As a team that relied more heavily on pitching to be successful, many hoped that the implementation of the universal DH in 2022 would be a chance for the Milwaukee Brewers to add some more offensive punch. Two years later, the team is still in search of that punch.
In 2022, the Brewers primarily relied on veteran Andrew McCutchen to fill their designated hitter role after signing him the prior offseason. Unfortunately, he ended up having one of the worst offensive seasons of his career, setting career lows with a .316 OBP, .700 OPS, and 97 OPS+.
Last season, they addressed the position by trading for Jesse Winker, hoping for a bounce back from a down 2022 season. That went even worse as he too had the worst offensive season of his career, slashing a lowly .199/.320/.247 while only playing in 61 games due to injury. Combined with other players who manned the position, Milwaukee got some of the worst production at DH in all of MLB.
In those two cases, the Brewers went with a 35-year-old veteran and a player coming off a poor year plus a season-ending neck injury. In other words, they were taking a couple chances. The DH position is truly all about offense, though, and because of that, they should take their third crack at solving the position by bringing in someone with some more recent offensive success.
To solve their designated hitter issue, the Brewers should take a look at free agent Mitch Garver.
Fresh off a World Series title with the Texas Rangers, Mitch Garver is hitting free agency for the first time in his seven-year career. He began his career with the Minnesota Twins, who drafted him in the ninth round back in 2013.
Garver would debut in 2017 but have his first big season in 2018 when he hit .268 with a .749 OPS in 102 games. His numbers would take a big upgrade in 2019 as he slashed an impressive .273/.365/.630 with 31 homers and 67 RBIs, numbers that won him the AL Silver Slugger award at the catcher position.
Injuries would begin to plague Garver over the next few seasons, though his numbers remained largely strong. The same would be true just last season as he only played in 87 regular season games but still hit .270 with a .870 OPS and 19 home runs with 50 RBIs.
While Garver primarily played at catcher for the Twins, the Rangers largely had him playing DH as he played there in 93 of his 141 games with Texas. While the Brewers do need to solve their DH issues, they currently have no backup catcher behind William Contreras so Garver would fix a couple problems for Milwaukee.
And while Garver's career .252 average and .825 OPS would be welcome in the Brewers offense by itself, his ability to hit left-handers would be an even more crucial addition. For some reason, Milwaukee batters haven't been able to solve lefties. Meanwhile, Garver crushes them, hitting .272 with an .885 OPS against them for his career.
Garver is being projected for a contract of two to three years with an average annual value between $8MM and $10MM, which is not a terrible price to pay for offensive production. The big question is whether the Brewers, or any other team, would be willing to pay that much considering the history of injuries as he has played more than 100 games in a season just once in his career.
The Brewers have already shown that they will take some risks to staff their DH position, though, so if they're going to do so again, it might as well be with a player with a more recent track record of offensive success. That is a mold that Garver fits.