Offseason Outlook: Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers' offense is as good as it gets, so they're expected to seek pitching this coming offseason.

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The Brewers had a number of promising starting pitchers emerge over the course of the 2012 season, but that’s not going to stop general manager Doug Melvin from pursuing rotation help this coming offseason. Pairing Milwaukee’s high-powered offense with a deeper rotation could have the Brewers contending all season long in 2013.

Corey Hart - Brewers (PW)

Brewers fans are no doubt hoping for an improved bullpen next year. Any team can look back at a string of blown games and say ‘what if,’ but the Brewers’ stretch of losses in late July seemed especially debilitating. Though Brewers relievers were one of five groups to average more than one strikeout per inning, they ranked last in MLB with a 4.66 ERA, 29th in MLB in walk rate (4.1 BB/9) and 26th in home runs allowed (56). 

John Axford, and Francisco Rodriguez struggled at times, though they entered the season as Ron Roenicke's top relievers. Expect a new-look bullpen a few months from now, as Rodriguez's contract has expired and Manny Parra, Kameron Loe and Jose Veras could be traded or even non-tendered. Axford, viewed as an extension candidate seven months ago, has to prove himself again following an up-and-down season.

As a small market team with a medium-sized payroll, the Brewers aren't expected to spend big on relievers. Instead, they'll look for values in free agency and trades with the knowledge that they must find bullpen arms somewhere. Perhaps they'll pursue free agents like Jason Grilli or wait until January and February when bargains tend to emerge on the middle relief market. Their level of urgency will depend on their assessment of their own minor leaguers and their willingness to tender contracts to the likes of Parra, Loe and Veras.

The rotation, on the other hand, featured a number of breakout performances this past season. While Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson provided less value than anticipated, the 2012 season included encouraging performances from Marco Estrada (3.64 ERA, 9.3 K/9, 1.9 BB/9 in 138 1/3 innings), Mike Fiers (3.74 ERA, 9.5 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 in 127 2/3 innings), Mark Rogers (3.92 ERA, 9.5 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 in 39 innings) and Wily Peralta (2.48 ERA, 7.1 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 in 29 innings). With Yovani Gallardo in place atop the rotation and a number of emergent starters ready to contribute, the loss of Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum becomes that much easier to withstand.

Marcum, a free agent for the first time in his career, isn't expected to receive a qualifying offer from the Brewers. Extending an offer would set the team up for draft pick compensation in case the right-hander signs elsewhere, but MLBTR's readers say it wouldn’t be a good idea for the Brewers, and it sounds as though Marcum expects to move on.

Melvin has said the Brewers intend to add a veteran starting pitcher, so if the club doesn't retain Marcum, other available starters figure to draw interest from Milwaukee. Free agents Ryan Dempster, Edwin Jackson, Kyle Lohse, Dan Haren and Anibal Sanchez could become targets for the Brewers. Greinke, it seems, has priced himself out of Milwaukee after turning down a contract offer worth in excess of $100MM earlier this year.

The Brewers should strive to add multiple arms to the rotation, especially with so many relatively inexperienced pitchers competing for playing time. Injuries can strike at any time, and the Brewers can create depth now that could save them midway through the 2013 season. Now that rotation spots are seemingly available, minor league free agents might find Milwaukee more appealing than in years past. 

Nyjer Morgan might be the most prominent player in danger of being non-tendered by the Brewers, but he's definitely not the only one. As mentioned before, relievers Parra, Loe and Veras could be cut given their rising salaries ($1.2MM for Parra, $2.6MM for Loe, $2MM for Veras). Travis Ishikawa, a light-hitting backup first baseman, could also hit free agency early this winter since the Brewers have more affordable depth options at the position in Mat Gamel and Hunter Morris.

Corey Hart has said he'd like to continue playing for the Brewers beyond 2013, when his current contract will expire. Given the challenges of working out a deal midseason, the sides could explore an extension this winter. Recent contracts signed by Edwin Encarnacion and Carlos Quentin could be templates for Hart, who signed a similar deal midway through the 2010 season. Though other teams would have interest in acquiring Hart, a trade doesn't seem likely.

The offense that led the National League in runs scored (third in MLB) should return for the 2013 season. Led by established stars such as Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez and relative newcomers such as Jonathan Lucroy and Norichika Aoki, the Brewers are set at most positions. Josh Hamilton would be a welcome addition to any lineup and has connections on the Brewers' coaching staff, but he figures to be too expensive for Milwaukee. Melvin could look for a shortstop depending on his confidence in Jean Segura, the 22-year-old acquired from the Angels in the Greinke trade. If the Brewers do pursue depth at short, they'd presumably add someone on a one-year or minor league deal so as not to block Segura's path.

If the Brewers achieve some attainable goals — acquire starting pitching, improve the bullpen, consider adding a shortstop — they'll enter the 2013 season poised to contend again. Not bad for a franchise that lost Prince Fielder and Greinke in consecutive years.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.


37 Responses to Offseason Outlook: Milwaukee Brewers Leave a Reply

  1. SpeedS28 3 years ago

    You can only be optimistic about the Brewers, that’s all you can ask for. They will be a fun team next year regardless of who they add as they will be getting back Gamel, a nice young rotation, + some veteran makes for another winning season….. hopefully.

  2. daveineg 3 years ago

    Add multiple arms to the rotation? Earlier in the article you pointed out 4 guys with “breakout performances” and correctly so. So you also suggest they should add multiple arms (likely mediocre overpriced veterans) to the rotation? What do you do with the 4 cheap productive breakout arms? They are all ready to be full time major league starters.

    This pitching staff nearly broke the major league record for strikeouts. They could use a top end starter to pair with Gallardo. But adding pricey guys because they are veterans makes zero sense.

    It’s not like these 4 are the only starting candidates other than Gallardo either. Narveson is on track to return. Tyler Thornburg was ok in a few starts. Hiram Burgos went from single A to AAA and was their minor league pitcher of the year. 2011 first round pick Jungmann will start next year at AA.

    • donnie_uwo 3 years ago

      The young bucks played well, but it’s a small sample size. It’s just too difficult to expect all of them to pitch similarly as well next season. I think a lineup of Gallardo, Estrada, Fiers, and Peralta (with Narveson, Rogers, and Thornburg waiting on deck) and bringing in Haren or Sanchez on no more than a three year contract would be adequate enough. I wouldn’t want to give Dempster or Jackson more than one year or Lohse more than two.

      • SumatranRatMonkey 3 years ago

        Yep. Rogers is worrisome because he’s only once pitched more than 130 innings in his career(which was last year). He doesn’t have any options left so the Brewers are going to have to go with him somewhere, maybe the pen? Peralta hopefully can start the year with his command, though I think it would be reasonable to have him start in AAA. Thornburg absolutely should start in AAA next year. Narveson…man I hate to just non-tender him after an injury when he can contribute to a major league team, but I don’t believe there is room for him on the team, really.

        • Personally, I absolutely LOVE the idea of Rogers in the bullpen.

          It’s a great way to limit his innings. You could use him as a long reliever/6th starter, and let Thornburg and Burgos develop at Nashville.

          I’ve always kinda wondered if he could ever make it as a closer. He’s got the stuff for it. Clearly he’s got the mental toughness (most players with his injury troubles and bad luck would have given up long ago. He toughed it out). Just needs the health.

          I also agree with Narveson, too. I like him. He throws strikes. Decent k rate, and solid at the end of a rotation. And he’s lefty. But coming off another major arm injury, I’d risk the non-tender, and try to resign him to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training, and an opt-out if he isn’t in Milwaukee by a certain date. Lets him have an honest shot at a starting spot (he’s much better starting than relieving), competing with Fiers and Peralta. If he don’t make it, he can stay stretched out in Nashville should the need arise. If it don’t, if he’s solid in Nashville, he’d be tradeable, or at least of interest to someone with an opening in he does opt-out. Chance to prove his arm is fine, too. Whether he’d take a deal like that, I don’t know. Couldn’t fully blame him if he don’t, but it seems like the only way he has a chance in Milwaukee.

        • toddcoffeytime 3 years ago

          I’d almost rather have Peralta stashed in AAA and keep Narveson in the starting rotation based on Wily’s command issues. Peralta would then be available to fill in as a reliever or starter as need arises mid-season.

          • It almost seemed like with Peralta that starting the year in AAA felt like a setback to him, and it took him a while to get on track. As the season went on, he seemed to really embrace both the challenge and opportunity as only got better.

            He pitched his best in Milwaukee once called up.

            I wouldn’t personally guarantee him one of the #4/#5 spots in the rotation, but I’d let it basically be his to lose. Keep the best two of Fiers/Peralta/Narveson, and send the other one to Nashville to keep them stretched out.

    • You simply cannot go into the season with 4 guys in the rotation that have never pitched a full season in the majors. The injury risk is too high, the performance risks are too high and the innings limits are a killer. They need to add at least one established regular starter and make at least one if not two of the young guys depth.

      • daveineg 3 years ago

        You might want to check Oakland’s staff this year Ken. Fiers logged 182 2/3 innings and will turns 28 in June. Estrada is 29 (turns 30 next season). They combined for 45 major league starts in 2012. Rogers turns 27 in January and he logged 134 innings this year. Peralta logged 175 innings this year. We’re not talking about babies here. These are grown men. Of these only Rogers figures to be on any type of limit and that’s probably around 170 innings, hardly an issue.

        Besides Narveson is already well into a throwing program and there’s Thornburg and Burgos (171 IP in 2012) behind them.

        This team took off when Randy Wolf was sent packing and Mark Rogers took his place. That’s no coincidence. As my original post mentioned, they could use one guy who can front the rotation along with Gallardo. But it makes no sense to sign a middling starter to a multi year deal. especially one past 30.

        One more thing about the supposed “performance risk” There is no risk for guys who are making at or near minimum salary. If they don’t perform, they get sent down (Peralta and Fiers have options), put in the bullpen (Estrada or Rogers), or released (Narveson), and somebody else, like a Thornburg, or a Burgos or a Jungmann gets an opportunity. Performance risk comes when you invest a lot of money in a veteran and he struggles. Then you are stuck.

        Finally, in today’s game you play the first half for position. They have a lineup fully capable of keeping them in the thick the first half regardless of who’s on the mound. If they need to add a vet or two for the stretch run, that’s the time you do it.

        • Oaklands pitching staff started with Bartolo Colon (3.43 ERA) and Brandon McCarthy (3.24 ERA) in it and the Brewers took off when the bullpen quit blowing leads unless you believe Randy Wolf was the reason K-Rod and Axford sucked so much last year.

          I know you’re probably one of the many people who want Melvin to sleep for the offseason but going into the season with rotation full of unproven guys who most project as #5 starters or long relievers is the epitome of taking a risk. Everyone loves to point at how great Fiers/Peralta/Rogers pitched in the majors but conveniently forget about their mid 4 ERA’s in AAA. I’m not saying these guys suck but to think they can replicate their performances from a year ago would be extremely foolish when it looks like Mike Fiers has already been figured out (6.99 ERA in his last 10 starts).

          • Fiers isn’t a hard thrower, but more of a command pitcher. It seemed like towards the end, his command started getting away from him some, which is likely the result of tiring out, I’d imagine.

            He showed me enough to let him have a real shot at being a starter next season in the #4 or #5 spot.

          • I don’t buy the he was tired excuse. He was striking out a ton of guys (18 in his last 2 starts) but was still getting tattoed. I think the way he pitched at the end of the year is what he is. A homer prone back of the rotation starter with a below average stuff.

        • Warboss74 3 years ago

          Oakland didn’t go into the season with 4 guys who hadn’t pitched a full season, though. They went into ST with veterans Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson, and Bartolo Colon.

          The performance risk factor with them has nothing to do with salary. Its about planning and building a contending roster. Switching them in and out doesn’t negate the risk with them in the context of building the team. This doesn’t mean a team should never slot in rookies/ unproven players in the lineup or rotation.

          You mean the same offense that was 12 games under .500 through almost 5 months of the season? The Brewers also have to anticipate the likely regression in their lineup as well when making decisions this offseason.

          • Really was more because of an extremely bad bullpen than because of the offense.

            Regression could happen with some players, sure, but you’d also have to factor in improvements to other parts of the lineup. No way Weeks hits under .200 for half the year, especially when he kept his OB% over .310 during that time. What does an improved bullpen do for the teams w/l record? I can’t remember a Brewers bullpen as bad as it was last April – August. Not even in the 106-loss 2002 season was it that bad. How about having Lucroy all season? He was playing All-Star caliber ball before getting hurt. Played well coming back. Plus, look at the SS position last year from the time Gonzalez (and then Izturis) went down with injuries until Segura got the nod. This likely improves, too.

            Hard to say, of course, but I doubt with basically the same line-up they really regress much, if at all. I doubt they get much better, if at all, from last year, either.

  3. I think Alex Gonzalez as contract option has been overlooked here. That should also figure in on the comments about Segura and shortstop.

    • Since Segura is still young, and he’s still relatively new to SS, I’d be fine with having Segura start at Nashville, and resign Gonzales for 2013. He’d probably be fine with a one-year deal with his age and coming off an injury. Obviously, if you’re gonna just go with Segura no matter what, Gonzalez isn’t an option anymore. He’s gonna wanna try to get a starting gig somewhere, and he probably would.

      • gonzalez only has an option if he met the requirements… and it was a player option not a club… which wouldnt be a good option anyway… another year older and who knows how he will come off the injury… he would have to take a pay cut to stay with the brewers now that segura is an option we have

    • toddcoffeytime 3 years ago

      It’s not a contract option, it’s a vesting option based on plate appearances–which A Gonz did not reach given his injury.

  4. sourbob 3 years ago

    Do Brewers fans still have faith in Gamel, or would you rather see them acquire a 1B or move Hart to first and get another OF?

    • AaronAngst 3 years ago

      Gamel still has not received consistent at-bats at the big league level – last year it just happened to be due to injury, so I don’t know what to make of him. I like the idea of having him around to play 1B when there’s an exceptionally tough RHP on the mound, or even 3B when Ramirez needs a day off – In any case, it looks like he’s going to fail to receive consistent at-bats yet again.

      • sourbob 3 years ago

        At some point, you have to wonder if Gamel is going to need a change of scenery to put it together.

        • Well, he might. I’d imagine Milwaukee gives him an honest shot, but I’d also imagine the leash is rather short, with Hart playing very well at first, Taylor Green an option as a low-cost back-up who can play 1B/2B/3B/DH (Interleague games), and the emergence of Hunter Morris.

          This most likely is his absolute last chance to stick in Milwaukee in some capacity.

    • Flharfh 3 years ago

      I think Aoki has performed well enough to earn the RF starting job with Hart moving permanently to 1B. Gamel will presumably be coming off the bench if healthy.

      • sourbob 3 years ago

        You still like Gomez for CF then? I can see that, I guess.

        • Aoki doesn’t look all that impressive defensively in RF, let alone in CF; so he isn’t going to be the starting CF, if that’s what you mean. Gomez should be starting in CF for his defense alone; and getting to play an entire season should allow Gomez to hit 20+ homers easily next year.

        • toddcoffeytime 3 years ago

          Gomez definitely earned the spot to play in CF everyday, and if he were to revert to some of the difficulties against RHP, Logan Shafer would take over Nyjer Morgan as a platoon partner.

          Hart at 1B looks like one of the better moves of the last season for the Brewers as his RF defense was pretty miserable

    • I still see a place for Gamel on this roster. Especially now with increased interleague play.

      He was misused so poorly by Ken Macha, and just rotted on the bench when he did come up. Milwaukee probably should have let him stay in Nashville, so he could play regular. Last year was the first year he had any real chance to start in Milwaukee. I though he did ok for a first year starter. He’s done nothing but hit with regular playing time.

      He’s young, he’s cheap, and he probably has a chance at Lyle Overbay (Milwaukee years) type production (with a little more power) with consistent playing time. I’d like to give him 2013 to prove himself again. If he can’t make it through the year, obviously then you try to keep Hart in Milwaukee at least long enough for Hunter Morris to make it up, and let Gamel move on. If he can, and plays well, he’s possibly able to hold the fort down at 1st instead of Hart, and you can save a ton of money at the position by trading Hart, or letting him walk after 2013.

      • sourbob 3 years ago

        Gamel hasn’t broken a .350 SLG in the majors in three years. I know he still hits in the minors, but this would concern me. Maybe you’re right and he just needs an extended run playing every day while healthy.

        • In 2009, he had 128 AB (148 PA), in 61 games. His SLG% was .422

          He’s never had more than 69 AB (75 PA) after that, and those numbers came last season in 21 games.

          It’s really hard to know what a kid can do with 240 AB (269 PA) scattered over 5 seasons when you know you have had zero chance at consistent playing time for 4 of those 5 seasons.

          • sourbob 3 years ago

            I appreciate the info. I’m a Cub fan, so I really wasn’t sure what kind of read people have on Gamel these days. It’s nice to be able to ask a simple question and learn some things when people give a good answer.

          • No problem, sourbob.

  5. Guest 3 years ago

    Kameron Loe is not a non tender candidate but Jose Veras is a non tender candidate. That makes no sense.

    • toddcoffeytime 3 years ago

      Kameron Loe is a) Better and b) A ground ball specialist, which is basically a requirement in a modern bullpen. It absolutely does make sense.

  6. Justin Timberpond 3 years ago

    Aoki

    Weeks

    Braun

    Aramis

    Lucroy

    Hart

    Carlos in CF

    Segura

    Gallardo

    Haren

    Peralta

    Fiers/Estrada/Free Agent…?

    Rogers

    I don’t know about Estrada/Fiers/Thornburg but i really think Peralta and Rogers are ready to go balls to the wall

    Also, IM SAYING GRIENKE COMES BACK (Grienke, gallardo, peralta, estrada/fiers, rogers)

  7. tonyc 3 years ago

    Don’t be completely surprised if Melvin makes some noise with a moderately high profile trade to get some pitching help. I could see Lucroy or Maldonado being packaged with another roster player or minor league prospect for a starter. Personally I would prefer to see Maldonado as our starter simply for the reason he is a better defensive catcher. I would hate to see Lucroy head elsewhere but this is a business and you do what you can to improve the team. Yes Lucroy is better at the plate but his ability to throw runners out is lacking. Maldonado has shown improvement at the plate and will probably get better. Look at the upside, his arm is pinpoint throwing to 2nd.

    • I would not want this unless Milwaukee received a king’s ransom in return.

      Two catchers with team friendly price tags for years, and starting caliber is a luxury. What kind of package do you become willing to move Lucroy for, and who’s your backup catcher now?

  8. JustinS 3 years ago

    I would love to see the Brewers trade away 3B Mat Gamel and CF Carlos Gomez for a LHP like Jon Lester. Then, sign CF B.J. Upton and RHP Gavin Floyd. Put LHP Narveson and RHP Estrada in the Bullpen. Then the starting rotation would look like this: Gallardo, Lester, Floyd, Fiers, Peralta. Then also sign a left handed relief pitcher like Sean Burnett or J.P. Howell. Have the bullpen look like this: RHP Kintzler, RHP Rogers, LHP Howell or Burnett, LHP Narveson, RHP Estrada, RHP Henderson, and Closer RHP Axford…maybe sign a verteran RHP to be a setup man for Axford along with RHP Henderson. As for the infield, have SS Jean Segura as their opening day starter, but also resign SS Alex Gonzalez to backup Segura and also backup 2B Rickie Weeks.

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