We’re almost there, Milwaukee Brewers fans. Assuming no changes are made within the next few weeks, pitchers and catchers will start reporting for Spring Training in under a month, the next step toward what will hopefully be a full 2021 MLB season.
One of the main tasks the Brewers had to prepare for this upcoming season was to improve an offense that was tough to watch in 2020. So far, it appears that task has gone unfinished.
After declining all four contract options and signing or tendering a number of arbitration-eligible players near the non-tender deadline, Milwaukee has spent their offseason mostly doling out a series of minor league contracts to go along with a couple unheralded major league deals.
That’s not to say that the Brewers still don’t have time to add some pieces that could improve their offensive output. Not only do several potential options remain on the free agent market, but we are also still three days from the two-year anniversary of the day Milwaukee brought in both Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain.
So there’s no reason to think that Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns doesn’t still have a move or two up his sleeve this offseason. Even with lowered payroll expectations for 2021, there’s still at least a little room in the budget for a couple new faces.
Still, it is worth taking a look at just where the 2021 Milwaukee Brewers offense sits at this point in the offseason.
Taking stock of Milwaukee’s current offensive situation will not only give an idea of what the team still might add and where, but also what the offense might look like in the unlikely event that Stearns stands pat the rest of the way.
First we’ll set a couple guidelines. MLB hasn’t officially decided how big rosters will be in 2021 so we’re going to go with 26 here. That said, let’s just say that the Brewers carry 13 position players to start the season.
Let’s start with the outfield. You have 2018 MVP Yelich, who is prime for a bounceback season, the return of a rested Cain, and Avisail Garcia, who will be hoping to bounce back like Yeli. That’s a solid start to the offense.
Manager Craig Counsell will surely carry at least one backup outfielder as well. With former utility outfielder Ben Gamel having been non-tendered this offseason, the leading candidates for backup outfielder are probably Tyrone Taylor, Billy McKinney, or Mark Mathias. For argument’s sake, let’s go with Taylor.
Now let’s move on to the catchers. The Brewers generally carry just two players at the position and last year, the two they went into the season with were Omar Narvaez and Manny Pina and both were retained for 2021. Narvaez is another player looking to improve next season while Pina is set to come back from last year’s season-ending injury. Both should get their chances in 2021.
That brings us to the infield. As things currently stand, you likely have Daniel Vogelbach at first base, Keston Hiura at second, Orlando Arcia at shortstop, and Luis Urias at the hot corner. That happens to be the same infield with which the team ended 2020.
As for utility infielder, the one lock as things stand right now is Daniel Robertson. The 26-year-old former A’s first-rounder was signed to a major league contract and has no minor league options remaining so his roster spot is essentially secured.
Before you know it, 11 of the 13 spots have been spoken for. So if you’re still hoping that the Crew are going to sign a couple corner infielders, perhaps a C.J. Cron or a Maikel Franco that we’ve mentioned previously, there’s room on the active roster for it, but barely.
If the Brewers are able to make a couple more position player signings, it would likely leave other fringe roster candidates like McKinney, Mathias, Tim Lopes, Jacob Nottingham, and David Freitas on the outside looking in. Though that would honestly probably be a good sign for the offense.
If Milwaukee were to stand pat, then you might have a player like Nottingham, who has some experience at first base, platooning with Vogelbach, and one of the other many multifunctional players rounding out the roster. Relying on those types players would be great for depth, but potentially not so good for fans who want to see a big offensive bounceback in 2021.
So when it comes to the current state of the Brewers offense, some likely improvements by players like Yelich and Hiura as well as the return of Cain will help. But without some final additions, it’s hard to say the offense will be significantly better in 2021 than it was last year.