MLBTR will provide a broader view of each club’s winter plans when our annual Offseason Outlook series kicks off at the end of the regular season. Until then, the Brewers are the latest team to be featured in our quick look at this season’s non-contenders. We’ve already covered the Angels.
Milwaukee GM David Stearns has continued to engineer a rebuild that was kicked off by his predecessor, Doug Melvin. The payroll is way down and the high-priced veterans have mostly been cleared out, but it has taken place in a fairly methodical manner thus far with largely positive results (despite the anticipated, subpar record). Here are three needs for the organization as the offseason approaches:
1. Trade Ryan Braun.
I know, very edgy choice. Braun is the last remaining Brewers player who is promised money past the 2017 season, making him an obvious trade candidate. (Only one other — Matt Garza — has a guaranteed contract next year.) On the one hand, that means, that the club doesn’t need to move Braun just to pare down the costs; even with him this year, the payroll sat at just over $60MM on Opening Day and has receded since.
The key here, though, is timing. Milwaukee has prospered immensely from selling at the right moment on players such as Carlos Gomez (traded before a fall-off) and Jonathan Lucroy (traded after he rebuilt value). You could argue the same, in varying ways, of hurlers Mike Fiers, Jeremy Jeffress, and Will Smith.
With Braun, the question has never been talent or productivity. But he has a sketchy injury history, carries the stain of a PED melodrama, and turns 33 in two months. The $76MM left on his contract over four years remains a bit of a limiting factor, but is a pretty fair price for a player who owns a .306/.371/.537 slash with 27 home runs and 15 steals.
It’s unlikely at this point that Braun’s value will ever be higher, and there’s a chance it could tumble. Whether he goes to the Dodgers or elsewhere, the coming offseason is probably the time to finish clearing the books. (Moving Garza, too, could make sense — either in a winter bereft of open-market pitching talent or after giving him a chance to boost his value in the first half of 2017.)
2. Find the next Junior Guerra …
Or the next Jonathan Villar. Or, really, just the next Chris Carter or even Aaron Hill. Stearns’s first move as a GM — plucking Guerra off the waiver wire — remains his most impressive. But he has proven adept at finding hidden gems from free and cheap talent pools. All the guys he’s tried out haven’t worked, but plenty have. Better still, the most notable success stories thus far have not only been cheap, but have had service time remaining, greatly increasing the upside/expense ratio.
So, who’s the next candidate? If I knew that, I’d probably be peddling the information to a major league team. But while organizations desperate for near-term production will feel compelled to plunk down several million dollars for the best-bet bounceback veterans, odds are that Stearns will be mining the ranks of underappreciated journeymen who have shown a spark and intriguing young players who aren’t going to keep roster spots with their organizations.
These players have plenty of function just by showing up, because they help prop up the quality of the on-field production at virtually no cost. What will be most interesting to see, though, is whether Milwaukee can begin to parlay these bargain finds into real value — either by flipping some of the players in trades or deploying them during a winning season.
3. Chart out an ascension plan.
Call me crazy, but I think things could move fairly quickly for the Brewers. Unlike other recent tear-down situations, Milwaukee has not really had to offload huge and burdensome contracts; the veterans they have dealt have been appealing players who brought good, high-level young talent.
To be sure, I’m not advocating for the club to ramp up spending in anticipation of contending in 2017. But there are some benefits to planning for an optimistic scenario, which might include something in the vicinity of a .500 record next year with some more upward mobility to follow. Doing so in a measured way would allow the club to build toward contention without weighing down the future balance sheet.
With that in mind, perhaps the Brewers don’t need to keep a perfectly pristine balance sheet for the entirety of the near-future. Adding some well-conceived, reasonably youthful talent through free agency or trade isn’t only a strategy for larger-budget rebuilders — at least when a team’s payroll is already low. In Milwaukee’s case, there are a few arb raises to account for in 2017, but none that figure to make much of a dent. Perhaps being willing to pay a bit for one or more mid-level, health-concern/bounceback free agents — Luis Valbuena, Neil Walker, Charlie Morton, Andrew Cashner, or (dare I say it) Carlos Gomez are a few who come to mind — could be a viable strategy.
great article Jeff! I agree that the Brewers are close to contending again. shoot for .500 in 2017 and make a push for the playoffs in 2018.
I agree that a free agent addition like Carlos Gomez would be beneficial… the Crew can trade Braun and then deploy him in Left. allows the Brewers to keep Brinson in the minors for some final seasoning and prevent him from being a Super 2.
you are dreaming. The Brewers do not have a #2 starter, forget about a #1 starter. 70-92 next season.
While .500 and then playoffs in the next two years is optimistic, it is far from unrealistic.
They are going to surpass 70 wins this season, and there is 0 reason to think there would be regression next season. Guerra and Davies are not Clayton Kershaw, but have had fantastic seasons, and with the improvements WIly Peralta has made since his return there are definitely solid pieces in the rotation.
Trading Braun isn’t going to cause any regression? Hes the best hitter on the team and they wont get equal value back for him. Who on the Brewers is going to have an ops over .900? Puig?Villar career BABIP has been fairly high but .384 that is something else in chris johnson territory expecting no regression on him either? They also had Lucroy half the year next year will be 0 games with Lucroy. I don’t see how you think the Brewers are a lock to maintain or surpass their win total next year, Reds will be fielding a better team too, and probably not trading their best hitter in Votto.
Because of the development of players such as Arcia, Broxton, Perez, and Davies. Add in Hader possibly being called up in April, there’s absolutely no reason why they can’t flirt with .500. They’ve already exceeded expectations this year.
Name me one player who will exceed 4 WAR next season. You guys are in fantasy land. Villar is not going to repeat his good season. Neither will Guerra. Davies? I guess he’s the next best choice. But he’s just a decent #3 starting pitcher. You can’t just roll out rookies and expect to win. 70-92 and don’t complain about it when it happens. It’s a process. They will be competitive in 2019.
This is hilarious. So you’re saying no chance the Brewers win more than 70 games before the offseason even STARTED. Hahah gotcha.
Rookies? The core of this time will not be rookies next year. They have had invaluable experience this year and have performed admirably considering people had them pegged for a possible 100 loss season. Honestly, I don’t even know why I’m arguing with you when you clearly have no idea what you’re talking about.
they can get to .500 by just cutting down on defense errors.
the Brewers would have had to eliminate every single error this season to give up the same number of runs that they allowed. now with Lucroy and Braun gone it means the 2017 Brewers will need to have negative 15 errors. Good luck!
pretty sure they can win 10 more games with 150 less errors dumb ass
Don’t bother arguing with him. His barometer for measuring a pitcher’s effectiveness is wins and losses. That’s all you need to know about him
There is a lot of them on here. Couple of them though you are only valuable if you get claim on waiver making Puig valuable and Braun has no value because he wasn’t claimed
It’s funny how a lot of people on these threads really crap on the Angels for making depth signings and claimings, yet Milwaukee showed us through Guerra and villar that these are low risk high reward.
“All the guys he’s tried out haven’t worked, but plenty have.” There may be a typo in there.
It’s important to note that under Fangraphs’ analysis the value of his production has GREATLY exceeded his contract each individual year of his contract (including the suspension year haha) except 2014 when he was hurt with a bum thumb. I do NOT mind Braun’s contract, which is a true projection of his value until hes’ 37 years old Also, there are a LOT of butts in those seats with Braun jerseys!!
The Brewers’ offer from the Dodgers included Puig (2 more years @$`14M) also included Brandon McCarthy (2 more years @$20M) plus prospects. Based on this scenario they are willing to take on salary with another Garza-like millstone contract around their necks in McCarthy. Neither player will achieve his contract value through production this year by a mile.
The #1 need for this team is to get a legitimate ace or have one emerge from the farm (Hader/Bickford/Ortiz). The team is filled with 3/4’s, without an ace or ace potential you really don’t stand a chance these days to make a playoff run.
I don’t think it is a ‘need’ to trade Braun. Trade him or keep him will not change the rebuild unless you get high value in return, which is unlikely.
Though I agree he might not be an official “ace” yet because he hasn’t done it long enough but Guerra has been pretty unbelievable.
Pump the brakes a bit. Guerra has 9 career wins. A little short of Ace material.
And you’re judging a pitcher on how many career wins he has, this tells me all I need to know about your baseball IQ. I will no longer waste my time responding to you.
Overpaying for an ace like a Chris Sale would not be a smart thing to do but Quintana is a guy who they might have the pieces to get. A rotation of Quintana, Guerra, Davies, Garza (or Hader), and either Peralta or Nelson (with one going back to the White Sox in the deal, could be very intriguing.
Though it would be great as a Brewers fan to see Quintana on the team, I don’t think the Brewers are at that point. Quintana would cost a fortune in prospects, i’m sure they would ask for someone like Corey Ray and Jimmy Nelson for Quintana and I don’t think Brewers are at that point now to get rid of elite prospects.
Agree, wasn’t looking at 2017 to trade for a Sale type. I was talking more long term, maybe starting in the ’18-19 seasons if the team is showing true signs that they are ready to start competing again. Or hoping one of their prospects becomes that ace by then.
The Brewers have a lot of pieces with upside or at least flexibility. I could see them being a much improved team over the next couple of seasons. The problem for them (especially in 2017) is the same problem that many other teams have: the lack of high quality starting pitching depth. It doesn’t appear that the current free agent crop is going to help that either.
But when you’re loaded on the farm you can trade for those really good pitchers. They have way to many great prospects/young MLB players in the outfield. Something will go from there to upgrade another position.
Much of the progression talked about with the Brewers is also dependent on the strength of the division the next few years. The Cubs’ window is now, the Pirates’ could be closing in a year or two and the Cardinals have issues as well.
Trading Braun would be the dumbest thing they could do. While his value “may never be higher” they’ll still never get back equal value in talent, and while it’s true trading off of Gomez and Lucroy brought a nice return, the proof will be when the guys they got for them are actually performing on the field in the major leagues.
Besides those two deals fortified their system to the point where it’s now one of the strongest in the game. Adding to that system now isn’t the priority it was when the system was rated down in the 20’s.
If the Brewers want to be competitive in 2017, and I think they can be, holding on to Braun is critical as he’s still a premier bat and 33 isn’t exactly ancient. There’s enough depth now to limit Braun to around 130-140 starts in the OF and that rest should keep his bat potent.
Unless they got back an ace, or an All Star caliber talent, they need to hold on to Braun for the duration of his contract which isn’t all that bad for a player of his ability even in his twilight.
As for needs to contend in 2017, they need a LH bat with some pop to stick in the middle of that all RH lineup. Maybe even see if they can get Brian McCann from the Yankees to catch, a position of great need. If they can do that without using their top prospects, that would be a bold move that also would not affect their long term rebuild plans.
There’s enough talent now at the big league level to compete with the mid level teams and be in wild card contention. They are light years from the Cubs and that won’t change anytime soon. But most of the league is in that boat. They need to set the sights on passing up the Cards and Bucs and they are not that far away. But they cant’ give up talent like Braun for lesser talent. They need to fine tune their roster with the goal of competing now, something they didn’t do last year.
How can you say it would be the dumbest thing they could do when you don’t even know what’s being offered? Braun is a great player no question but he is getting older and when you’re a small market team you’re better off staying away from paying guys in their mid to late 30’s 20 mill a year. I love Braun and I wouldn’t give him away as a salary dump, which won’t happen because the Brewers already said they wanted a significant return for him.
It all depends on the return and it doesn’t have to be an ace or All Star talent, significant prospects I would definitely be open too.
they won’t get much for Braun without eating salary. This is why….
If I had done this intentionally or unintentionally, I’d be the first one to step up and say, ‘I did it,’ ” said Braun, wearing a casual jacket as he stood at a podium under a bright Arizona sun.
“By no means am I perfect, but if I’ve ever made any mistakes in my life I’ve taken responsibility for my actions. I truly believe in my heart and I would bet my life that this substance never entered my body at any point.
“I’ve always had tremendous respect for the game of baseball, and part of the reason I’ve kept quiet throughout the course of this ordeal, and part of the reason why I won’t be able to get into all of the details today, is to put the best interests of the game ahead of the best interests of myself. And that hasn’t been easy.
“There were a lot of times when I wanted to come out and tell the entire story, to attack everybody as I’ve been attacked, as my name has been dragged through the mud as everything I’ve worked for my entire life was called into question.
“There were a lot of times I wanted to come out and tell the entire story, but at the end of the day I realized what’s actually best for the game of baseball, and I put that ahead of what was actually best for myself.
“I’ve always stood up for what is right. Today is about everybody who’s been wrongly accused, and everybody who has had to stand up for what is actually right. Today isn’t about me; it isn’t about one player. It’s about all players. It’s about all current players, all future players and everybody who plays the game of baseball.”
“I’ve always stood up for what is right. Today is about everybody who’s been wrongly accused, and everybody who’s ever had to stand up for what is actually right…I will continue to take the high road because that’s who I am, and that’s the way that I’ve lived my life. We won because the truth is on my side.”
“There were a lot of things that we learned about the collector, about the collection process, about the way that the entire thing worked that made us very concerned and very suspicious about what could have actually happened.
“We spoke to biochemists and scientists, and asked them how difficult would it be to tamper with somebody’s sample. Their response was that if they were motivated, it would be extremely easy. Again, that’s why it’s so important to get it out of the hands of the only person in the world who knows whose sample it is.”
The Dodgers were prepared to offer Puig and two prospects for Braun if the Brewers would also take McCarthy’s contract off their hands. I think that’s excellent value.
Don’t you think Braun has been the most tested player in baseball since then? And he’s come up clean every time. That’s all teams care about–that he can produce. If teams shied away from character issues there wouldn’t be enough players to fill major league rosters.
Doug Bath: you are a moron.
My goodness is the ignorance thick in these comments…