They added experience with Brett Anderson and Lindblom, which are marginal improvements over Chase Anderson and Zach Davies. Eric Lauer could be a solid starter for this group, but the Brewers didn’t add anyone that has front of the rotation potential to pair with Brandon Woodruff.
For that, the Brewers will have to rely on the development of Freddy Peralta and Corbin Burnes. Both have the potential to be frontline starters, and hopes are high coming into 2020, but after down years last year, the Brewers couldn’t be completely dependent on those two this year without some insurance. The rotation has depth, which is good, but the high ceiling is going to depend on Peralta and Burnes reaching theirs.
The bullpen saw the addition of David Phelps, but otherwise lacks experience. The group currently seems weak, but when Corey Knebel returns at some point in the first half of the season, they will be much stronger.
David Stearns can’t help himself from adding outfielders. With Yelich, Cain, and Braun set to be the three highest paid players on the roster, Stearns added Avisail Garcia to be the fourth highest paid player. There’s only three starting spots, which pushes Braun to spend a lot of time at first base if he’s going to see the field with his $18MM salary. Braun will also have to compete with Justin Smoak and Ryon Healy for playing time at that position.
The Brewers are currently set for three platoons; first base, third base, and catcher. Generally, there aren’t that many contending teams that have that many platoons at key positions.
Overall Grade: B-Minus
David Stearns did a good job adding depth to the roster, raising the team’s floor while keeping the long-term commitments to a minimum. With the position player and pitching depth acquired, the Brewers will be fully ready for any injury this season at every position.
However, the overall ceiling of this group doesn’t seem to have improved much over last year. Mike Moustakas is going to be replaced at third base with a rotation of Sogard, Gyorko, Holt, and Healy, which is less than ideal. Eric Thames and Jesus Aguilar are being replaced by Smoak and Braun, which could be comparable, maybe slightly better depending on if they both stay healthy. The rotation has depth, but still lacks a second shutdown starter to go with Woodruff. One could step up, but they banked on that last year and it didn’t happen.
The roster that the Brewers built will be competitive and they will be hanging around the NL Central race all summer long. While they won’t run away with the division title, they could very easily find themselves within striking distance come September.
Stearns did very well in his three trade deals, moving Anderson, Davies, and Grisham while getting Urias, Lauer, and Narvaez. All of those look like wins for the Brewers on paper. Free agency left a little to be desired, with most hoping for a larger improvement off last year’s roster, instead of comparable or marginally better players when healthy.
Overall, we’ll give Stearns a B-Minus for the offseason, but that could change depending on how some of these free agents coming off bad seasons bounce back.
The Brewers face a tough NL Central division in 2020 with the full return of the Reds. There are four competitive teams, and Milwaukee is going to have to beat them all out with this roster.