The 2019 season has come and gone and it’s time for the Brewers to reload for another postseason run. Our staff has given their responses to some pressing questions as Milwaukee prepares its offseason plan.
What’s the solution at first base?
Nate Truettner: I was a bit surprised that Milwaukee declined Eric Thames’ relatively cheap club option for the 2020 season, as his production was very solid last season at a reasonable price. I’m not sure how the Brewers expect to upgrade with the same amount of money, but maybe they’ll get creative and sign a bigger name. I think ultimately Ryan Braun and Travis Shaw will split time at first base in a platoon when it’s all said and done.
Connor Grossnickle: The solution at first base is tricky. I believe that the best option the Brewers have is to honestly bring Thames back and do something similar to what they did last season if he begins to struggle against lefties again by bringing Grandal in to play and giving Piña some more reps behind the plate. If that fails, and with Jose Abreu off the market, the best option may be a platoon of Braun, Grandal, and maybe even Tyler Austin or Travis Shaw back over there. The biggest need at first base is a clutch hitter in the six or seven-spot to be able to drive in our top of the lineup guys who are getting on base.
David Turicek: Last season, the Brewers relied on a multitude of players to fill in the first base position—I mean, we even saw Ryan Braun out there! Looking at the free-agent first basemen, it does not seem promising for the Brewers to find a sufficient, long-term player to fulfill the position. For this reason, it is imperative that the Brewers look into potential trades for at least a short-term solid option to get them by until they find a long-term option. David Freese comes to mind as a veteran first baseman who could play for a couple of seasons while the Brewers look for prospects in the Minor League. That being said, we may see a new face at first base next season.
One player the Brewers absolutely must re-sign:
Nate Truettner: It’s definitely Grandal which makes this dicey; I don’t think Milwaukee’s offer will be strong enough to keep him. Catcher is a very important position to solidify as there are few truly quality backstops in baseball. They’re absolutely going to make a run at him but I feel that another team will outbid Milwaukee for his services.
Connor Grossnickle: The one player that the Brewers absolutely need to re-sign is the Yasmanian Devil himself. Not only is he one of the most effective 2-way backstops in the league, but he also is a switch hitter who strikes fear into the heart of pitchers when they are out on the mound. They have to pitch around him and he doesn’t swing at bad pitches which is why he has the franchise record for walks in a season. His batting average may not be anything special, but the ability to hit for power, and to get on base is what makes Grandal valuable. I think that Travis Shaw has a better chance of replacing Moustakas’ bat effectively and his play at Third base than Pina has of replicating Grandal’s bat, and that’s coming from a guy who didn’t think Grandal was going to be a great pick up the last offseason.
David Turicek: It is hard to pick between Grandal and Moose here, but I think it has to be Grandal. He is one of, if not the, best catchers in franchise history and proved himself with Yelich out later in the season. In addition to bringing a huge bat to the plate, Grandal will certainly attract free agents to Milwaukee in years to come if he decides to stay here.
Give us your predictions for the Brewers’ biggest signings.
Nate Truettner: The Brewers should be able to spend a bit more than last season as they’ve added some flexibility with the departures of Eric Thames (for now) and Chase Anderson. That extra $11 million or so could be crucial in building the team for next year. First and foremost, I think the Brewers will try to gun for Yasmani Grandal but will ultimately fail. They will turn to the secondary catching market and I think they ink former Twins catcher Jason Castro to a 2 year, $10 million deal. He can platoon with Manny Pina and his bat is solid. I also assume Stearns will take a look at the shortstop market and I think he’ll come out with the big prize in Didi Gregorius by signing him to a 3 year, $40 million deal. Mike Moustakas should still be available at this point and I think Milwaukee brings him back on a 2 year, $22 million contract. Lastly, Milwaukee will sign one of Wheeler/Ryu/Keuchel along with Jordan Lyles for a combined estimated additional $23 million in salary for 2020. This would put Milwaukee’s payroll at around $134 million.
Connor Grossnickle: The Brewers’ biggest signings will come at two positions Catcher and Pitcher. The Brewers will bring back Grandal on a 3-year deal probably around 70-80 million, making Yasmani the highest-paid catcher in the league. To pair with an all-star catcher the Brewers will bring in some mid-tier pitching to solidify a rotation hopefully centered around Brandon Woodruff, Brent Suter, and Zach Davies. If Brandon Woodruff can solidify himself into an ace, or even Jimmy Nelson could return to 2017 form, the Brewers could potentially have their 1,2,4,5 rotation starters solidified. Realistically, however, let’s say that they have their 2,4, and 5 starters right now between Woodruff, Suter, and Davies respectively. This puts the need at a solid Ace, something the Brewers cannot afford, or a couple solid number 2 or 3 options. For this, I believe that the Brewers will first bring back Jordan Lyles, the always effective Brewers starter. He has struggled in other uniforms so I believe the Brewers will be able to bring him back on a cheaper deal than other teams may offer him, something probably in the range of 2 years for about 15 million. A free-agent not formally on the Brewers however who I believe they will bring in, is starter Cole Hamels, former Ranger and Cub. This would bring in a top of the rotation lefty and could give the Brewers a chance to have a right-left-right-left-right rotation. This would force teams to most likely switch their line up and not give some hitters the chance to find the grove against a solid Brewers pitching rotation. My guess is he will sign for 2 years at around 35 million. These moves could help to solidify the lineup and give Jimmy Nelson and Freddy Peralta a chance to move into higher leverage roles in the bullpen to pair with Josh Hader and a returning Corey Knebel. If the Brewers can bring back Moustakas that would be a welcome addition as well, but after resigning their current players with tenders and arbitration, and the moves mentioned above, it looks as though the Brew Crew may be a little strapped on cash and may have to look at the trade market to make a splash for another big bat.
David Turicek: The Brewers have a lot to get done this offseason. Based on the brilliant moves made by David Sterns throughout the past couple of years, I have great confidence that he’ll make yet another great trade or free agency signing. It is complicated, though, with all the needs and potential departures. I am sure that Milwaukee will fight all they can for Moustakas and Grandal to return, while their salary cap does have limits. Otherwise, the Brewers will have to acquire new faces to fill the lineup. One pitcher I would like to bring back to Milwaukee is Wade Miley, who had a very successful season in Houston last year. There was no reason we should have let him go given the success he had on the mound. Moreover, I would like to see the Brewers acquire Didi Gregorius, who, as a 29-year old, could serve as a very suitable shortstop for many years to come if he fits well with the team. This could be a very interesting offseason for the Brewers if they cannot manage to keep Grandal and Moustakas.