Offseason In Review: Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers won't replace Prince Fielder's offense in 2012, but they have newcomer Aramis Ramirez at third base and — despite a months-long scare — a full season of defending National League MVP Ryan Braun.

Major League Signings

Notable Minor League Signings

Jay Gibbons, Corey Patterson, Seth McClung, Brooks Conrad, Cesar Izturis, Travis Ishikawa, Mike Rivera, Erick Almonte.

Trades and Claims

Notable Losses

Draft Picks Gained or Lost

  • Obtained 27th overall selection from Tigers for Price Fielder. Also obtain supplementary first round pick, 38th overall.

As expected, Prince Fielder signed elsewhere, but beyond that the Brewers' winter was far from routine. Most notably, Ryan Braun tested positive for a banned substance before contesting the 50-game suspension and winning the appeal.

It marked the second consecutive intrigue-filled offseason for Brewers fans. They watched a year ago as GM Doug Melvin traded for Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, but the club relied primarily on free agency this winter.

Though his destination of choice proved to be a surprise, Fielder's free agent departure had seemed inevitable for months, if not years. Even after setting an attendance record and making it to the NLCS, a $200MM commitment would not have made sense for the mid-market Brewers. They've steadily raised payroll under owner Mark Attanasio, but other, more affordable options existed for Melvin and the rest of the Brewers' front office.

They turned to the free agent market to improve the left side of their infield, signing Aramis Ramirez for three years and $36MM and agreeing to terms with Alex Gonzalez on a one-year, $4.25MM deal. The duo offers power, but at 33 and 35, respectively, Ramirez and Gonzalez may soon start to decline. Gonzalez remains an excellent defender, so he should help make up for Ramirez's less-than-stellar glovework. Meanwhile, the Brewers expect Ramirez to replace some of Fielder's offensive production.

“We needed some power back in our lineup missing Fielder even though we’re not going to get it all back,” assistant GM Gord Ash told MLBTR.

Instead of pursuing a free agent first baseman, the Brewers have handed the starting job to 26-year-old Mat Gamel. They cleared space for him by sending Casey McGehee to the Pirates for reliever Jose Veras and seemingly had little interest in Derrek Lee, Carlos Pena, Casey Kotchman and other free agent first basemen. Despite Gamel's struggles with the Brewers, he has had limited opportunity at the Major League level and his minor league stats are excellent. Various models project Gamel to have an on-base percentage of .330 or so along with a slugging percentage of .440 or so in 2012 — an outcome the Brewers would surely welcome. Plus, the Brewers may be better off defensively with Gamel at Fielder's old spot.

In a surprising development, reliever Francisco Rodriguez accepted the Brewers' offer of arbitration. His salary diminished via the arbitration system, but the Brewers probably weren't expecting to spend $8MM on the right-hander in 2012. Spending that kind of money on a setup man seems excessive for the Brewers, and finding a way to anticipate the reliever's decision and withold the offer of arbitration may have been preferable.

With Rodriguez back for another year and Veras now in the bullpen mix, manager Ron Roenicke should have enough quality right-handed relievers in 2012. The Brewers will be short on left-handed relief unless Zach Braddock pitches better or Manny Parra returns to health. They may lock John Axford up long-term, and doing so could create savings for the closer's arbitration years.

The Brewers' top five starters accounted for all but seven of the team's starts a year ago, and none of the five were eligible for free agency, so Melvin essentially left the rotation alone this offseason. The club showed interest in deepening its starting staff with minor league deals, but it's difficult to convince free agent starters to join a rotation with five established pitchers.

“They tend to gravitate to places where there are a few more openings,” Ash said. “They say ‘we don’t see the same opportunity here that we see somewhere else’ and they sign with another team.”

Shoulder issues have sidelined Marcum temporarily and if he's out for longer than expected swingman Marco Estrada will provide rotation depth. Top prospect Wily Peralta has the potential to start in the Major Leagues at some point relatively soon, though he may not presently be ready.

The Brewers signed Japanese outfielder Norichika Aoki to a modest two-year deal, and added Jay Gibbons and Corey Patterson just in case. Corey Hart may miss Opening Day, so the depth may prove useful even though Braun is eligible to play the entire season.

The Brewers lost one of the game's top power hitters this offseason, but their window for contention didn't collapse when Prince Fielder left. By strengthening the left side of the infield and adding complementary pieces up and down the roster, Melvin increased the chances that the Brewers will return to the postseason in 2012.

24 Responses to Offseason In Review: Milwaukee Brewers Leave a Reply

  1. Scottage Cheese 3 years ago

    Big Tuna, you failed to hear the press conference last month when his suspension was lifted. 

    • daveineg 3 years ago

      His suspension?  What suspension?  He was never actually suspended and you can’t lift something that never happened.  Had not it been leaked to ESPN, we’d have never known anything about a failed test.  MLB doesn’t suspend players until after they’ve had a hearing and it’s adjudicated.  It was adjudicated in his favor and hence no suspension  His legal team is gathering the evidence to clear his name, Until then he’ll have to live with the catcalls. 

      His teammates say there is much more to his story than has been made public.  It hasn’t been made public in my opinion because it’s not over in the courts.  Braun’s fight to clear his name hasn’t ended.

    • JacksTigers 3 years ago

      So there is a 0% chance that he lied? He is a liar, cheater, and a disgrace. The worst part is that he got away on a technicality.

      • davbee 3 years ago

        So there’s a 0% chance he’s innocent?  An independent arbitrator heard the evidence and decided in favor of Braun.  That’s good enough for me.  I’ve moved on.

  2. Infield Fly 3 years ago

    Dude…you can’t really have “moved on” if you still need to come and weigh in about Braun’s supposed innocence.

    • davbee 3 years ago

      Oh, but I have.  Looking forward to 2012 baseball season.  I’ll see Braun in AZ in May, and I’ll feel no need to treat him any differently than I did before all this.  It’s a lot of the rest of you who won’t let this go.

      • Infield Fly 3 years ago

        People who move on from something don’t need to talk about it. So you just proved yourself wrong – pretty obviously – by responding about this Braun thing a second time.

        ( Not a technicality by the way)

  3. davbee 3 years ago

     We don’t know why he was cleared–neither you or I were in that room listening to the evidence.  However, there was a professional arbitrator in the room who did hear the evidence–one that on 12 previous occasions had ruled that a player suspension for PEDs was in order–and this time he felt Braun’s team made a strong enough case to avoid one.  Braun won his case within the rules that were collectively bargained by MLB and the player’s union.  Again, that’s good enough for me.

    As for Braun being a cheat, he has passed 25 previous drug tests in his baseball career, including four during the 2011 season.  That’s also good enough for me.

    • notsureifsrs 3 years ago

      it’s good enough for pretty much everyone…to agree he shouldn’t be suspended, since the rules weren’t strictly followed

      it’s not good enough for everyone to agree he never used PEDs, which is what you’re doing

      you are trying to use an abritrator’s conclusions about the former to imply that that the latter has been decided. that isn’t appropriate

      braun still tested positive for synthetic testosterone and it is still borderline insane to believe that it either spontaneously created itself in his sample or was placed there by means of a vast conspiracy involving alien technology. and if it wasn’t one of those two things, then braun used PEDs

  4. AaronAngst 3 years ago

    Any one of you out there that believes that your favorite player hasn’t attempted to gain a competitive edge by using a substance, banned or not – testable or not, needs a wake up call. This is a part of competition, and has been for as long as competition has been around. I would argue that Braun successfully beating a failed test almost makes him cleaner than the Pujols-es of the world. Take one look at the Queen, and tell me he hasn’t juiced. A-Rod has. Bonds did. Those are the top three bats of the last decade plus… For a fan to get all high and mighty, which is the trip most of you seem to be on, makes no sense to me.

    • notsureifsrs 3 years ago

      can’t speak for anyone else but i am pretty comfortable with not making sense to you

      • AaronAngst 3 years ago

        I gather you’re pretty uncomfortable with logic in general, so that’s cool with me.

  5. Flharfh 3 years ago

    Casey McGehee, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Prince Fielder produced a combined total of 6.3 WAR last season.  Since the rest of the team is substantially the same, the new trio of Ramirez, Gonzalez, and Gamel need only beat that amount. The Prince-less 2012 Brewers have a really good chance to be better (in WAR, at least) than last year’s team.

  6. hahahahahahaha

  7. AaronAngst 3 years ago

    Orenthal is in prison – has been for quite some time. Last I checked, there aren’t many prisons featuring golf courses. Part of being funny is telling jokes that are factually relevant/accurate.

  8. Infield Fly 3 years ago

    That’s a third time.

  9. AaronAngst 3 years ago

    You “dunno” a lot. Obviously, I don’t have “credentials.” Nor do you – what I’m saying is it’s fundamentally naive to believe and behave the the way the average baseball fan does, yourself included. Legal supplements (vitamins, dude!) have become banned supplements. Some banned supplements cannot be tested for. There are so many variables to testing for “performance enhancers.” I’m not trying to “burn” you – I’m just pointing out that the world you live in isn’t as black and white as you seem to think it is.

  10. AaronAngst 3 years ago

    I’m not defending Braun as a human being – in the end, if he’s got himself caught in a cycle of lies, he’ll be the one that has to live with it. Every single player that has failed has had an excuse – if I recall correctly, A-Rod placed the blame on everyone but himself too. My beef is with the fans that seem to believe that Braun is the exception to the rule, when the eye test, and history itself would seem to clearly indicate otherwise.

  11. topper009 3 years ago

    Well you must be basing that decision on all of the inside information you heard during the appeal process…o wait you are just thinking the way ESPN wants you to?  The guy who did hear the entire story, Shyman Das, did not think Braun was juicing.  There was no rule that said Das had to side with Braun on a technicality, this isn’t the legal system, he was free to decide either way for any reason.

  12. Basically everything about your post is wrong.  The Brewers will contend again for the division.  They have their entire pitching staff and the important pieces of their bullpen back. 

    Braun will do just fine; yes, his numbers will hurt w/out Prince but he will still put up great numbers.  Ramirez has had good numbers his whole career and will have a better environment than Wrigley to play in; plus an upgrade over Casey McGehee hands down.  Gonzalez is a HUGE upgrade over Yuniesky Betancourt, with similar numbers offensively.  Morgan has always batted around .300 except for one bad year with the Nationals.  Hart is as much an injury risk as Rickie Weeks, but with 30 hr power; and you could do a lot worse in right field.  Lucroy will be in his second full year as a starter and now that he knows the pitching staff, he can work on his offense (batting over 500 in spring training so far).  Gamel bats around 300 in the minors and hit 28 hrs with 90+ RBIs last year in triple A. 

    The Brewers will be just fine; and should repeat their 2011 season, barring major injuries.  While the offense will take a bit of an hit, their defense is VASTLY improved; that will help the pitching staff immensely, as will having Greinke healthy for an entire year (barring injury).

  13. notsureifsrs 3 years ago

    in your first comment you took the position that there is no meaningful, categorical difference between banned and unbanned substances such that using the latter provides an advantage over only taking the former. that is absurd on its face. we’re talking about synthetic testosterone in braun’s case. it isn’t a grey area

    you also suggest that braun testing positive for this substance makes him cleaner than players who have never tested positive. again, just absurd

    you also suggest that pujols is a juicer because, despite never testing positive, he “looks like” he’s on steroids. i mean sure, right? sounds like science to me!

    this is where the ‘credentials’ crack came in. i take your comments about the logic of others much less seriously when you’re openly sharing your own illogical thought processes at the same time

  14. AaronAngst 3 years ago

    If that’s what you inferred from my first post, then it’s a fundamental misunderstanding on your end of what I wrote. Let me state things more clearly for you: The doping industry is always two steps ahead of the testing industry. Just because a player has not tested positive does not mean that he hasn’t attempted to gain a competitive advantage through the use of questionable substances. You wouldn’t agree with that sentiment? That’s the definition of naivety. There’s nothing “scientific” about disregarding the past – a past which has included a large portion of the stars of the last two decades being implicated as “cheaters.” That’s illogical. That makes no sense.

  15. notsureifsrs 3 years ago

    i do agree it’s two steps ahead. i don’t agree that it can be concluded (or even assumed) from this fact that most – let alone all – players are doping

    as for a misunderstanding on my end? here’s a reminder of what you said:

    I would argue that Braun successfully beating a failed test almost makes him cleaner than the Pujols-es of the world

    that remains nonsense. i’d love to see you try to connect those dots. braun is a confirmed user of synthetic testosterone. the only basis for your belief that pujols uses something similar or worse is the way he looks and the fact that it’s theoretically possible because of the designer PED market

  16. AaronAngst 3 years ago

    I love it too. I connected it, and you didn’t like it. Big surprise. It takes a herculean suspension of disbelief to look at Pujols and say he got where he did without help. It takes no effort at all to make a pariah of Braun and believe that he’s in the minority. Again, it’s naivety.

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