Brewers: Cheap, controllable pitching leads to unique opportunity in 2021

Dillon Graff
Sep 9, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Corbin Burnes (39) pitches during the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 9, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Corbin Burnes (39) pitches during the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /
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In football, the ideal situation for a front office to find themselves in comprises having a franchise quarterback on a rookie deal. This allows the GM to spend money freely to improve the entirety of the roster, rather than be anchored down by an expensive long-term deal shilled out to said QB. I liken this analogy to the position the Milwaukee Brewers currently find themselves in.

The Brewers are a team currently built around pitching, and as we all know good pitching is something every team needs – thus driving up the price tag. Getting into a bidding war isn’t something the Brewers are going to be able to do very often, especially with the disparity in payrolls around the league.

As it stands, the Brewers find themselves 19th in the league in total payroll ($97,485,928) and that’s after setting aside money for in-season additions should the team find themselves in contention. For reference that’s still $170 million dollars less than the LA Dodgers current payroll.

Baseball is an unfair game that favors the wealthy big market teams, but the Brewers have worked tirelessly to close the gap through analytics, their pitching lab, and various other avenues.

So how do the Brewers contend with the big market teams on a limited budget?

The answer is fairly simple, it’s the solution that’s easier said than done. To put yourself in contention to win it all, you must draft/trade for and develop cheap, controllable pitching. And not just one or two guys, it takes a significant amount of depth across a pitching staff to record 27 outs night in and night out – and endure the grind of a 162-game regular season.

Which finally brings me to why the Brewers window to win the National League pennant and/or World Series is open as wide as it’s probably going to be right now. The Brewers current roster is built around their pitching, which is why the front office put a premium on putting great defensive players behind them.

As it stands, the Brewers top three starting pitchers (Woodruff, Burnes, Peralta) are all under contract with the club through 2024 at a very team friendly price. These aren’t just good rotational arms, they’re front-line talents the club has developed, and they’re finally reaping the rewards.

Each of them has been Ace-level quality and have helped carry the team all season long despite issues on offense. I expect them to continue this type of production for the duration of their time in Milwaukee. It’s possible, if not likely that the Milwaukee Brewers will produce the 2021 Cy Young winner, with several pitchers on the roster in contention for such honor.

In addition to the front-line rotation, the Brewers also have two of the best relievers in baseball on the bookend. Josh Hader is one of the most untouchable relievers in all of baseball – under contract with Milwaukee through 2023, and last year’s rookie of the year – RP Devin Williams through (2025).

I would argue this is one of the best pitching staffs the Milwaukee Brewers have ever had from a top-end talent standpoint. On the open market, each of the starting pitchers would fetch north of $100 million dollars with ease, likely way more by a team with deeper pockets.

But Burnes will reach arbitration this winter and Woodruff will enter his second year of arbitration. Both are going to see significant raises in their yearly salary soon, making it more difficult for the Brewers to afford to build a talented roster around them. At some point, the Brewers will have to pay these guys what they are worth.

This valuable rotation presents the club with a unique opportunity to compete with the big market teams in the playoffs, where a series usually comes down to run prevention above all else.

Milwaukee finally has the front-line pitching they’ve lacked in the previous years to combat the star-studded lineups they’re going to face in the postseason. For a small market team on a budget like Milwaukee, windows like these don’t often present themselves – making it all the more important to push the chips all in. The club finds themselves with multiple big dollar arms on the roster, at a fraction of the cost.

The team is in good position to make a push this season, and will find themselves in a similar situation going into next year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the team make a move in the off-season and deal for an impact bat with a couple years of control, dealing from the strengths of their minors.

It’s obviously important for a small market team to keep the farm stocked, but sometimes you have to throw that out the window at pay a little extra to try and get over the hump.

Next. Ranking The Crew's Top 5 Hitting Prospects. dark

The window to win it all in Milwaukee is open as long as Milwaukee’s rotation features the front-line pitching that it currently does. They still have a few years before any of their key starters are slated to reach free agency.

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