The Milwaukee Brewers entered the offseason with little relative clarity on what their outfield situation was going to look like going into 2022. After last week, the picture at the position looks much more clear.
Obviously the team’s 2022 outfield was set to feature former MVP Christian Yelich. And center fielder Lorenzo Cain, in the final year of his contract, was set to return as well. Past that, though, the situation was cloudy.
With last season’s home run and RBI leader Avisail Garcia gone via free agency, the most likely name to round out the outfield was Jackie Bradley Jr, offensive woes and all. But that was before last week’s trade shook everything up.
Bradley Jr is no longer a Brewer, while now former Red Sox right fielder Hunter Renfroe comes to Milwaukee to fill in the position vacated by Garcia. The Crew’s starting outfield can officially be considered set.
The same can probably be said of the primary backup outfield position. Tyrone Taylor ended up being a major contributor for the Brewers, playing in 93 games across all all three outfield spots and looks more than capable enough to do so again this upcoming season.
With that core in place, does that mean the Brewers are now set at the outfield position for 2022?
While the Brewers do have four open spots on the 40-man roster with which to work, they do have a number of internal options to back up the outfield as it stands. A few of those come in the form of multi-functional players planned to make the 26-man roster.
Jace Peterson was recently signed to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration. He made 27 starts at the corner outfield spots in 2021. The team also traded for utility man Mike Brosseau this offseason and he can play the outfield in a pinch as well.
Should Milwaukee want to look past the expected 26-man roster, they have options there as well.
One name that has been popping up recently is David Dahl. After being signed and added to Triple-A Nashville late last year, he made quite the impression, putting up a .327 average and a .911 OPS in 31 games. He recently was signed to a new minor league deal with an invitation to spring training and was an NL All-Star for the Rockies just two seasons ago.
There is also former 2016 1st round pick Corey Ray. Injuries have limited him since a supposed breakout 2018 season where he had 27 homers and 37 steals. At some point you would think the Brewers would want a closer look at him in the majors, but although he is on the 40-man roster, he also still has minor league options remaining and doesn’t need to be rushed if it isn’t necessary.
So is that enough for the Brewers to get by in the outfield in 2022?
Unless the expectation is that the team is certain that Ray or Dahl will be good enough to snag a spot, the answer is probably no. The Brewers traditionally like to carry at least five players who are primarily outfielders, so getting by with Peterson or Brosseau fifth on the depth chart likely won’t be the solution.
Milwaukee always seems to add a good amount of outfielders to the roster even when it feels like they have enough already. Just look at last year when Billy McKinney and Derek Fisher were both fighting for spots at the back end of the roster.
So perhaps look for the Brewers to sign a mid to low-tier free agent outfielder once operations resume after the lockout. Perhaps Jake Marisnick (.216/.286/.375 with the Cubs and Padres in ’21) or Travis Jankowski (.252/.364/.351 with the Phillies) would be options.
So while the Brewers could stand pat with their outfield situation, history says they likely won’t. We just won’t know what moves are on the horizon until this pesky lockout is over.