Each year, the Milwaukee Brewers find value from unexpected places. Whether that be waiver claims, Rule 5 draftees, or the minor leagues, players emerge to contribute that fans may not have expected before the season began.
Both during the regular season and in the offseason, the Brewers often scour through minor league free agents to find the best fits for the club. With pitching always being a need, here are eight arms that the Brewers should target this offseason.
Two left-handed starters to add depth
1. Caleb Smith
2023 Organization: Pittsburgh (Triple-A)
Acquired by the Brewers in the 2016 Rule 5 Draft before an immediate trade to the Cubs, Smith has bounced around four other organizations since - Yankees, Marlins, Diamondbacks, Pirates. The 32-year-old established himself as a capable big league starter from 2018-21, tossing nearly 300 innings across the four seasons.
Injuries limited Smith in 2023, stemming from a UCL tear suffered at American Family Field in the 2022 season finale. He struggled this past year with Triple-A Indianapolis, allowing 32 earned runs in just 45 innings sandwiched around three stints on the injured list.
Smith primarily works with a three-pitch mix: 4-seam, slider, changeup. His 89.9 mph average fastball was the lowest of his career, the elbow injury likely being the primary factor for the drop-off. The left-hander has tossed 139 big league innings out of the bullpen, boasting a respectable 3.55 ERA with nearly a strikeout an inning. If healthy, Smith profiles as a good swingman option, especially for a club lacking in left-handed options out of the bullpen.
2. Tyler Gilbert
2023 Organization: Arizona (MLB/AAA)
Best known for throwing a no-hitter in his initial big league start in 2021, Gilbert has been and up-and-down swingman in the years since. The left-hander has 91 big league innings under his belt, throwing to the tune of a 4.32 ERA despite a low strikeout rate.
Gilbert reinvented himself in 2023, bumping his average fastball from 89.6 to 91.9 mph. The result was a significant jump in whiff rate across the board and a bump in K% by more than double his previous output. His 5.30 ERA in Reno was seven percent better than league average in the hitter's paradise that was the Pacific Coast League.
Like Smith, Gilbert represents an ideal swingman with big league experience starting and relieving. Significant increases in velocity and resulting changes in off-speed movement can sometimes take a year to adjust to, perhaps lending the Brewers to see Gilbert as a worthy buy-low candidate.