The MLB offseason is in full swing as teams haven’t shied away from opening their pocketbooks for top-tier free agents. The Brewers saw their top two free agents, Yasmani Grandal and Mike Moustakas, depart after they received offers Milwaukee just could not match. Grandal landed with the White Sox on a 4-year contract worth $73 million while Moustakas is headed to division rival Cincinnati with a 4 year, $64 million deal. Good on them for getting their money, but now the Brewers are facing a very busy, and important, offseason.
The catcher position seems to be solved as Milwaukee will ride with a platoon of Manny Piña and Omar Narvaez, who was acquired in a trade with Seattle. That could end up being a pretty productive platoon as each hitter hits the opposite hand pitcher very well. With the 26 man roster, it’s possible that the Brewers could carry a third catcher for defensive purposes (likely Jacob Nottingham).
Third base is the biggest question mark in the lineup currently, although there’s plenty of options on both the trade and free-agent market. The default option right now is to start newly acquired Luis Urias at third base, which is not ideal considering Orlando Arcia would have to attempt to hit in the everyday lineup. The two most prominent free agents at the position are Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson, although they may be out of the Brewers’ price range. Donaldson is a faint possibility, depending on the number of suitors for the former MVP. Todd Frazier is probably the best of the rest of the free-agent third basemen, reflecting the steep drop off between the top 2 and the rest. A trade option I really like is Eduardo Escobar of the Diamondbacks, who hit 35 home runs with a .831 OPS last season while playing all over the infield. His defense is solid enough to be the everyday third baseman, and his contract is cheap as he only has 2 years and $14 million left in his contract. A creative solution to solve this problem could be to sign shortstop Didi Gregorius and move Urias to third base. Gregorius would be a left-handed bat that the Crew needs right now and he would definitely be an upgrade over Arcia.
Declining Eric Thames’s option for 2020 after he posted a solid 2019 season remains a mystery to me. David Stearns thought he wasn’t worth that price, so he must have some alternate plan at first base. A name that’s been linked to Milwaukee in the past is Justin Smoak, a switch-hitting slugger who hits for low average but takes a lot of walks while hitting for power. Alternatively, I think the Brewers should at least check in with the Orioles about Trey Mancini, who is a phenomenal hitter (.899 OPS with 35 HR in 2019). He may cost a lot as he comes with 3 years of control, but I really think he would be worth the cost. The Brewers could also bring back Thames at a lower price and platoon him with recently cut first baseman C.J. Cron, formerly of the Twins. They could form a formidable partnership at first base. Keep an eye on Nick Castellanos as well as I would not be shocked if the Brewers were not at least interested in the young outfielder, who may be willing to move to first base or bump Braun to first base if signed.
The last area of need for Milwaukee is the drum that’s been beating for 3 years now: starting pitching. This may finally be the year the Brewers spend on a big-name pitcher, although it almost certainly will not be Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. Two names I really like of the free agents are Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dallas Keuchel. Ryu has some injury problems but was lights out for the Dodgers last season, posting a 2.32 ERA in 29 starts. Keuchel may be a bit cheaper and was solid for Atlanta last season (3.75 ERA) and is a groundball pitcher, which would play well at Miller Park.
It’s only December, so Brewers fans have no reason to panic. There is money to spend (probably around $40 million or so) and I’m confident much will be done to round out the roster before Spring Training starts in February.