The Milwaukee Brewers have some things they need to address at the 2020 Winter Meetings.
It doesn’t quite feel the same, but the 2020 Winter Meetings have (virtually) arrived! Instead of heading to Dallas for four days of fun in the little amount of sun that makes it through their hotel room window, the Brewers front office will be staying in cold, cloudy Milwaukee.
Everything is going to be done via Zoom meeting and conference calls instead of in-person meetings and discussions. Since this kind of thing hasn’t happened before, it remains unclear just how much activity will happen at the Winter Meetings. Everything front offices will be doing during these meetings are the exact same thing they can be doing now.
Still, this is an important part of the baseball offseason calendar and the Brewers have some things to accomplish on their offseason to-do list.
1. Find An Answer At Third Base
It did not go well.
Third base is arguably the Brewers’ biggest need this offseason. They have Luis Urias, who can handle the position defensively but lacks the offensive thump the Brewers are looking for from the position. It’s more likely Urias will be in a battle for the shortstop job with Orlando Arcia, so the Brewers need some help at the hot corner.
There are some decent options on the free agent market after the non-tender deadline. Maikel Franco is available, Travis Shaw is available again, and Hanser Alberto is available. On top of that, the free agent market also includes Tommy La Stella, Jake Lamb, Ha-Seong Kim, Justin Turner, and DJ LeMahieu.
Whoever it is, the Brewers need to find someone to fill at third base in 2021. At the 2016 Winter Meetings, Stearns traded a reliever in Tyler Thornburg for a starting third baseman in Travis Shaw and more. Could that happen again with Josh Hader in 2020?
2. Assess The Trade Market For Josh Hader
David Stearns has a very big trade chip in Josh Hader. If he were to trade him, Stearns could likely fill one or two holes on his big league roster immediately and can add to the farm system as well. Perhaps someone like Gavin Lux or Miguel Andujar could be the centerpiece in a Hader return.
Perhaps they could get a first baseman in Andrew Vaughn to plug that hole. The possibilities are endless.
While Stearns has publicly stated that he’s in no hurry to trade Hader and would be perfectly content to have him on the Brewers roster in 2021, Stearns will also listen to offers and knows that right now might be when Hader’s trade value is the highest it will ever be.
This week should tell Stearns a lot about where the trade market is for Hader right now. Stearns has his price and if teams are already close to meeting that price, then Stearns can pursue a trade further and look at ways to build the rest of his offseason around it. If other teams aren’t close, he can look to other avenues.
Put it this way: You’re having a garage sale and the price of an item is $100. If everyone comes in offering $10 or $20 initially, then you know you aren’t selling that item to them because they aren’t close or putting up a serious offer and will move them on to different items. If someone or multiple someones come in and offer $80 or $90 initially, then there’s a way to negotiate a deal where you’re comfortable with the price you’re getting for the item.
A deal doesn’t need to be completed involving Hader at these Winter Meetings, but Stearns needs to find the interested buyers and gauge what they’re willing to pay for Hader.
3. Make a decision about the DH in the NL in 2021
This isn’t really about Stearns and is more about Rob Manfred. How can the Brewers or anyone else make plans and go forward in setting their roster for 2021 if they don’t know a very important piece of information: Whether or not there will be a DH available to them.
The Brewers already had to navigate the non-tender deadline without knowing, hedging their bets and agreeing to a deal with Daniel Vogelbach. If there is a DH, great, now the Brewers can focus on finding someone who’s strictly a first baseman.
If there isn’t a DH next year, then the Brewers have to decide whether they want to keep Vogelbach around and find a platoon partner or release him and go for an everyday first baseman on the free agent or trade market.
MLB needs to get things figured out quickly and tell teams what is happening. If they want activity at these meetings, if they want activity at all this offseason, MLB needs to make a decision on the DH and fast.
There have been complaints for years that the MLB offseason moves too slowly and those complaints are only going to get louder because this offseason will be extremely slow. It’s going to be slow enough because teams don’t know what the situation will be for allowing fans into stadiums next year and what budgets will be. MLB doesn’t need to make it more difficult on them and keep them waiting on finding out if the DH will be back.
Stearns needs to look for an upgrade at third base and assess the trade market for Josh Hader at the 2020 Winter Meetings. Perhaps he could kill two birds with one stone. Finding a solution at first base may have to wait until there’s clarity on the DH issue.