The Brewers need to continue to search for bullpen pieces

The Milwaukee Brewers have reportedly signed relief pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen to a minor league deal after he was released by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Wilhelmsen was previously drafted by the Brewers but injuries and drug issues derailed his time with the organization. He did have some solid seasons with the Seattle Mariners, where he saved 53 games between 2012-2013.  The Diamondbacks are paying most of his contract for the remaining of his season with the Brewers. If he doesn’t work out, it wont really affect the Brewers payroll. This isn’t a big-time move, but it’s the type of move the Brewers need to continue to make.

The organization’s rebuild is obviously ahead of schedule. The Brewers shouldn’t be going “all-in” on this season just because they are contending in the National League Central. They shouldn’t be selling off big name prospects in order to land a solid pitcher. Being a “buyer” at the deadline to try to make a playoff push could compromise the farm system. It’s a top-rated farm system that  David Stearns  has worked hard to bolster the past two seasons. That doesn’t mean that Stearns shouldn’t continue to make moves or small-time deals to try to improve the current team. He should continue to search free agency as well as the waiver wire to try to find serviceable arms for the Brewers bullpen.

Recent Moves

Former Brewers general manager Doug Melvin as well as Stearns have already shown that they can find players to help the team win. Lots of players currently on the Brewers roster have been waiver wire, minor league, or small signing deals. Some of the players who have been claimed off of waivers by the Brewers in the past few years are, Hernan Perez, Junior Guerra, Jesus Aguilar, Nick Franklin, and Oliver Drake. Other small signings that have occurred the last couple years are Eric Sogard, Jared Hughes, and Paolo Espino. Obviously not all of the moves the Brewers have made have worked out, but the majority has.

(AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

Neftali Feliz definitely didn’t work out for the Brewers and was designated for assignment and ultimately released by the team. The team has also gotten rid of Rob Scahill, Jhan Marinez, and Tommy Milone, all of who weren’t able to get the job done this season.  If I was in the Brewers front office I would definitely be designating a few more relievers for assignment (DFA).

Proposed Moves

The first guy I’d have to start with is Wily Peralta. At the beginning of the season, I was all for giving him as many opportunities as possible. I was just hoping he could get back to his 2014 form.  After watching the Pirates game on Monday night, I’ve seen enough. He needs to go. Another reliever that needs to be DFA’d would be Oliver Drake. He was a veteran given another chance to potentially make the team, but in my opinion hasn’t done enough to deserve a spot in the bullpen. I may be in the minority on this one, but I’d be willing to give Carlos Torres a little more leash after the success he showed last season. The Brewers should continue to give veteran pitchers like Wilhelmsen, who have had success at the major league level a chance.

 

The absolute worst case scenario would be that the Brewers never end up finding any guys that can really come in and anchor down the bullpen, but that would leave them back to square one.  The Brewers already have the lowest payroll in baseball, so the addition of minimal salaries shouldn’t greatly affect it or their willingness to sign players. And we all know how bad Brewers owner Mark Anttanasio wants to win. I think he would be for whatever move may help the Brewers contend now and in the future. Going after more low-risk relief pitchers  would be the best way for the organization to go about trying to win now as well as keep the farm system in tact and not derail the future.

The Brewers need to continue to search for bullpen pieces

The Milwaukee Brewers have reportedly signed relief pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen to a minor league deal after he was released by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Wilhelmsen was previously drafted by the Brewers but injuries and drug issues derailed his time with the organization. He did have some solid seasons with the Seattle Mariners, where he saved 53 […]

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Davies struggles, offense sputters in 7-3 loss to Pirates

MILWAUKEE — The Pittsburgh Pirates jumped out to a 6-0 lead and ultimately hung on for a 7-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers Tuesday night. Brewers starter Zach Davies was tagged for all seven runs scored by the Pirates, allowing 10 hits in the process. He left after five innings of work, having yet to make […]

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Brewers pitching falls apart in 8-1 loss to Pirates

MILWAUKEE — An area of weakness reared its ugly head as the Milwaukee Brewers fell to the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-1 Monday night. That weakness was relief pitching. Wily Peralta took over for Matt Garza in the sixth inning only to leave an inning later after allowing four runs to score on five hits. But by the […]

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Why Brewer Bullpen Woes are “OK”

The Brewers took a 5-0 lead into the top of the ninth inning last night at Miller Park. It was a game in which manager Craig Counsell was hoping not to have to use his closer Corey Knebel or his setup man Jacob Barnes. Of course the first four Giant batters reached base against reliever Carlos Torres and Counsell was left with no choice but to bring in his closer to finish out the game. Barnes and Knebel have been used quite a bit  already this year for the Brewers. They won’t be able to sustain this type of heavy use without consequences to the bullpen or their individual performance.

Why it’s OK

If the Brewer offense continues to hit and score runs at this pace, the Brewers will  be in these situations where they will be relying on their bullpen to close out games. Fans should expect to see more collapses because this team isn’t built to win now. The Brewers bullpen is a mix of young power arms and a number of veteran pitchers trying to extend their careers.

Either way, this is not a bullpen that is meant to help the Brewers compete and contend for a playoff position this year. This is a squad which is set up to get the Brewers through the season and potentially help them land more prospects in deals with teams looking to add a veteran arm for a postseason run. Neftali Feliz, Oliver Drake, and Rob Scahill weren’t added to the roster this season to get the Brewers over the hump, but with the hope that they pitched well enough so Milwaukee can  flip them for prospects by the trade deadline.

The Astros

The Brewers are in the midst of a rebuild despite the fact that some fans believe they should be trying to win now. Even general manager David Stearns isn’t falling into this  win now trap. Stearns has said all the right things about how he is going to stick to his plan and that’s why the Brewers are somewhat competitive now. The Brewers rebuild to a point resembles what the Houston Astros rebuild looked like. This makes sense since Stearns was an assistant GM with the Astros during that time.

The Astros strategy was to unload all their talent AKA Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, and Hunter Pence to name a few players and to acquire as many prospects as possible. They also started cutting payroll to an extremely low amount, which enabled them to “tank” and obtain top draft picks. The next piece to the Houston rebuild was to grow as much pitching as possible from the minor leagues.  The Astros acquired the rest of the arms that were needed by way of trades or free agency. This strategy has worked out pretty well for the Astros, as they have become a competitive playoff team and the best team in baseball this season with a record of 42-17.

Brewers Rebuild

Back to the Brewers. They have traded most of their valuable pieces outside of Ryan Braun and have picked inside the top-ten in the draft the last two seasons. They have also cut down their payroll to just under 64 million dollars this season, which ranks dead last in Major League Baseball for team salary. Matt Garza and Ryan Braun account for over 53% of the team’s payroll this season. With Garza’s contract over at the end of the season and Braun potentially being a piece in trade talks, the payroll could be significantly lower next season. The last thing a team who isn’t considered a “contender” needs is to spend its money on a good bullpen.

It doesn’t make sense for a team that doesn’t see itself as a playoff contender to spend money on a bullpen that isn’t going to be relied on  because the logic behind it is that there isn’t going to be a large number of games that they are going to be needed in. So why spend the money? Going out and building a good bullpen should be the last thing a contender should go out and do. It’s also easier to build a good bullpen once you have other pieces. Once you have a good product on the field you can go out and sign a high profile reliever, take a risk on a solid reliever or two coming off an injury or an abnormal year. Teams also aren’t  afraid to pull up young arms from the minor league system because the future is already here.

Looking to the Future

The Brewers and especially Brewer fans need to stay patient and believe in the process that David Stearns has laid out and stood by these past couple years. Milwaukee has a ton of high ceiling prospects as well as some good young talent at the Major League level. The team has been really competitive the first 10 weeks of the season and fans shouldn’t be deterred by the lack of success by the bullpen. Brewer fans should take the good with the bad this season and just embrace this team for what it is… A young exciting team to watch in the midst of a rebuild.

(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Brewers believe Saturday’s “rain-out” was postponed by Cubs for alternative reason

CHICAGO — Roughly three hours before the Brewers and Cubs were supposed to get underway from Wrigley Field, Cubs management decided not to tempt Mother Nature, postponing the contest to July 6.

That sounds harmless enough, considering the Cubs’ weather forecast showed heavy rains and thunderstorms in the area for the 1:20 p.m. start time. But after speaking with reporters prior to Sunday’s series finale, it appears Brewers general manager David Stearns hinted that Chicago may have made the decision for a reason other than weather.

Some Brewers fans surmised that the Cubs feared playing Milwaukee, which has won 10 of its last 12 games. If manager Craig Counsell’s comments are any indication, the fans could be right.

While the Cubs’ weather report showed severe weather, by the time the game started, things had cleared up and the game could have been played. The make-up date has been set for July 6 at 1:20 p.m.

Report: Villar turned down Brewers $20 million extension

PHOENIX — While the Milwaukee Brewers prepare to begin Cactus League play at Maryvale Baseball Park, infielder Jonathan Villar has turned down a $20 million contract extension offered by the club, according to a FanRagSports.com report.

As pointed out by Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee’s offer is likely a move focused on keeping Villar’s contract cost down in the future. Villar is eligible for arbitration after this season, and if he becomes the player they hope he can be, that won’t come cheap.

Entering his presumed first full season playing second base, Villar will make somewhere in the $513,000 range this season. After posting a .285 batting average in 2016 with 19 home runs, 63 RBI, 62 stolen bases, and an OBP of .369 (16th in National League), a similar performance this season would mean a big payday for Villar.

Villar claimed to have no knowledge of the reported deal, while GM David Stearns  said “I’m not going to comment on any contract negotiations.”