- A neck issue has kept Brewers catcher Andrew Susac out of action for the past week-plus, but an MRI on Friday revealed no structural damage to his trapezius, tweets Adam McCalvy of MLB.com. Susac will be able to ramp up his rehab as a result, though he’ll still start the year on the disabled list. Milwaukee will open with Jett Bandy and Manny Pina as its top options behind the plate.
- The Brewers have informed catcher Manny Pina and righty Jhan Marinez that they’ll be on the active roster to open the year, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports (Twitter links). Both were among the many Milwaukee 40-man members who enter the year without any options, so the news means that the club will avoid the need to expose them to waivers. Pina, 29, has a thin MLB track record but will share duties behind the plate with either Jett Bandy or Andrew Susac; the latter is currently dealing with neck and back issues, clouding his outlook, though both still have options. As for Marinez, he will have a chance to follow up on his solid 2016 season, in which he threw 62 1/3 innings of 3.18 ERA ball with 7.2 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9.
- Meanwhile, the Brewers received some disappointing news on the farm, as righty Devin Williams is headed for Tommy John surgery, per Jim Callis of MLB.com (via Twitter). In the most recent prospect rankings of the MLB.com team, Williams takes the 18th spot among Milwaukee farmhands. The 22-year-old, a second-round pick in 2013, reached the High-A level last year and is said to carry future mid-rotation upside.
- The Brewers demoted reliever Michael Blazek to Triple-A on Wednesday, which frustrated the right-hander. “I’m not happy about it,” he said (Twitter link via Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). Blazek is indignant mostly because he followed the Brewers’ orders to throw more fastballs during big league camp and still couldn’t crack their roster, writes Adam McCalvy of MLB.com. “I did what they told me to do,” stated the breaking ball-reliant Blazek. “I came into camp ready to go and they wanted me to throw the fastball more. That’s not the kind of pitcher I really am; I’m a guy who mixes stuff up. If they’re going off the way I was pitching in Spring Training throwing just fastballs, I mean, they didn’t really see the kind of pitcher that I am.” Blazek’s unsuccessful bid to land a roster spot came after he endured a rough 2016, in which he battled elbow troubles and logged a 5.66 ERA, 7.84 K/9 and 5.88 BB/9 over 41 1/3 innings. The year before, he registered a 2.43 ERA, 7.6 K/9 and 2.91 BB/9 over 55 2/3 frames.
Though he allowed only three runs in his eight spring frames, Chamberlain managed only two strikeouts to go with five walks and ten base knocks. That was much the same story as his 2016 campaign, when he worked to a 2.25 ERA over twenty innings with the Indians but coughed up 11 walks (against 18 punch-outs) in the process.
In 342 career relief appearances, Chamberlain carries a 3.56 ERA and has held opposing hitters to a .247/.318/.379 batting line. But he last turned in a full and productive campaign in 2014 with the Tigers. Still, it seems likely he’ll catch on with another organization in the coming days.
Webb, meanwhile, only received three innings of work in camp, allowing just a single hit and earned run but failing to record a strikeout while issuing two free passes. Like Chamberlain, he’s a 31-year-old reliever who has had a fair bit of MLB success, with a 3.43 lifetime ERA in nearly 400 frames at the game’s highest level. But he struggled to a 5.19 ERA last year in his 17 1/3 innings with the Rays, coughing up 27 hits in the process.
- Outfielder David Denson announced his retirement from baseball via a message on his Facebook page. Denson made history in 2015 when he became the first active player in affiliated baseball to publicly announce that he was gay, and he tells Tom Haudricourt and Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that “leaving the game has nothing to do with my coming out. That wasn’t a factor at all. This was a decision I made purely from a baseball standpoint.” Instead, Denson said that he simply lost his passion for playing the game. Denson was a 15th-round pick of the Brewers in the 2013 draft, and he hit .229/.338/.368 over 1269 career plate appearances, making it to the High-A level in Milwaukee’s farm system.
- Also from Passan’s piece, two sources believe that after Quintana, the Brewers’ Junior Guerra is the best starter available on the trade market. Guerra received a bit of trade buzz at the trade deadline and back in November, though there wasn’t much chatter about the righty. Guerra came out of nowhere to post a 2.81 ERA, 7.4 K/9 and 2.33 K/BB rate as a 31-year-old rookie last season. Despite his rather advanced age, his good performance and five remaining years of team control make him an interesting trade chip for Milwaukee.
- The Brewers pulled center fielder Keon Broxton from the team’s game today after he experienced soreness in his surgically repaired wrist, as Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports (Twitter links). Fortunately, though, it’s just a minor bone chip that’s said not to represent a significant concern. Broxton impressed in his limited time in the bigs last year and is hitting a scorching .395/.489/.737 in 14 games this spring, so the club is undoubtedly relieved that it can still look forward to a full season from the 26-year-old.
- Of course, the Brewers are also hoping that another wave of young outfielders will push Broxton and others before long. The organization plans to field a Triple-A outfield of Lewis Brinson, Ryan Cordell, and Brett Phillips, Haudricourt further writes. That’s at least somewhat surprising in the case of Phillips, Haudricourt notes, given his rough 2016 campaign at Double-A.
- Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar, who was claimed off waivers from the Indians this winter, is having a strong enough spring to force himself into the mix for a roster spot, writes MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. Aguilar, who has homered three times this spring and cracked a pair of doubles as well, tells McCalvy that he’s grateful for the opportunity to compete for a bench role after being largely blocked by players like Carlos Santana, Mike Napoli and, this offseason, Edwin Encarnacion in Cleveland. “I feel like I’ve been waiting for a new opportunity for a while, and thankfully I’m in an organization that is giving young players a lot of opportunity,” said the 26-year-old slugger. Aguilar mashed 30 homers last year in Triple-A Columbus, though his .247/.319/.472 slash line isn’t quite as impressive as that round home run total may immediately indicate. As McCalvy notes, though, the right-handed-hitting Aguilar could be a nice complement to lefty swinging Eric Thames.
This is the latest entry in MLBTR’s Offseason In Review series. The full index of Offseason In Review posts can be found here.
The Brewers’ offseason saw them continuing to add young talent, but they also acquired several veterans who should help make them fun to watch as they integrate younger players onto their roster.
Major League Signings
Notable Minor League Signings
Trades And Claims
Acquired 3B Travis Shaw, SS Mauricio Dubon, RHP Josh Pennington and PTBNL from Red Sox for RP Tyler Thornburg
Acquired C Jett Bandy from Angels for C Martin Maldonado and RHP Drew Gagnon
Claimed 1B Jesus Aguilar from Indians
Lost RHP Miguel Diaz to Twins in Rule 5 Draft
The Brewers’ offseason mostly continued their recent trend of rebuilding what had been an aging roster, but their activity this winter also showed small signs that they’re looking toward contending in the near future.
Their first big move of the winter was to replace first baseman Chris Carter with Eric Thames, who signed a three-year, $16MM deal the same day the Brewers designated Carter for assignment, thereby avoiding taking him through the arbitration process. The Carter move was eyebrow-raising — it isn’t every day that a team drops a 41-homer hitter who’s set to receive a seemingly reasonable salary. The arbitration process, though, rewards counting stats like home runs and likely would have minimized Carter’s shortcomings, such as his strikeout and contact issues and lack of defensive value. MLBTR projected in October that Carter would receive $8.1MM through arbitration, and there are suggestions the salary might have gone higher. That sum seems paltry for a prolific home-run hitter, but the apparent ambivalence to one-dimensional power sources on this winter’s market strongly indicates that teams aren’t overly interested in sluggers who don’t bring something else to the table. The Brewers’ inability to trade Carter, as well as his eventual signing with the Yankees on a mere $3.5MM deal, suggest that the league didn’t think Carter was worth nearly as much as the arbitration process would have paid him.
In Carter’s place, the Brewers landed Thames, whose unusual background makes him an interesting and somewhat outside-the-box fit for the team’s first-base opening. Thames spent two forgettable seasons with the Blue Jays and Mariners in 2011 and 2012 before heading to the NC Dinos in South Korea, where he emerged as one of the KBO’s most fearsome sluggers. Even in a league dominated by offense, Thames’ numbers stood out — he hit 124 home runs in Korea in a mere 1,634 plate appearances. He’s also still just 30, young enough that he could have several more power-hitting seasons left in him.
There’s still very limited data on how KBO stats will translate to the Majors, and the existing precedents for prime-age sluggers point in different directions — Jung Ho Kang has been a success (his off-the-field problems notwithstanding), while Byung Ho Park’s first season was a failure. Perhaps the biggest difference between Kang and Park prior to their arrivals in the states, though, was their plate discipline. Kang had 293 strikeouts in his last three seasons in Korea, while Park had a very high 399 (including 161 in his last season there). Thames, like Kang, had 293 whiffs in his three seasons in the KBO, suggesting a balanced approach that could play well as he returns to the big leagues. The well-rounded offensive game Thames demonstrated in Korea, where he posted OBPs above .420 in all of his three seasons, also contrasts sharply with that of Carter. No one really knows how Thames’ game will play in the big leagues at this point, but the Brewers, as a rebuilding club that didn’t have an obvious fix at first, were in great position to gamble on a relative unknown.
More analysis after the break …Read more
- The Brewers are pushing their trio of catching competitors hard in camp, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writes. Manager Craig Counsell says that’s by design, as the club seeks to find out just what it has in backstops Manny Pina, Andrew Susac, and Jett Bandy. With the Brewers still haven’t tipped their hand as to which will make the roster and how the time will be shared, but Counsell says he’s pleased with how things have gone thus far. “As young players, we’re putting a lot of responsibility on them, also,” he said. “We’re all pleased with how they’ve accepted that responsibility.”