The Brewers announced on Thursday that they’ve signed infielder Eric Sogard, left-hander Andy Oliver and right-hander Hiram Burgos to minor league contracts with invites to Major League Spring Training.
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Sogard, 30, comes with the most big league experience of the bunch. The longtime Athletics infielder missed the 2016 season due to knee surgery but was a staple in the Oakland infield from 2013-15, during which time he batted .247/.305/.315. Suffice it to say, Sogard isn’t known for his bat, but he’s an excellent defensive second baseman that is also capable of playing both shortstop and third base. Sogard also brings some speed to the table, as he swiped 27 bases over those three years despite a limited role. Fangraphs rated his baserunning in both 2014 and 2015 to be especially valuable. The Brewers figure to have an infield consisting of Eric Thames (first base), Jonathan Villar (second base), Orlando Arcia (shortstop) and Travis Shaw (third base) on most days, but Sogard offers more defensive versatility than Scooter Gennett, who currently projects as a reserve in Milwaukee, so perhaps he could push Gennett for a roster spot this spring.
Oliver, 29, was once one of the top-regarded arms in the Tigers’ farm system, but it’s been five full seasons since he pitched at the Major League level. He turned in a very solid season with the Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate in 2016, however, pitching to a 3.43 ERA with 84 strikeouts against 36 walks in 86 2/3 innings of work between the Norfolk rotation and bullpen. The 14 starts he logged in 2016 were the most he’s made since 2013 (as a member of the Pirates organization), and the bullpen seemingly provides a better path back to the Majors in Milwaukee than the rotation, where the Brewers have seven rotation options on the 40-man roster (Junior Guerra, Matt Garza, Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, Wily Peralta, Jimmy Nelson and the newly signed Tommy Milone).
Burgos, also 29, is actually a re-signing, as he’s spent his entire professional career with the Brewers since they made him their sixth-round pick back in 2009. The Puerto Rican right-hander was dominant in the minors in 2012 and made his MLB debut with the Brewers a season later in 2013, but shoulder troubles have derailed his once fairly promising career. He’s topped 140 innings in each of the past two Triple-A campaigns, though, pitching to an even 4.00 ERA with respectable strikeout and walk rates. He could be a depth option for Milwaukee this year in the event that injuries and/or trade create some vacancies on the pitching staff.