Brewers: Three roster spots for five players

The Milwaukee Brewers nearly have their opening day roster set. They currently have three spots available, with five players vying for those last few spots.

The players still trying to make the team are pitchers Oliver Drake, J.J. Hover and Taylor Williams, along with first basemen Jesus Aguilar and Ji-Man Choi. The Brewers and general manager David Stearns have until March 28th to finalize the roster.

Drake and Aguilar are out of options and would have to be placed on waivers before being reassigned to Triple-A Colorado Springs or cut. Both would likely be claimed off waivers by other teams.

Williams still has an option available and therefore there wouldn’t be any consequences for sending him to the minors to start the season.

Hoover and Choi are a different story, being non-roster invitees, who signed minor league deals with Milwaukee. Both players would need to be added to the Brewers 40-man roster, which only has one spot available after Milwaukee officially cut Yovani Gallardo on Monday.

Choi and Hoover could be assigned to Colorado Springs with no consequences. The Brewers would also have another spot available if pitcher Jimmy Nelson starts the season on the 60-day disabled list.

What I think happens

Drake, Hoover, and Aguilar make the opening day roster. Drake and Aguilar are currently already on Milwaukee’s 40-man roster. Hoover would then take Gallardo’s spot, which would allow the Brewers to be flexible with monitoring Nelson’s rehab.

Choi would fall victim to the depth at the first base position. In 41 at-bats this spring, Choi batted .390 with three home runs and 10 RBIs. He proved that he could make most major league teams as a backup first baseman, but finds himself behind Ryan Braun, Eric Thames, and Aguilar.

Drake struggled this spring, making 12 appearances, logging 11 1/3 innings, while accumulating an ERA of 5.56. Hoover turned heads this spring training appearing in 9 games, going 9 1/3 inning and not allowing a run. He also owned an excellent WHIP of 0.64. Aguilar also played well, batting .276 with two home runs and seven runs batted in in 58 at-bats.

What I would do

First off, I would cut Drake, as he has never really impressed me during his time in Milwaukee. I would then give his 40-man roster spot to Hoover, who was outstanding during spring training. Williams showed this past month that he’s all the way back from his Tommy John surgery in 2015, as he was clocked numerous times in the mid to upper 90s on the radar gun.

The Brewers would then still have one spot left on their 40-man roster, which they should give to Choi. I then would assign him to Triple-A Colorado Springs and continue to add to the depth at first base. These moves would also allow the Brewers the option not to place Nelson on the 60-day disabled list and continue to monitor his rehab schedule.

 

Why the Brewers aren’t necessarily going “all in” with these recent moves

The Milwaukee Brewers and general manager David Stearns are back at it again. The club is the talk of the off-season right now after trading for Miami Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich and signing former All-Star outfielder Lorenzo Cain as a free agent Thursday night.

Milwaukee still has a crowded outfield, which means that more moves will be likely to come before the start of spring training and players such as Domingo Santana, Brett Phillips, and Keon Broxton could be on the move. Despite all of these transactions, though, the Brewers aren’t necessarily going all in with a win-now mentality.

Here are some of the reasons why the Brewers didn’t mortgage their future and are not only going to contend for a playoff spot this season, but for a World Series for the next five years.

Trading for Yelich cost Milwaukee its top prospect in Lewis Brinson and other highly ranked prospects in Isan Diaz (6th), Monte Harrison (14th), and Jordan Yamamoto (21st). Yelich is the player right now that the Brewers had hoped Brinson could become and the one Miami is banking on him becoming.

The 23-year-old Brinson spent some time in the majors last season, but struggled when given the chance to play. At 26 years old, Yelich has been playing in the big leagues for five years, and is coming off a season in which he hit .282 with 18 home runs and 81 RBIs. He did that while hitting at Marlins Park, a much bigger stadium than Milwaukee’s Miller Park.

Milwaukee included 21-year-old Diaz in the deal and was able to do so because of the depth at its middle infield spots. The Brewers currently have Orlando Arcia at shortstop and are hoping for a bounce back season from Jonathan Villar at second base. The Brewers also have their seventh-ranked prospect in Mauricio Dubon, who is expected to see time at the big league level this season. Milwaukee also has another top prospect, Jean Carmona (13th) at that position.

The 22-year-old Harrison was another prospect that became expendable because of the depth at the outfield position. Harrison had a big season last year between low and high-A. He was still a ways away from the big leagues at this point in his career.

The last player involved in the trade, 21-year-old Jordan Yamamoto is coming off a good season in high-A with Carolina, but was among the organization top-10 pitching prospects.

Yelich will be under contract through a good chunk of his prime. He won’t be eligible for free agency until 2022. Yelich will command the most money during the 2021 season, a season in which he will make $15 million. Milwaukee basically nailed down an All-Star caliber player for a reasonable price during the prime of his career.

Many fans have questioned the signing of Cain, especially after trading for Yelich. Yes, the Brewers still have a crowded outfield. Yes, Cain turns 32 years old during this upcoming season. Yes, he’s making an average of $16 million per year over the next five season with this new deal.

What many people don’t know is that is that every Major League Baseball owner was given $50 million due to the deal that Disney struck with the league related to streaming and marketing. This means that Milwaukee’s owner, Mark Attanasio, could put that money towards the Brewers team salary. In the past, Attanasio hasn’t hesitated to spend money when he feels the team can contend and these moves suggest he does.

The Brewers could essentially use that money to pay for part of Cain’s $80 million contract. This would leave Milwaukee on the hook for $30 million over the next five years, which makes it a much more team-friendly deal at $6 million per year over five years. Under the ownership of Attanasio, the Brewers have seen their team salary rise as high as $110 million. The Brewers expected salary is around $90 million for the upcoming season, which should leave the Brewers with roughly $20 million dollars a year to spend on future signings, extensions, etc. The Brewers still have financial flexibility to make future moves.

Brewers fans are a winning starved bunch and just seeing progress from off-season moves like these can lead to this kind of “all in” thinking by fans. The moves that Stearns and the Brewers made yesterday by no means show that the Brewers are in the “win now” mode. These two transactions are just another step in the rebuild and the push for getting to the World Series in the near future. Milwaukee definitely added better players to their roster yesterday, but still have a farm full of prospects, financial flexibility, and time to build towards championships.

Who should the Brewers pursue: Arrieta, Darvish, or Archer

The Milwaukee Brewers have been relatively quiet this offseason, but in the past week, the Brewers have been linked to a number of top pitching free agents such as Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish. They have also been mentioned in trade talks with teams such as the Tampa Bay Rays for starting pitcher Chris Archer.

Brewers GM David Stearns has had a flawless track record when it comes to making trades, signing free agents, and scouring the waiver wire. I have total confidence in Stearns and the decision he ultimately makes, since he’s never done anything for me to question his ability to do his job.

But for those of us who are playing GM and commenting on who we think the Brewers should sign, here’s a breakdown of three of the big names the Brewers have been rumored to be interested in: Arrieta, Darvish, Archer.

  • Age:
    • Arrieta- turns 32 in March of 18′
    • Darvish | turns 32 in August of 18′
    • Archer- turns 30 in September of 18′
  • Number of seasons in the MLB:
    • Arrieta- 8
    • Darvish- 5 (played in Japan for 7 seasons prior to joining MLB)
    • Archer- 6
  • Number of seasons logging 200+ innings:
    • Arrieta- 1
    • Darvish- 1
    • Archer- 3
  • Number of seasons striking out 200+ batters:
    • Arrieta- 1
    • Darvish- 3
    • Archer- 3
  • Number of seasons having an ERA under 3.50:
    • Arrieta- 3
    • Darvish- 3
    • Archer- 3
  • Number of seasons having a WHIP under 1.30:
    • Arrieta- 5
    • Darvish- 5
    • Archer- 6
  • What the Brewers would have to give up:
    • Arrieta- compensation pick
    • Darvish- nothing
    • Archer- prospects
  • What the player is commanding in free agency:
    • Arrieta- 160 million over 6 years (26.67M/Yr)
    • Darvish- 110 million over 5 years (22 M/Yr)
    • Archer- Under contract till 2021 (7.56 M/Yr)

For my money, I’d like to see the Brewers deal some of their prospects to acquire a pitcher like Chris Archer. Archer is younger than both Arrieta and Darvish and would be under club control through 2021. His contract would be much less than the huge contracts Arrieta and Darvish would be asking for.

The Brewers will also need to unload some of their prospects by December of 2018, because many of their high profile prospects will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft in 2019 and will potentially be lost.

Prospects Isan Diaz (6th), Monte Harrison (14th), Trey Supak (16th), Jake Gatewood (18th), Cody Ponce (21st), Josh Pennington (22nd), Kodi Medeiros (23rd), Phil Bickford (24th), Carlos Herrera (30th) are all eligible for the Rule 5 draft after next season. That is nine of the Brewers top-30 prospects that could be lost if not given a roster spot on the Brewers 40-man roster this upcoming December.

 

 

 

 

Counsell in good position to win NL Manager of the Year

Craig Counsell is starting to gain national recognition for the job he’s done this season as manager of the Milwaukee Brewers. Counsell has led the Brewers to a 65-60 record and only two games out of the National League Central Division race and two and a half games out the Wild Card hunt.

This was a Brewers team thought to be in the second year of a rebuild. The team was only projected to win 72 games this season, but are currently on pace to win 84-85 games. Milwaukee has overachieved in almost every aspect this season.

The starting pitching has been one of the better rotations ERA wise in the national league pretty much the whole season. The bullpen has gotten stronger since general manager David Stearns made a few deadline deals to add veteran arms to the back-end of the bullpen.

Young players such as Domingo Santana and Orlando Arcia have also had break-out seasons, which has helped fuel the Brewers offense. Travis Shaw, who was acquired from the Boston Red Sox this winter, has also been having his best season as a pro.

Counsell’s biggest competition will be Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. Roberts has led the Dodgers to the best record in baseball at 87-35. The team is currently on pace to win 116 games, which would be one of the best regular seasons in Major League Baseball history.

Roberts shot at winning the award could be hurt by the star-studded Dodgers roster and the fact that they have the highest payroll in baseball. Some voters will probably hesitate to vote for him since he won NL Manager of the Year last season.

As long as Counsell and the Brewers don’t have a monumental collapse in September, he should be the favorite to take home Manager of the Year honors.

 

Brewers Neil Walker making debut at 3rd base

One day after the Milwaukee Brewers traded for second baseman Neil Walker from the New York Mets, Walker gets the start for the Crew Sunday against the Reds. Walker will start at third base and bat cleanup in place of regular 3B Travis Shaw who is dealing with a right foot injury.

 

Walker is batting .264 this season, with 10 home runs and 27 RBIs in 73 games. He missed a large chunk of June and July with a hamstring injury, just returning to the lineup on July 28. This was the 31-year-old’s second year in New York, having spent his first seven seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

While Walker’s stats may not blow anyone away, the Brewers struggles at second base have been a story for several months. They waived Scooter Gennett during spring training, handing the job to Jonathan Villar. He’s batting just .222 with nine home runs and 35 RBIs. Milwaukee overcame his struggles early on because of Eric Sogard’s surprise success. He batted .331 before the all-star break, but since returning from an injury in late July, he’s got five hits in 45 at-bats.

 

What this Brewers offense is missing

The Brewers have undoubtedly played better than anyone expected this season, and are still in the hunt for the National League Central title. This has lead to Brewers general manager David Stearns making some moves to sure up the Milwaukee bullpen, which emerged as the team’s weakest unit.

The team has struggled since the All-Star break going 9-14 in that time. The starting pitching has been relatively good all season, and the bullpen has made strides as of late. What is really plaguing the Brewers is the fact that the offense isn’t hitting home runs and not scoring runs in general.

David Stearns mentioned how he would continue to look at every option available to improve this ball club. I’m sure he’ll continue to scour the waiver wire and look to make deals during the waiver trade deadline.  He could also continue to bring up younger players from the minor league in hopes of a spark. Which might not really happen until September.

Lewis Brinson and Brett Phillips are two highly touted prospects, but both have shown that the Brewers need to be patient with their progression as they’ve both struggled in their limited time at the big league level.

There has been a lot said lately about how the Brewers have struggled to score runs especially when they aren’t hitting home runs. That is true, but the team is struggling to even get on base at the same time. What I think this Brewers team is missing is a true lead-off hitter. Jonathan Villar was the Brewers lead-off man for most of last season, but he has been anything but productive so far this season.

Villar is hitting .216 this season with 8 home runs and 32 RBIs. He does have 20 stolen bases, but has shown a lack of concentration on the bases too many times in his career. He has also struck out 111 times this season, which is over 34% of his at-bats. His on-base percentage of .276 is terrible for a traditional lead-off hitter. He has also committed 11 errors this season, which doesn’t help his case.

Eric Sogard has also seen quite a bit of time in the lead-off spot since mid-May. He was fitting the role nicely up until he went on the disabled list just before the All-Star break. Since returning to the lineup a little more than two weeks ago, he has really struggled. Since July, Sogard is a combined 3-39 for a batting average of .077 during that time period. The Brewers have to monitor his playing time because he is coming off of knee reconstruction surgery.

The Brewers don’t really have many other options. Eric Thames and Domingo Santana have seen some time at the top of the order, but Craig Counsell and the Brewers would prefer them lower in the order. Keon Broxton has also gotten starts in the lead-off spot, but has struck out at too high of a clip to be a good candidate for the position. The Brewers could try Orlando Arcia at the top spot in the order, but Craig Counsell seems content with batting him in the seventh or eighth spot.

Without a consistent lead-off hitter, the Brewers offense will continue to struggle as long as they aren’t hitting the long ball. For my money, I’d pull the trigger on calling up top prospects Lewis Brinson and/or Mauricio Dubon and let them find their swings at the major league level.

 

 

 

 

Recap: Brewers July trades

Brewers  general manager David Stearns remained active all the way up to the deadline and ended up pulling off three trades in July. The Brewers made one trade today before the non-waiver trade deadline, which passed at 3 p.m. CST. Stearns acquired talent without mortgaging the organization’s farm system. He made trades with lower-rated prospects or from a position of depth within the minor leagues.

 

Trade Recaps

July 13th

The Brewers acquired left-handed relief pitcher Tyler Webb for Triple-A first basemen Garrett Cooper. Tyler Webb is currently in Triple-A Colorado Springs after posting a 0-0 record with a 9.00 ERA and a 3.15 WHIP in two appearances with the Brewers in Mid-July. He threw two innings and gave up two runs, including a grand slam to the first batter he faced as a Brewer.

July 26th

The Brewers acquired right-handed pitcher Anthony Swarzak for their 17th ranked outfield prospect Ryan Cordell. Cordell was playing at Triple-A Colorado Springs, but Stearns and the Brewers felt like he was expendable due to the crowded outfield in the Brewers farm system. Swarzak has pitched two innings so far for the Brewers and has allowed one hit, a home run versus the Chicago Cubs. He has also struck out two batters.

July 31st

The Brewers acquired right-handed pitcher Jeremy Jeffress for Double-A relief pitcher Tayler Scott. Jeffress played three seasons for the Brewers from 2014-16 and was a valuable set-up man and closer. He was ultimately traded in the Jonathan Lucroy deal in which the Brewers acquired Lewis Brinson, Luis Ortiz, and Ryan Cordell last summer. Jeffress has struggled with the Rangers, posting a 1-2 record with a 5.31 ERA. He has struggled with drug and alcohol issues in the past, and didn’t want to leave Milwaukee last season because of the good support-system he had there. The Brewers hope he can return to his old form.

David Stearns acquired the talent he could without hurting the organization’s future all the way up to the non-waiver trade deadline, but don’t expect the Brewers to be quiet in August. Stearns expects to be busy looking for quality deals in the month of August during the waiver trade deadline that expires at the end of the month.

Report: Brewers looking into Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson

In the last day, reports have come out saying the Milwaukee Brewers have shown interest in New York Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson. This may be a surprise to Brewers fans, as it’s well known the Brewers have lots of depth in the outfield, and center field in general.

David Stearns said earlier this week that he and his team were looking into “all” options to help the team win. It appears that Stearns and the Brewers think that a potential acquisition of Granderson would make the team better. Granderson would be expected to play center field, as the Brewers have had a lack of production from that position so far this season.

Granderson is a three time All-Star, but not since 2012. Granderson would be a rental player, as his contract expires at the end of the season. He would definitely add a power bat to the Brewers order, as he has averaged about 28 home runs a season for his career. Granderson is also a solid defender, as he has been named a Gold Glove finalist earlier in his career.  He is currently batting .225, with 13 home runs and 37 RBIs in 94 games this season.

The Brewers may not have to give up a lot to acquire Granderson, but it probably wouldn’t be worth the risk. The team recently recalled top prospect Lewis Brinson, who has looked much more comfortable during his second stint with the team. Brinson has homered in his last two games.

Lots of talk surrounding the early exit of Lewis Brinson from last night’s game

David Stearns and the Milwaukee Brewers pulled the trigger on another trade last night. The Brewers acquired Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Anthony Swarzak. The Brewers in return sent the number 17th ranked prospect in the organization, outfielder, Ryan Cordell to the White Sox. Swarzak will be a rental player, as his contract is up at the end of the year.

In the first inning of the Triple-A Colorado Springs game, Lewis Brinson was pulled from the game before his first at-bat. A report from Jon Heyman cited that Brinson was headed to the big leagues, and wasn’t part of a trade. This sent the social media world into a frenzy, and had lots of people theorizing what the Brewers corresponding move would be.

Some wondered if Braun could be part of potential trade talks or could have reaggravated one of his prior injuries from this season. Others thought maybe Brett Phillips could be in trade talks after he has become more comfortable with the bat at the Major League level in the past couple weeks. Could it also be Brinson’s Triple-A numbers forcing the issue? Brinson is slashing .345/.417/.569 in Colorado Springs. He also has 10 home runs and 43 RBIs in 68 games this season.

According to Brewers beat writer, Tom Haudricort, David Stearns wouldn’t confirm the Lewis Brinson call-up, but did say that Ryan Braun isn’t injured. He also mentioned how he would continue to explore trade options for every area of the team. He did confirm that there would be more news later today. Something is in the works here. Maybe another trade? Maybe a demotion? We’ll have to wait and see what The Milwaukee Brewers decide to do later today and for the rest of July.

Report: Brewers linked to Joe Smith

Another day goes by and the non-waiver trade deadline is quickly approaching. The Brewers have once again been linked to another relief pitcher. This time it’s Joe Smith of the Toronto Blue Jays. According to the report by Ken Rosenthal, the Brewers had previously shown interest in Smith last winter, but he ultimately signed a one-year deal with the Blue Jays.

Smith just recently came off the disabled list a few days ago after having shoulder inflammation. His numbers haven’t been good since the All-Star break, but this could be because of the shoulder issues. Overall, Smith owns a 3-0 record, with a 3.58 ERA, and a 1.16 WHIP. In 32 2/3 innings this season. He has punched out 49 batters while only walking eight. Smith,33, is in his 11th season in the big leagues and has been a serviceable reliever. He has a distinct side-arm delivery, which can be tough for hitters to pick up.

He is yet another bullpen option David Stearns and the Brewers could pull the trigger on by the non-waiver trade deadline. The trade deadline is July 31st at 3 p.m. CST.