Offseason recap: Milwaukee Brewers

With the NL Central wide open, the Brewers made a couple of late free-agent strikes to solidify their roster for another playoff run.

Major League transfers

  • Jackie Bradley Jr., OF: Two years, $ 24MM (Bradley may opt out after 2021 season)
  • Kolten wong, 2B: two years, $ 18MM (includes the $ 2MM purchase of the $ 10MM club option by 2023)
  • Brett anderson, SP: One year, $ 2.5MM
  • Daniel Robertson, IF: One year, $ 900K
  • Luke maile, C: One year, $ 825K
  • Total spending: $ 46,225MM

Operations and claims

Notable minor league transfers

  • Travis shaw (selected contract, Shaw will earn $ 1.5MM in guaranteed money), Brad Boxberger, Jordan zimmermann, Blaine hardy, Luis Perdomo, Jace peterson, Zack godley, Pablo Reyes, Hoby milner, Dylan cozens, Dustin Peterson

Notable losses

Defense was not a strength for the Brewers in 2020, as they posted mediocre finishes in league categories such as Outs Above Average (16th out of 30 teams), Defensive runs saved (22nd) and UZR / 150 (24th). ). These numbers were going to get better anyway with the former Gold Glover Lorenzo Cain back in action, but glove work can now turn into a real asset now that Kolten Wong and Jackie Bradley Jr. are on the roster.

After eight seasons in St. Louis, Wong became a free agent after the Cardinals declined his $ 12.5MM club option at second base for 2021. Several teams had an interest in Wong over the winter, and he was able to take advantage of it. that interest. on a two-year deal and at least $ 18MM in guaranteed money, moving from the Cards to a division rival who is very familiar with what Wong brings to the table.

If Wong gets close to his career .261 / .333 / .384 bar line (94 OPS +, 96 wRC +), the Brewers won’t mind slightly below-average production as long as Wong continues to provide defense. elite level. The firm can also have the secondary impact of helping Keston hiuraThe game, as the former second baseman with defensive challenges now moves from cornerstone to first base. Such a position change will lessen Hiura’s defensive responsibility and possibly allow him to focus more on his hitting, as Hiura went through a slump in his sophomore year after his great rookie season in 2019.

The Brew Crew had three established outfield starters in Cain, a former National League MVP Christian yelich, and Avisail GarciaBut signing Bradley made perfect sense. It’s been more than two years since Cain has been a productive regular, as he struggled through an injury-plagued 2019 and then opted out of much of the 2020 season. Garcia (who signed to a two-year, $ 20 contract million last offseason) at least provided a decent center-field defense replacing Cain, but he suffered a difficult year at the plate. Even Yelich had a low year by his standards, never looking well on the track in 247 plate appearances while hitting a .205 / .356 / .430 line with 12 home runs.

In this mix comes Bradley, who joined Wong as another defensive standout coming to the open market after eight seasons with his original team. It seemed like there was at least some chance that Bradley could end up back with the Red Sox considering how long he remained as a free agent, although Boston made other moves to replace Bradley on the Fenway Park outfield. As the winter wore on, many of the other teams linked to Bradley also addressed their needs in the outfield with other players, perhaps just because the clubs preferred these other options, or perhaps because Bradley’s strong contract demands might have lost. immediately the interest of some suitors.

Bradley will earn $ 13MM from his $ 24MM guarantee in 2021, and the outfielder will have a $ 11MM player option to rejoin the Brew Crew in 2022 or re-enter free agency. The contract seems quite acceptable to both parties: Bradley gets an extra year of security, and even if he struggles in 2021 and ends up exercising his option out of necessity, $ 24MM is not such a large sum that it would significantly hamper even a smaller market team. like Milwaukee.

That said, the Brewers did not necessarily perform like most other smaller market franchises operated in the wake of 2020 revenue losses. The team was originally slated for a payroll of approximately $ 102.5MM in 2020 prior to the pandemic. and the close of the league, and as we approach Opening Day 2021, the Brewers have (based on Cot’s Baseball Contracts) approximately $ 96.9MM committed to this season’s payroll. There are some sizable deferrals within 2021 salaries for both Bradley and Wong, but in terms of money on the books, Brew Crew could certainly meet or exceed its projected 2020 payroll figure depending on additions during the season.

Since the Brewers didn’t do much trading until February, president of baseball operations David Stearns might not have known exactly what budget he had to work with for much of the offseason, or maybe it was some kind of offseason. tactical move to wait for the market in search of possible bargains. Even after signing Wong, Milwaukee made a strong attempt to sign Justin turner before the Dodgers third baseman ended up re-signing with his old team.

Turner wasn’t the only biggest free agent bat under consideration, as the Brewers reportedly analyzed Marcell ozuna, Marcus semien, and Eddie rosario in the winter. It’s unknown if the team was doing due diligence on available free agents or had a more serious interest in any of these other names, but it represents an interesting alternate image of Milwaukee’s offseason. The Brewers, after all, didn’t produce much offense last season, but their two biggest additions were defensive stars with a medium offensive record, while Ozuna or Rosario would have been clear additions at bat first.

Had Turner been hired in Bradley’s place, it’s fair to assume that Milwaukee is looking to add a veteran outfielder on a minors contract or a low-cost MLB contract to fill that gap in the outfield. However, with Turner back in Los Angeles, that left third base as the position that needed a veteran reinforcement.

Milwaukee brought back an old friend in Travis Shaw, whose minor league contract has already been guaranteed by the team. The Brewers parted ways with Shaw after he struggled through a miserable 2019 season, but he bounced back to some extent by hitting .239 / .306 / .411 over 180 PA with the Blue Jays last year. If Shaw can at least get back to producing against right-handed pitchers, the Brewers can deploy a timeshare at third base of Shaw and right-handed hitters Daniel Robertson and Orlando arcia.

That duo could also influence shortstop’s image if Luis Urias he’s not ready for regular major league work. Arcia was seen as a possible non-candidate heading into the offseason, but the Brewers chose to retain him as insurance in the wake of Urias’s forgettable 2019 season, which was hampered by a wrist injury and a case of COVID- 19. Robertson signed a one-year, $ 900K deal as additional profit, as former Tampa Bay first-round pick Ray can play anywhere in the infield and has some experience as a corner outfielder.

Tim Lopes and Jace Peterson were also hired as public service candidates, but the Brewers took another direction by bidding Dan Vogelbach a contract. This decision was made before Hiura was transferred to first base, and before it became apparent that the National League was not going to adopt the re-appointee for the 2021 season. Vogelbach is out of the minor league options and without a actual position on the roster, which is why he stands out as a potential trade candidate in the final days of Spring Training. By contrast, the Brewers could simply cut him before Opening Day and only owe him about $ 339,000 of his $ 1.4 million salary for the 2021 campaign.

The lack of a universal designated hitter could have closed the book on Ryan Braun’s career as well, as the veteran Brewers member recently said he hasn’t been training this offseason and is “strongly inclinedTowards hanging up his glove. With nothing official yet, Milwaukee fans can still hope for a storybook comeback scenario at the end of the season, but in all likelihood, the Brewers are already in the post-Braun era.

Rich hill and Trevor rosenthal were two of the Brewers’ goals for the rotation and the bullpen this winter, but without a signed pitcher, Milwaukee’s pitching mix will look pretty similar to their 2020 season gun collection. Brandon woodruff, Corbin burnes, and Adrian houser join rehired Brett Anderson at the top of the rotation. While it sounds strange to refer to Anderson, who is often injured, as a come-inning, the grounder has been mostly healthy the past two seasons and will bring some veteran experience at the back of the rotation.

Freddy peralta won the fifth starter spot Josh lindblomBut in a season that will require as many pitchers on hand as possible, the Brewers will likely be even more flexible than usual with their pitching plans. A six-man rotation, starters in tow, starters – nothing seems to be off the table in 2021. With this in mind, veteran minor league signings like Jordan Zimmermann, Zack Godley, Brad Boxberger or Blaine Hardy might just stay (and not exercise any option) -out clauses) even if they don’t break the Opening Day roster, as there should be plenty of opportunities for Major League action throughout the season.

And it’s probably worth mentioning that Josh hader he is still a brewer. Despite some rumors over the winter, it didn’t seem like the Brewers were seriously considering moving their relief ace (or maybe co-ace, considering Devin Williams’emergency). Hader is making $ 6,675MM in his first year of arbitration eligibility and is still under control through the 2023 season, so while a trade could eventually happen down the road, it doesn’t look like the southpaw is going anywhere in the future. near.

While much of the offseason talk in the NL Central focused on the players, the Cubs, the Reds and (before the Nolan Arenado exchange) The Cardinals were loosening up, the Brew Crew quietly slipping under the radar and not parting from any important pieces. As flawed as the 2020 team was, it was still able to enter the expanded playoff pool, and now the Brewers will return with Bradley, Wong, Cain and what they hope are several recovery candidates in the lineup.

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