Over the past few months, the Brewers have been engaging in transactions that look like a rebuild while saying that they aren't going into a rebuild. Acquisitions have focused on the farm system and less on the big league roster. Now might be the time for them to use some of that farm system depth to improve the big league club.
It all started back in August. The Brewers traded Josh Hader to the Padres. They didn't do it because they wanted Taylor Rogers and they certainly didn't do it because they wanted Dinelson Lamet. They did that trade because they wanted the prospects, Esteury Ruiz and Robert Gasser. The Brewers focused on adding to the farm system rather than their big league roster.
We all know what happened to the team after that, but as we've gone into the offseason, we've seen more subtraction from the big league club. Hunter Renfroe was traded for three prospect pitchers. Janson Junk and Elvis Peguero have some big league experience but are still prospect eligible. Adam Seminaris is a middling pitching prospect in Triple-A. That trade was more about adding talent to the farm system and their pool of young players.
The Brewers have a pretty solid group of players in their farm system. The big league roster is lacking and needs some more additions to help out immediately. Some of these players can help out right away. But some can't. Some may not pan out at all, this is just the way it goes with prospects.
After building a deeper farm system with lots of talent, is it time for the Brewers to trade some prospects for proven big league help?
To be clear, this is NOT a call to trade Jackson Chourio for whatever player they can find. This is NOT a call to trade Sal Frelick or any of the top guys from Triple-A who can help immediately in 2023. The Brewers need them and this offseason so far has been about clearing room for them.
But this Brewers roster has other needs this prospect group can't produce. They need a long term answer at third base and this farm system doesn't have it. They need a catcher upgrade and Mario Feliciano might be that guy, but is far from a sure thing so they could use an upgrade there. Milwaukee also could use more help in the back end of the bullpen to lock down the later innings.
Because the Brewers are operating within payroll constraints, shopping in the free agent market for the big upgrades may be out of their price range. That means their only other avenue of acquiring these upgrades is the trade market.
They've traded all the players of value they have that they're willing to part with. Moving any of the core guys of value left would be counter-productive to their stated goal of being competitive in 2023. The remaining trade candidates the Brewers have are coming off down seasons, such as Keston Hiura and Victor Caratini, and won't bring back much. That leaves the farm system as the only options to include in a trade to get a big league upgrade.
Other teams that are engaging in rebuilds will want prospects in return for their big league trade chips. Getting Sean Murphy from Oakland would require prospects. Getting Danny Jansen or Alejandro Kirk from Toronto would require prospects, although Kirk would require more. The Brewers are a frequent trade partner with Tampa Bay, and if Yandy Diaz is available, they would want prospects for him as well.
The Brewers are out of valuable big league trade chips, at least ones that make some sense to trade. They still have more upgrades they need to make to this roster before they can truly believe they are contenders again. They need to start dealing from the farm system to get legitimate upgrades to this team. They can trade Keston Hiura or Tyrone Taylor or Victor Caratini all they want, but they aren't going to get any immediate big league upgrade in return for those guys.
They've moved Renfroe and Wong, they've added five players to the organization in return for those guys. Now, if they want to add more players to the roster in trades, they'll have to deal from their farm system depth to do it.