The Brewers are the next team up in MLBTR’s series of high-level looks at the needs of non-contenders heading into the offseason. (We’ve already covered the Reds, Phillies, D-Backs and Rockies.) A quick reminder that we’ll be looking more in-depth at each club in our yearly Offseason Outlook series, but for now, let’s dive into some of Milwaukee’s needs as the winter approaches…
1. Find a GM committed to/capable of developing pitching. A quick (and admittedly rudimentary) look at the Brewers’ pitching over the past 15 seasons shows that they’ve received just 12 single season performances valued at three or more wins above replacement (per Fangraphs) from a starting pitcher. Of those 12 seasons, four came from Ben Sheets — far and away the best pitcher the team has drafted and developed in recent history — and one came from Yovani Gallardo. The others came from players who were signed as free agents or who were acquired via trade. For those who don’t like FIP-based WAR, even RA9-WAR shows only 11 such seasons with just four coming from Brewer-developed pitchers (two from Sheets, two from Gallardo).
In his time as GM, Doug Melvin acquired the bulk of his effective pitching from outside the organization. Recent seasons have seen Wily Peralta and Jimmy Nelson develop into serviceable options, and Taylor Jungmann has had a nice debut to this point, but the majority of pitchers to rank among the Brewers’ Top 5-10 prospects in the past decade have failed to pan out. That includes names like Mark Rogers, Tyler Thornburg and Jed Bradley. Others, such as Manny Parra and Jeremy Jeffress, have emerged as quality big league relievers at least, while others yet, namely Jake Odorizzi, have gone on to flourish with other organizations via trade.
Milwaukee has developed its share of offensive stars, with Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Jonathan Lucroy, Corey Hart (pre-knee troubles), Rickie Weeks and J.J. Hardy all standing out as recent examples of quality hitters the team has produced out of the draft. A list of pitchers that have solidified themselves as Major Leaguers with the Brewers would, clearly, be far less impressive.
2. Trade the remaining veterans with appealing contracts. Lucroy, Adam Lind and, to a lesser extent, Francisco Rodriguez all have appeal to other clubs. Lind has his flaws — questionable defense at first and an inability to hit lefties — but is affordable and has continued to crush right-handed pitching. He’ll earn a reasonable enough $8MM salary in 2016. K-Rod has had a very strong season, and while he’s guaranteed a considerable $9.5MM through the end of 2016, $2MM of that comes in the form of a buyout on an affordable $6MM option for 2017. Another $2MM of it is deferred, interest-free, to 2018. The Brewers can include some cash in the deal to sweeten the return as well.
Lucroy’s the big draw here — a strong defender who has a history of well-above-average offense from behind the plate and is owed just $9.5MM through 2017. His numbers are down in 2015, to be sure, but he’s had some injuries, namely a broken toe and now a possible concussion. The latter of the two is far scarier, particularly given the position he plays, but if Lucroy is cleared and can finish the season symptom-free, he’ll be one of the most desirable trade chips in all of baseball — the type of player for whom the Brewers can ask a substantial return. Top 100 prospects, Major League ready starting pitching, young infield help — any of that should be on the table for Lucroy. Second-half splits are admittedly somewhat arbitrary in nature, but the .280/.339/.464 triple-slash posted by Lucroy since the All-Star break certainly can’t hurt his trade value.
3. Identify permanent corner infield solutions. My initial thought was to highlight the need to sort out the outfield, but the notion of playing Domingo Santana out of position in center field for a year while seeing what they have with him and Khris Davis (and allowing top prospect/recent MLBTR Podcast guest Brett Phillips to further develop) isn’t as concerning as the complete dearth of infield talent on this roster.
Scooter Gennett handles right-handed pitching just fine, but he’s a .120/.144/.148 hitter in his career off fellow lefties. It’s only 114 plate appearances, but the fact that the Brewers have only seen fit to grant him that much time is telling. His double-play partner, Jean Segura, was made out to be a trade chip earlier this season, but it’s hard to believe he has much real trade value. Segura’s a spotty defender at shortstop that hasn’t hit since the first half of 2013. It wouldn’t be a great outcome for him, but the notion of a Segura/Gennett platoon at second base makes some sense. Segura, after all, is a placeholder for Orlando Arcia, whose elite glove at shortstop and promising bat have him ranked among the best minor leaguers in all of baseball.
That leaves the corners as areas of need (assuming a Lind trade). Hunter Morris never developed into the slugging first baseman they’d hoped for, and Matt Dominguez didn’t hit enough at Triple-A to be considered an option, as he’s been claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays.