Those following the Brewers at a distance may not have paid much attention to their tempered approach to the offseason. It’s easy to look at their winter and see a modest collection of stopgaps to stanch the roster bleed of departing vets like Yasmani Grandal and Mike Moustakas. Look a littler closer, however, and you’ll find President of Baseball Ops and GM David Stearns created a two-year window of flexible and affordable contracts to keep Craig Counsell’s squad in contention, writes Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
With Christian Yelich and Josh Hader, the Brew Crew have some of the best high-end talent in the game, but they’ve done a nice job filling out the infield with one-and-one contracts for Brock Holt, Eric Sogard, Justin Smoak, and Jedd Gyorko. Along with trade acquisition Luis Urias, the Brewers found a grab bag of roster pieces to power their infield engine in a wide-open NL Central. Holdovers Keston Hiura and Orlando Arcia join the extensive group of infielders vying for playing time.
Though Arcia is still just 25-years-old and has notched some big performances for the Brewers in recent seasons, his grip on everyday at-bats is loosening. Urias’ injury has provided Arcia with a last-ditch opportunity to prove his mettle. He certainly brings attitude and flair to the diamond, but two seasons of a .228/.277/.333 line dims the outlook on Arcia’s offensive potential for sure. Still, of the newcomers in the clubhouse, only Urias really threatens Arcia’s everyday status at short.
Of all rostered Brewers not named Yelich, Hiura has the highest ceiling. Thus, the onus lies largely (if unfairly) on his shoulders to make up the offensive production left behind by Grandal and Moustakas (who put up a combined 7 oWAR last season per baseball-reference). He put up a robust .303/.368/.570 line in just 84 games as a 22-year-old after being called up last season (139 wRC+). His power numbers have fluctuated throughout his professional career, but the hit tool has consistently played, and the Brewers are counting on Hiura to do some damage from the middle of their order.
The final piece of the infield puzzle for Counsell is long-time face-of-the-franchise Ryan Braun. Braun could see a majority of his time at first base with Avisail Garcia and Ben Gamel lining up with Yelich and Lorenzo Cain in the outfield. The exact formula for the rest of the lineup has no shortage of variables, but Counsell has proven himself an adept engineer. Importantly for Milwaukee, if any of the newly-acquired pieces fail to meld, they’ve maintained the flexibility, financially and structurally, to pivot.