Early on in the offseason there were times when it felt like David Stearns would never make a move. Brewers fans were frustrated because they saw an opportunity to catapult to the top of the division standings.
Fellow NL Central teams also weren’t making moves, but the market just needed to heat up. If you know how David Stearns operates, you know he rarely leaves any stone unturned.
Once the stove started to heat up though, it almost seemed rare to not see the Brewers linked to a player. Some of the biggest names in free agency were seriously looking at Milwaukee as a destination. The list includes but is not limited to the likes of: Justin Turner, Jackie Bradley Jr., Marcus Semien, Marcell Ozuna, Rich Hill, Shin-Soo Choo Tommy La Stella, Trevor Rosenthal, etc.
Stearns and the Brewers front office were even right in the middle of one of the biggest trade rumors of the winter when they were linked to José Ramírez.
The reality of being a small market team can be a demoralizing feeling at times, but the Brewers were still quite active this offseason. So what were the best moves they made? Lets rank them.
6. SP Jordan Zimmermann
On February 9th, Jordan Zimmerman was signed to a minor league contract with an invite to Major League Spring Training. The Wisconsin native and UW-Stevens Point product will be competing for a fifth starter spot with Adrian Houser, Eric Lauer and Freddy Peralta.
So far in one appearance in Spring Training, he has appeared in one game and has allowed three hits, one hit batsman and one earned run in one inning of work.
Zimmermann has a nice career resume but has struggled as of late. In his first seven years in MLB with the Nationals, he was one of the best under-the-radar pitchers in the game going 70-50 with a 3.32 ERA in almost 1,100 innings of work and 178 starts. He led the league in wins in 2013 with 19 and was selected as an All-Star in 2013 and 2014, finishing in the top seven in the Cy Young race in both years.
After he left the nation’s capital, he signed a five-year, $110MM deal with the Detroit Tigers and things didn’t go as planned. His first year in Motor City was the only out of his five there, that he had a winning record at 9-7. Since that first year, Zimmermann has gone 16-34 with an ERA of 6.36 and gave up the most earned runs in the league in 2017 with 108.
A change of scenery could be huge for the revitalization of Jordan Zimmermann’s career but he has lost about four miles per hour on his fastball and encountered forearm, back, shoulder and UCL injuries in the past five half decade. It’s probably unlikely that he makes the Opening Day roster, but from the Brewers’ point of view, it’s a low-risk signing for a strike-throwing former All-Star.
In one inning of work in Spring Training, Zimmermann has given up a team-high three hits, one earned run, one hit batsman and has one punch out.
5. RP Brad Boxberger
The one-time AL saves leader signed a minor league deal with the Milwaukee Brewers on February 14th with an invitation to Major League Spring Training. Brad Boxberger is looking to add to the already strong Milwaukee bullpen. The one thing the Brewers don’t have much of though in their relief pitchers is experience. Boxberger is a nine-year veteran that has been with five teams throughout his career.
This is a big month of March for him as he’s fighting for one of the few available bullpen spots on the Opening Day roster. In one inning of action in the Cactus League, Boxberger walked one and struck out one in a scoreless inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
He’s coming off a nice 2020 campaign where he had a 3.00 ERA in 23 games and struck out 18 batters. He isn’t one of the many high velocity guys that Craig Counsell would have at his disposal as his fastball only averages out at 92 mph, but he does produce good spin on his heater, that actually ranks in the 90th percentile according to Baseball Savant.
Boxberger also produced a ground ball rate of 51.9%, the highest of his career thus far. Keeping the ball on the ground with the defense up the middle that is Orlando Arcia, Luis Urias and Kolten Wong sounds like a recipe for success for any Brewer pitcher this season.
We did predict Brad Boxberger to make the Opening Day roster, but it won’t come without fierce competition from the likes of J.P. Feyereisen, Ray Black, Angel Perdomo amongst others. It’s a good problem to have for skipper Craig Counsell, but with Boxberger signing to a minor league contract, he could definitely be one of the first guys called up if he accepted a minor league assignment and started off in Triple A Nashville.
Given struggles and injuries that are bound to arise throughout the relievers, I expect to see him on the major league roster this season.