New faces help Milwaukee to a 7-3 win at San Diego

It’s still early, but David Stearns is looking mighty good right now.

The Milwaukee Brewers general manager made two big moves this offseason — trading for Christian Yelich and signing Lorenzo Cain. Both additions are already paying dividends for the Crew, especially Saturday night against San Diego. The two outfielders combined to go 8 of 9 with four RBIs and four runs scored in a 7-3 victory.

“These are nights probably in your dreams, when they get on nine times,” manager Craig Counsell said according to Adam McCalvy of MLB.com.

Yelich matched his career high in hits by going 5-for-5, and he became the first Brewers player to get five hits since Keon Broxton did it against Arizona on Aug. 6, 2016.

They weren’t the only contributors, though, as third baseman Travis Shaw had three RBIs of his own, and first baseman Eric Thames drew a pair of walks that set the table for the heart of the order.

Milwaukee’s pitching was solid again, with Brent Suter giving up three runs on five hits to get the win. The Padres would have only one base runner the rest of the night, as Josh Hader, Matt Albers and Jacob Barnes sliced right through the lineup.

The win moved the Crew to 3-0 for the first time since 2006. They’ll now head back to Milwaukee for Opening Day at Miller Park on Monday against St. Louis.

Brewers score 5 runs in the 9th inning to beat San Diego 8-6

Ryan Braun added to his rich history at Petco Park Friday night.

Playing in the same stadium where he made his MLB debut and hit his first home run in 2007, the Milwaukee Brewers first baseman drilled a 3-run shot off San Diego closer Brad Hand as part of a 5-run ninth inning to help the Crew to an 8-6 win.

“It’s up there,” Braun said on Fox Sports Wisconsin about where the home run ranked among his favorite moments in San Diego. “I don’t know if anything will surpass my major league debut, but considering I was 0-for the season, and obviously it put us ahead [in] the top of the ninth, [with] two outs, it was a cool moment for sure.”

He only had the ability to make that moment thanks to some clutch hitting from his teammates in the ninth. Second baseman Jonathan Villar singled in a run, with outfielder Lorenzo Cain driving in another on a ground out to the shortstop. Then, with two on and down to his final strike, Braun hit the first home run of the year for Milwaukee.

“I was confident I wasn’t going to go 0-for the season, but I was on my way,” Braun said. “So, I figured at some point I was going to hit one on the barrel, and I found a good time to make it happen.

“But, obviously, that inning was about all the guys grinding through at-bats before me and even giving me an opportunity right there. Great win for us. It was a cool night.”

Braun finished the night with five RBIs, the 14th time in his career he’s managed that.

Closer Corey Knebel bounced back from blowing a save on Thursday by striking out the side in the bottom of the ninth.

Starter Jhoulys Chacin struggled in his debut for Milwaukee, going just 3 1/3 innings, giving up four runs on seven hits. But the bullpen picked him up, with Dan Jennings, Brad Woodruff, Oliver Drake and Knebel allowing two runs on five hits the rest of the way.

Cain and third baseman Travis Shaw each had a pair of hits in the win.

The victory moved Milwaukee to 2-0 for the first time since 2008.

Brewers open the season with a 2-1 win at San Diego

For the first time since 2014, the Milwaukee Brewers are 1-0.

It did, however, take a little bit longer than hoped, as they scratched out a 2-1 win in 12 innings over the San Diego Padres on Thursday.

Here’s our three takeaways from the victory.

1) Chase Anderson is still rolling

Coming off the best season of his career, Anderson picked up where he left off. He gave up just one hit over six scoreless innings, while tallying six strikeouts. The 30-year-old really had his curveball working, as it routinely dropped in and out of the strike zone at the last moment, leaving hitters baffled. Anderson, especially early, pounded the strike zone, allowing him to work ahead in a lot of counts.

But he wasn’t only pitching well. He also got it done offensively, with a single and run scored in the third inning, though his journey home wasn’t a pleasant one. Despite there not being a play at the plate, Anderson tried to slide and nearly bounced his head off home base.

All of it came, according to Adam McCalvey of MLB.com, while dealing with a stomach virus that had Anderson questioning if he would even be able to pitch. Luckily for Milwaukee, he did pitch and did so like the ace he has become for the club.

2) Welcome to Milwaukee

The Brewers offseason was largely centered around the additions of Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich. It’s safe to say the early returns on the two outfielders were very positive.

Batting in the lead off spot, Cain collected three hits, including a single with two outs in the third inning that moved Anderson into scoring position. In the next at-bat, Yelich followed up with a single of his own that brought Anderson around to score.

The top of Milwaukee’s lineup was in flux much of last season, so manager Craig Counsell has to feel good knowing he can write those two names in almost every day.

3) Small gamble pays off

Few, if any, thought Ji-Man Choi would still be with Milwaukee when it opened the season. He had been locked in a battle with fellow first baseman Jesus Aguiliar for what many thought was one roster spot. But when the club revealed the Opening Day roster, Choi was on it, leaving the Brewers with a bit of a logjam at first base.

The reason for it, according to general manager David Stearns, was his belief they could get away with having one fewer reliever early in the season. That thinking paid big dividends on Thursday, as Choi, serving as a pinch hitter, drilled a double with two outs in the top of the 12th inning. Shortstop Orlando Arcia drove Choi in for what proved to be the game-winning run.

It’s unclear how much longer Choi will be with the club, as he does have a minor league option available and Milwaukee has reportedly agreed to a deal with reliever Dan Jennings. But even if he does end up in Triple-A, it’s likely we haven’t seen the last of the 26-year-old in the majors.

Brewers finalize Opening Day roster

The Milwaukee Brewers have set their Opening Day roster, but it doesn’t appear it will stay in its current form too long.

General manager David Stearns decided to keep eight infielders, including three first basemen — Jesús Aguilar, Ji-Man Choi and Eric Thames. Though listed as an outfielder, veteran Ryan Braun is expected to see plenty of time at first base as well.

Earlier this week, it was thought that Aguilar and Choi were fighting for one spot. Instead, Milwaukee kept both of them and just six relievers. The idea, apparently being, they don’t need a completely full bullpen to start the season. It means relievers J.J. Hoover (on a minor league contract) and Taylor Williams will begin the year in Triple-A Colorado Springs.

Stearns told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt that the team was “gaining traction” on potentially adding a reliever from outside of the organization.

About an hour after that, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported Milwaukee had come to an agreement with left-handed reliever Dan Jennings, who had been released by the Tampa Bay Rays.

Jennings began 2017 with the Chicago White Sox before being traded to Tampa Bay in late July. Combined, the 30-year-old went 3-1 with a 3.45 ERA in 77 games last year. He previously pitched in the National League for three years with the Miami Marlins before joining Chicago in 2015.

Choi, who has a minor league option available, could be the odd man out when Jennings if officially added to the roster.

Manager Craig Counsell made an effort in recent days to remind everyone that what the 25-man roster looks like against San Diego on Thursday could be different 24 hours later.

“Opening Day is an important, symbolic day, certainly for the players and standing in the line means something,” Counsell said. “But we used 50 players last year. We’ll use 50 players again this year, most likely. So, a lot of the guys that are the last guys to leave are usually the first guys to come back.”

Three players will be on an Opening Day roster for the first time — pitchers Josh Hader, Brent Suter and Brandon Woodruff.

Click here for the full roster

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.

 

Brewers announce new additions to Walk of Fame and Wall of Honor

The Milwaukee Brewers announced Thursday three new members of their Wall of Honor and one former player to be enshrined in their Walk of Fame.

Prince Fielder, who spent seven seasons with Milwaukee, will be added to the Wall of Honor this summer. The first baseman hit 230 home runs during his time with the Brewers, and was a part of the team that went to the NLCS in 2011. A three-time All-Star with Milwaukee, Fielder also finished in the top-5 of MVP voting three times while with the club.

Fielder will be joined on the wall by former general managers Harry Dalton and Doug Melvin. Dalton, who passed away in 2005, was in charge of the Brewers from 1977 to 1991, and helped build the 1982 American League champions. Melvin, meanwhile, was Milwaukee’s leader from 2002 to 2015, and oversaw an operation that went to the playoffs twice.

The team also announced that outfielder Geoff Jenkins will be the 20th member of their Walk of Fame. An All-Star in 2003, Jenkins had 212 home runs in his 10 seasons with Milwaukee.

The Wall of Honor ceremony will be held on July 21, while the Walk of Fame enshrinement will take place July 24.

The position to pay attention to for the upcoming Brewers season

The trade for outfielder Christian Yelich, the signing of former All-Star outfielder Lorenzo Cain, the experiment of moving Ryan Braun from the outfield to first base and the push for another starting pitcher have dominated the offseason storylines for the Milwaukee Brewers. But it’s another position that’s not garnering headlines that fans of the team should be keeping an eye on — second base.

Why? Well, the Brewers were one of the worst teams in baseball when it came to production out of that position in 2017. The push to fix it has left Milwaukee with a lot of options as well as question marks. The players who are poised to see time at second base this season are Jonathan Villar, Eric Sogard, Hernan Perez, and Mauricio Dubon.

A name missing there is Neil Walker. The Brewers traded for the veteran last season, but in the wake of the Yelich trade and Cain singing, it’s unlikely Milwaukee brings him back.

The first option, and the one with the most upside, is Jonathan Villar. The switch-hitting Villar is coming off a disappointing season in 2017 after a big year during the 2016 campaign. At 26 years olf, Villar is relatively young and still learning how to play the game at the major league level.

Some of his errors in the field and on the bases were head-scratching, but can be manageable when he produces like he did in 2016. That season, Villar hit .285 with 19 home runs and 63 RBIs from the lead-off spot. He also added 63 stolen bases, which led Major League Baseball.

Last season, Villar hit .241 with 11 home runs and 40 RBIs. His numbers were down pretty much across the board, but took significant hits in stolen bases, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

Overall, Villar had a lot more swings and misses in 2017, which didn’t allow him to get on base, and ultimately steal bases. Milwaukee already has a scary lineup, but if it gets the 2016 version of Villar, it could field one of the best offenses in baseball.

Eric Sogard is coming off one of his best seasons as a professional, and is another candidate to get time at second base. Sogard has had injury issues that have plagued his career, but stayed relatively healthy for the Brewers last season. He signed a one-year deal with Milwaukee right after the season and should be a heavily used utility player.

Hernan Perez, like Sogard, should be used as a utility player once again this season and should see spot starts at second. Perez is the most versatile player on the Brewers roster and potentially in the major leagues. He played every position beside catcher last season, including getting one inning on the mound.

Perez will find playing time at many positions this season, and could find a permanent spot at second base if Villar doesn’t produce and Sogard doesn’t stay healthy.

The biggest wildcard of all the players is Mauricio Dubon. The 23-year-old from Honduras is practically a spitting image of the team’s shortstop — Orlando Arcia. He came up playing the same spot, but the Brewers moved him to second base due to Arcia playing at such a high level. Dubon like Arcia, is a slick fielding infielder with a cannon for an arm.

He’s a player that will hit for average, steal bases, and play gold glove caliber defense. Dubon won’t bring the power that Villar or Perez will, but the Brewers lineup might not need that from him. He appeared in the MLB Futures Game last season and had a nice performance. It’s unlikely that he’ll start the season in the big leagues, but should see some time with the major league club.

For my money, I think Brewers fans should hope for a bounce back season from Villar, as he has the highest ceiling of any of the potential second base candidates this season. I like having guys like Sogard and Perez as key utility players, who can play multiple positions and are a reliable bat off the bench. I’ve been a Dubon advocate for a couple of years now, and am looking forward to see what he can do when he arrives in the big leagues. I don’t think he will have a huge impact on the team this season, but could be the second baseman of the future.

Here’s why the Brewers should hold on to OF Domingo Santana

With the trade for Christian Yelich and the signing of Lorenzo Cain last week, the Brewers now have a surplus of outfielders. Besides Yelich and Cain, Milwaukee also has Ryan Braun, Keon Broxton, and Brett Phillips, all who primarily play the three outfield positions.

Undoubtedly, the Brewers will have to move some of the outfielders on their roster, but should hold on to Domingo Santana, who had a breakout season in 2017. Santana’s name has come up  in multiple reports as a player the Brewers are currently shopping. Many have speculated that Milwaukee will be likely looking to trade Santana for a high-end starting pitcher.

The Brewers and Santana have been linked to teams and players such as the Tampa Bay Rays with Chris Archer and the Cleveland Indians with most notably Danny Salazar. It makes sense that Milwaukee would look into potential trade partners for Santana, but should at least think about holding on to a player of his caliber.

Since coming to Milwaukee as part of the trade that sent Carlos Gomez to the Houston Astros, Santana’s numbers have shown continued improvement. His batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, and OPS, were all up in each of the last three seasons. Not only has his batting production increased, but his defensive runs saved and adjusted range statistics have also improved. He also has a cannon for an arm out in right field. MLB Network ranked Santana as the 8th best right fielder heading into 2018.

The Brewers have also talked about moving Ryan Braun to first base, which would make sense since he took a step back in the outfield last season, but is still a bat you want in the lineup. Braun used to be an above-average outfielder, but age and injuries have started to take its toll. Of the five outfielders listed above, Braun is the worst outfielder of the group.

Santana’s contract goes right along with both Yelich and Cain’s deals. Cain will be under contract through the 2022 season making an average of $16 million a year. Yelich is under club control through 2022, making an average of just over $7 million per year, while Santana is under contract through 2021 and is eligible for arbitration for the first time in 2019. Overall the outfield of Cain, Yelich, and Santana will be under contract for the next four to five years at a reasonable price.

The Brewers also still have a good enough farm system to trade for a top-end starter. Prior to the Yelich trade, a move in which Milwaukee sent three top 100 prospect to the Marlins, the team’s farm system was ranked eighth by Baseball America. On Monday, the outlet had Milwaukee at No. 11. The Brewers still have three prospects ranked in the top 100 and two more who just narrowly missed the cut. The cupboard definitely isn’t bare in Milwaukee.

Overall, if the Brewers hold on to Santana, they would have one of the most productive outfields in MLB both offensively and defensively. Santana also has a very team-friendly deal and would be under contract for another four years, which would give Milwaukee financial flexibility. The Brewers also have a good enough farm system to go out and acquire top-end talent with the prospects they still have in the minor leagues.

Report: Brewers sign reliever Matt Albers

The Milwaukee Brewers continued their spending ways on Monday.

As first reported by The Athletic, general manager David Stearns has come to an agreement with relief pitcher Matt Albers. It’s a two-year deal worth $5 million.

The 35-year-old Albers spent last season with the Washington Nationals, where he went 7-2 with a 1.62 ERA in 61 innings of work. Milwaukee will be the eighth different team Albers has pitched for in his major league career.

The addition comes on the heels of last Thursday’s high profile moves — the signing of free agent outfielder Lorenzo Cain to a five-year, $80 million deal and the trade that sent four prospects to the Miami Marlins for outfielder Christian Yelich.

Milwaukee’s pitchers and catchers report to Arizona for spring training on Feb. 14.

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.