- The Brewers outrighted righties Yhonathan Barrios and Ben Rowen as well as catcher Josmil Pinto, per MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert and Adam McCalvy. Barrios cracked the bigs briefly in 2015 but missed all of 2016 with shoulder issues. The 27-year-old Rowen has minimal major league experience, but did put up a strong 2.33 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 over 58 minor league frames last year. As for Pinto, who’s also 27, he’s still waiting for another shot at the majors. His .308/.362/.517 batting line over 315 plate appearances could warrant interest.
- We heard yesterday that the Dodgers will consider dealing veteran infielder (and, more recently, outfielder) Howie Kendrick, with a reunion with the Angels cited as a possibility. But that’s not a very realistic scenario, in the estimation of Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (Twitter links). Though he only requires a one-year commitment, Kendrick also isn’t terribly cheap with $10MM owed for 2017. He’s also a right-handed bat, which wouldn’t be preferred, and has shown signs of decline in the field and at the plate. The Halos are likely “aiming higher,” per Fletcher, who recently broke down some options for the club. Los Angeles isn’t interested in moving Yunel Escobar to second, he notes, but will be pursuing outside additions. Fletcher cites Cesar Hernandez of the Phillies as a trade possibility, with Derek Dietrich of the Marlins and Scooter Gennett of the Brewers also representing possible trade candidates (though both would arguably best be paired with a platoon mate).
- Brewers GM David Stearns doesn’t expect as busy an offseason as last winter’s roster overhaul, Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. “I think the amount of transactional volume that we had over the past 12 months was probably unprecedented. It would be tough for me to imagine that we would see a similar-type volume,” Stearns said. The GM also spoke of the importance of keeping a flexible 40-man roster, so the club has the opportunity to make additions if they unexpectedly arise.
- Tampa Bay police arrested Brewers center fielder Keon Broxton on a misdemeanor trespass charge Friday morning, per Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Broxton’s arrest came after the 26-year-old refused to leave the area of a fight. According to the police report, Broxton was “extremely intoxicated,” “hostile” and had “visible injuries to his face but declined medical attention.” Broxton got out of jail on $500 bond a few hours after his arrest and later issued a statement apologizing to the Brewers, their fans and law enforcement officials. “I will learn from this incident and I will certainly make better decisions moving forward,” he said (Twitter link via Haudricourt).
Here are the day’s minor moves from around the league…
- The Brewers announced that utilityman Jake Elmore has elected free agency after rejecting an outright assignment last week. The 29-year-old Elmore logged 99 plate appearances with the Brew Crew this past season, hitting .218/.371/.244. While five of Elmore’s free passes drawn did come when he was hitting eighth in front of the pitcher, he does have a solid 10 percent walk rate for his career and has shown discipline even with another position player hitting behind him in the order. Despite that fact, though, he’s just a .215/.297/.280 hitter in 478 Major League plate appearances. His greatest asset may be his defensive versatility, as Elmore has played every position on the diamond — including pitching — in his big league career.
- According to Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, veteran outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo has re-upped with the Braves on a minor league contract. The 30-year-old Tuiasosopo made a brief appearance on Atlanta’s big league roster this season and picked up three hitless plate appearances before being designated for assignment and landing back in Triple-A Gwinnett. In 248 plate appearances with Gwinnett this season, Tuiasosopo batted .246/.351/.483 with 11 homers and 17 doubles. That padded his career .247/.353/.418 line at the Triple-A level, which he’s amassed over parts of nine seasons. However, the former third-rounder (Mariners, 2004) has managed just a .206/.288/.353 line in 404 PAs across parts of five Major League seasons.
- The Brewers have purchased the contract of righty Chad Nading, the Wichita Wingnuts announced. Nading re-emerged in his age-28 season after a long layoff, throwing 39 1/3 innings of 1.83 ERA ball with 6.9 K/9 against 3.9 BB/9. The right-hander’s only affiliated experience came with the Padres’ rookie affiliate way back in 2010, when he coughed up nine earned runs on 13 hits in just 5 2/3 innings.
The Brewers have outrighted four players, per a club announcement, leaving the team’s 40-man roster with three openings. Milwaukee has dropped infielders Garin Cecchini and Jake Elmore, infielder/outfielder Andy Wilkins, and lefty Sean Nolin from the major league slate.
None of the moves are particularly surprising. Milwaukee is preparing for another winter in which the club figures not only to protect some of its own Rule 5 draft-eligible players, but also to seek undervalued assets that don’t stick with other organizations. The club lost outfielder Rymer Liriano via waivers earlier today as well.
Of course, some of the players now leaving the 40-man were brought in with hopes they’d thrive in a new environment. That is most apparent, perhaps, in the case of Cecchini, who was once a fairly highly regarded Red Sox prospect. He never earned a major league shot in Milwaukee after hitting .271/.325/.380 over 469 plate appearances at Triple-A, with 13 stolen bases and five home runs.
The 29-year-old Elmore is no stranger to this process. He has appeared in the majors in each of the last five years, every time with a different team. All said, he has produced a miserly .215/.297/.280 batting line in 478 trips to the plate, but continues to be seen around the league as a useful depth piece given his defensive versatility.
Wilkins, 28, has also bounced around a fair bit of late. He’s still looking for his first real shot at major league playing time, but hasn’t impressed at the Triple-A level since a strong 2014 campaign with the White Sox’ top affiliate. In 2016, he posted a .235/.321/.419 batting line with a dozen home runs in 374 plate appearances in the highest level of the minors.
As for Nolin, health problems have derailed his career. He had been acquired by the A’s as part of the deal that sent Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays, but Oakland gave up on him after one year and he was claimed by Milwaukee. The 26-year-old never ended up pitching competitively for the Brewers; after trying to stave off Tommy John surgery, he wound up going under the knife late in the summer. Nolin will likely miss most or all of the ensuing campaign.
The White Sox announced today that they’ve claimed outfielder Rymer Liriano off waivers from the Brewers. The addition of Liriano gives Chicago a full 40-man roster.
Liriano, 25, was long rated as one of the top prospects in the Padres’ farm system but was traded to Milwaukee last offseason. Liriano seemed to have a decent chance at getting a look with the rebuilding Brewers, but he was struck in the face by a pitch in Spring Training and didn’t recover in time to even play a game in the minors this year. His most recent work in Triple-A was impressive, though, as he batted .292/.383/.460 with 14 homers and 18 steals in 131 games back in 2015. In total, he’s a .311/.399/.483 hitter in parts of two seasons at Triple-A.
Liriano did get a brief trial run with the 2014 Padres, but he managed just a .555 OPS in 121 plate appearances and looked overmatched as a 23-year-old, striking out in nearly a third of his plate appearances. Strikeouts haven’t been a major problem for him throughout his minor league career, though, and he’ll give the ChiSox a somewhat intriguing option in the outfield this season if he’s ultimately able to rebound from last spring’s frightening injury.
MLBTR is publishing Offseason Outlooks for all 30 teams. Click here for the other entries in this series.
Their rebuild underway, the Brewers will spend the offseason entertaining offers for Ryan Braun and trying to find players capable of filling spots until reinforcements arrive from the minors.
- Ryan Braun, OF: $76MM through 2020 (includes $4MM buyout on $15MM mutual option for 2021)
- Matt Garza, SP: $12.5MM through 2017 (plus club/vesting option for 2018)
Arbitration Eligible Players (service time in parentheses; projections via MLB Trade Rumors)
- Chris Carter (4.159) – $8.1MM
- Martin Maldonado (4.156) – $1.6MM
- Carlos Torres (4.114) – $2.0MM
- Wily Peralta (3.160) – $4.4MM
- Kirk Nieuwenhuis (3.112) – $1.6MM
- Scooter Gennett (3.071) – $3.0MM
- Tyler Thornburg (3.057) – $2.2MM
- Chase Anderson (2.146) – $3.1MM
- Non-tender candidates: Carter, Gennett, Peralta
The Brewers spent 2016 taking advantage of the biggest asset rebuilding teams have that contending teams don’t: the ability to use playing time to evaluate players on the fringes. That process got them good seasons from infielder Jonathan Villar, outfielder Keon Broxton and pitchers Junior Guerra and Zach Davies, as well as lesser but still productive years from infielders Hernan Perez and Chris Carter and pitchers Jacob Barnes and Jhan Marinez.
The Brewers therefore appear to have options that are at least reasonable at many key positions. Guerra and Davies look set for the Brewers’ rotation, with the team also having Jimmy Nelson, Matt Garza, Chase Anderson and Wily Peralta in tow. (Peralta could be a non-tender candidate following an underwhelming season in which he posted a 4.86 ERA, 6.6 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9, but he performed well in the big leagues down the stretch after a stint in the minors, so it might be more likely the Brewers keep him.) In the bullpen, there’s new closer Tyler Thornburg, along with Carlos Torres, Rob Scahill and Corey Knebel.
That isn’t the core of a good team, but GM David Stearns and the Brewers likely don’t expect to be good right now. Instead, they’ll wait on new arrivals from their highly regarded farm system, and continue to try to sort out who among their current big-leaguers will be able to help their higher-upside young players.
At catcher, the Brewers will likely retain Martin Maldonado, who batted .202 and slugged .351 but with a respectable .332 OBP last season. Maldonado profiles as a backup, but the team still likely won’t pursue an established starter at the position, instead likely preferring to get looks at Andrew Susac, who they acquired when they shipped Will Smith to the Giants. The 26-year-old Susac struggled to get his big-league career going, but he’s generally hit well in the minors and still only has 1,660 career professional plate appearances since being drafted in 2011. He could benefit from more regular playing time.
In the infield, the Brewers will probably keep Carter at first, although it’s not out of the question they’ll trade or even non-tender him, since the arbitration process will value him more for his gaudy home run totals than his obvious weaknesses. Considering non-tendering a player coming off a 41-homer season may seem crazy, but Carter’s 2016 was worth just 0.9 fWAR, and his career 31.9% strikeout rate, .218 batting average and -29 Defensive Runs Saved mean he has to hit home runs at a furious pace to be more valuable than the $8.1MM salary we project he’ll receive. The Brewers have suggested Carter will return, although that isn’t yet certain.
Assuming Carter is back, he’ll presumably have the speedy Villar next to him at second base, since the team has said it prefers not to use Villar at third. That could leave Scooter Gennett without a job. Gennett’s .263/.317/.412 line in 2016 placed him near replacement level for the second consecutive year, partially because of his defense, which advanced metrics rate as mediocre. Perhaps the team could retain him and shift him to third, but it’s probably more likely he’ll be traded to a team with a big hole at second base, or perhaps non-tendered. Villar spent much of 2016 at shortstop, but well-regarded youngster Orlando Arcia will likely man the position next season.
The Brewers’ plans for third base are less clear. Perez played well while manning third part-time last year, batting .272/.302/.428 with 34 steals. His track record, though, suggests that a repeat of those numbers is unlikely, and he might profile better as a super-utility type anyway (which would still mean he’ll wind up with plenty of playing time).
That could leave the Brewers hunting for someone to play the hot corner. An up-market player like Justin Turner seems highly unlikely. Someone like Luis Valbuena (who was previously in the Astros organization with Stearns and several current Brewers players) would make sense, particularly given that he bats left-handed and would help balance the Brewers’ very righty-heavy lineup. The team could also pursue a short-term veteran option like Kelly Johnson or old friend Aaron Hill. Johnson would make a certain amount of sense, since he and Perez could potentially form an effective platoon. Alternately, the Brewers could hunt for a trade option, or a non-tendered player, hoping to find a bit of upside, just as they did last season when they signed Will Middlebrooks to a minor league pact.
The complexion of the Brewers’ 2017 outfield will depend in large part on the potential Braun deal — the move, or non-move, that will define their offseason. Following their trades of Yovani Gallardo, Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Gomez, Mike Fiers, Jonathan Broxton, Gerardo Parra, Francisco Rodriguez, Adam Lind, Jean Segura, Khris Davis, Aaron Hill, Jeremy Jeffress, Jonathan Lucroy and Smith in recent years, Braun is one of the few valuable veterans the Brewers have left. Their return if, or when, they do finally trade him could go a long way to determining how they fare in the near future.
Braun batted .305/.365/.538 last season in his best offensive performance since 2012, so this winter would seem like an ideal time for a deal. Last summer, the Brewers and Dodgers reportedly seriously discussed a swap involving Braun, with Yasiel Puig, Brandon McCarthy and prospects heading to Milwaukee. It’s unclear how close that trade was to actually occurring, but it seems the two sides will revisit the deal this offseason, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see Braun in Dodger blue in 2017.
The value of the Brewers’ side of the deal would, of course, depend fairly heavily on the prospects involved, but the inclusion of Puig and McCarthy already makes the trade an interesting one from the Brewers’ perspective. Part of the Dodgers’ likely intention in including those players was to offset Braun’s salary, since Puig and McCarthy are set to make a combined $39.5MM through 2018. But neither Puig nor McCarthy fits the usual profile of a salary dumpee. The Brewers would get to gamble on the 25-year-old Puig’s upside, which remains considerable despite his trip to the minors last season. They would also get a solid veteran arm (albeit one who’s only recently come back from Tommy John surgery) for their rotation. McCarthy is only two years removed from pitching 200 innings with a terrific 2.85 xFIP and 52.6% ground-ball rate.
Should the Brewers be unable to consummate a Braun deal with the Dodgers, they would have no shortage of other trade suitors (although Braun’s limited no-trade clause could be a problem — as of earlier this year, he could block deals to all teams except the Dodgers, Angels, Padres, Giants, Diamondbacks and Marlins). The Giants and Braves have reportedly also had interest in Braun, and it’s likely other teams would as well. While acquiring someone like Puig in return for Braun makes sense, the Brewers don’t need to get an outfielder in a Braun deal, since they have a remarkable group of outfield prospects (including Lewis Brinson, Brett Phillips, Ryan Cordell and, lower in the minors, Corey Ray and Trent Clark).
Elsewhere in the Brewers outfield, Broxton had an outstanding second half, demonstrating plus speed and defense while batting a remarkable .294/.399/.538 before missing the last two weeks of the season due to a fractured wrist. At 26, Broxton was old for a rookie. His minor league record doesn’t suggest he can maintain the level of productivity he demonstrated in 2016, and it’s possible the wrist injury could affect him going forward. Nonetheless, his legs and glove give him a high floor, and he should be an easy choice to start in center field for the Brewers next season.
In right field, the Brewers will likely continue to give looks to Domingo Santana, with Perez potentially filling in the gaps if Santana struggles. Santana batted a respectable .256/.345/.447. Like Carter, he’s a big man who strikes out excessively and has no defensive value. Nonetheless, he warrants continued playing time, since he’s only 24 and has shown significant power potential.
It makes sense for the Brewers to keep Kirk Nieuwenhuis as a backup outfielder, given that he’ll likely cost less than $2MM in his first year of arbitration eligibility. Like many Brewers, Nieuwenhuis piles up his share of whiffs and has low batting averages. He’ll take a walk, though, and he plays all three outfield positions well and hits left-handed.
The Brewers could also aim to acquire a bit of rotation help this offseason. Of their current rotation options, only Guerra and Nelson look like much more than back-of-the-rotation types, and it’s not clear what even Nelson will become following a disappointing 2016. Nelson led the NL in walks in 2016, and if his control problems continue, it’s not hard to imagine he could wind up back at Triple-A at some point next season, since he’s optionable.
While the Brewers do have some starting pitching prospects (topped by lefty Josh Hader) who could make an impact at some point in 2017, their current group possesses limited upside and considerable downside — it’s easy to imagine the Brewers’ rotation becoming a real mess if, say, the physically slight Davies got hurt and Garza had a season more like 2015 than 2016. With Sean Nolin out for 2017 following Tommy John surgery, their depth is somewhat limited, too. The organization almost certainly won’t pursue a high-end starting pitcher, but an innings-eater might make sense. The team could also look for a high-risk, high-upside option (someone like Andrew Cashner, perhaps) in an attempt to emulate the Athletics’ success flipping Rich Hill last season. The addition of McCarthy in a potential Braun trade would also obviously help.
The Brewers already have plenty of bullpen arms to sort through, including several, like Marinez, Barnes and Knebel, who possess considerable velocity. They do, however, look likely to pursue a left-hander or two, perhaps on a minor league deal. The only healthy southpaw currently on their 40-man roster is Brent Suter, who has just 21 2/3 career innings of big-league experience and who’s mostly a starter anyway.
Whatever happens, the Brewers don’t appear likely to contend in 2017. There is, however, plenty of evidence that their rebuild is going well. They won 73 games last season, not a bad total for an organization mostly trying to address long-term goals. Their farm system is now much stronger than it was just a year and a half ago, when Baseball America rated it 19th-best in the game — thanks to a couple years of high draft picks and trades for young talent, the organization now has enviable prospect depth, and Arcia is just the first of what should be a long series of high-upside Brewers rookies. 2017 won’t be a pretty season for the Brewers, but there’s talent in Milwaukee, and more on the way.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Here are the day’s minor moves from around the league…
- The Brewers announced that they’ve re-signed right-hander Stephen Kohlscheen to a minor league contract and invited him to Major League Spring Training. The 28-year-old spent the 2016 season with Milwaukee’s Double-A affiliate and logged a 2.54 ERA with strong rates of 12.1 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 49 2/3 innings of work. The former Mariners farmhand found himself traded from Seattle to San Diego alongside Abraham Almonte back in July 2014 — a trade that netted the M’s outfielder Chris Denorfia. Kohlscheen latched on with the Brewers after being cut loose by the Padres last March, and he’ll look to build off this past season’s impressive work and force his way into a Brewers bullpen picture that lacks certainty following the trades of established relief arms Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith.