The Brewers are the talk of Major League Baseball at present, having pulled off a blockbuster trade to acquire Christian Yelich and agreed to a five-year deal with Lorenzo Cain in a span of mere hours. Milwaukee is hardly done for the offseason, though, and reports from Bob Nightengale of USA Today (Twitter link) and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription link) highlight the various avenues they can take toward further improvement.
Milwaukee is shopping outfielders Domingo Santana and Keon Broxton as it looks for an upgrade to its rotation, according to Nightengale. Rosenthal suggests a bit more softly that the Brewers are open to offers on Santana but aren’t eager to trade him, hoping instead to at times run out an outfield of Yelich, Cain and Santana. The organization has discussed the idea of utilizing Ryan Braun at first base on occasion, Rosenthal adds. While Yelich, Cain, Santana, Braun and Eric Thames make five players for four spots, though certainly that depth wouldn’t be a bad thing for the Brewers to carry into the 2018 season.
Broxton, it seems, is something of an odd man out following yesterday’s acquisitions. The 27-year-old served as the Brewers’ primary center fielder in 2017 and hit .220/.299/.420 with 20 homers and 21 steals through 463 plate appearances. Broxton, though, also struck out at a staggering 37.8 percent clip and delivered mixed results in the outfield. Both Defensive Runs Saved (-7) and Ultimate Zone Rating (-2.2) considered him below average, whereas Statcast’s Outs Above Average metric credited him at +9 outs, ranking him among the game’s 15 best overall outfielders.
Broxton certainly has his warts, but the 27-year-old is controllable through the 2022 season and won’t even be arbitration-eligible until next offseason at the earliest (when he’s likely to be a Super Two player). In many regards, he fits the criteria of what the Giants are looking for in a minimum-salary center field option. He’s also out of minor league options, so if he’s not going to play a role on the Brewers in 2018, he figures to be traded.
Santana, meanwhile, is controlled through the 2021 season and is coming off an excellent season in which he batted .278/.371/.505 with 30 homers and 29 doubles. His superior production in 2017 would assuredly make him a costlier asset in trade talks with the Brewers, though he’s also a vastly superior asset for the Brewers when attempting to pry a big league starter away from clubs in trade talks.
Brett Phillips stands out as another potentially available outfielder currently in the Brewers’ mix. The 23-year-old hit .276/.351/.448 with four homers and five steals through 98 PAs as a rookie this past season, though like Broxton, he struggled with a sky-high strikeout rate (34.7 percent). The strikeout woes weren’t limited to that brief MLB exposure, either, as Phillips whiffed at a 29.9 percent clip in the minors, too. He also posted BABIP marks north of .400 in both the Majors and Triple-A in 2017, suggesting that his production was somewhat overstated. Nonetheless, the former top prospect should draw interest, as he’s controllable all the way through 2023 and does have minor league options remaining.
While the Brewers’ now considerable outfield surplus makes the possibility of a trade fairly obvious, the team could also still pursue starters on the free-agent market. Rosenthal characterizes a signing of Yu Darvish or Alex Cobb as unlikely, though the market for starters has been stagnant to the point that nearly every lower-tier option remains available for the Brewers to explore.