An argument for claiming orphaned free agents Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse, not necessarily in that order.
In all honesty, I don't understand being "comfortable" with Mat Gamel. I realize he's never gotten consistent major league playing time, but he's utterly flopped in the chances he's gotten, is 27 and is coming off of major knee surgery. In all honesty, in spite of his .886 OPS at Nashville, chances are high that he'll be stuck as a Quadruple-A player forever. With Corey Hart out until at least May, the lack of a respectable everyday first baseman in Milwaukee is only going to help dig a significant hole the club hill have to climb out of if it's going to compete for the NL Central title.
Look, I know the Reds look daunting, thanks to their acquisition of Shin Soo-Choo, but they've also significantly downgraded their defense by placing him in center, are taking a major risk by incorporating Aroldys Chapman into the starting rotation, and are also facing regression from Ryan Ludwick. The Reds played like a 91-win team in 2012, and there's a good chance they're not much better than that this year. As for the Cardinals, while their player development system keeps pounding out prospects like Shelby Miller, Oscar Tavares, and Trevor Rosenthal, rookies often struggle when exposed for the first time, their lineup has all aged and their biggest offseason acquisition has been Randy Choate.
Because of all this, the Brewers have as much of a chance as they did last year, when they ponied up the money to sign Aramis Ramirez. Further, it certainly sounds as if Doug Melvin has the go ahead to add a small amount of payroll if it becomes necessary that he's willing to blow a draft pick on Kyle Lohse if his price drops low enough. While this is, frankly, a potentially tremendous idea, giving the Brewers a solid number-two starter and a potentially strong rotation of Yovani Gallardo, Lohse, Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada, and Wily Peralta, it likely won't do enough to offset Hart's absence and recovery and the regression coming for Carlos Gomez. If the Brewers are going to free up enough money to sign Lohse, they may as well try to sell Michael Bourn on a similar pillow contract, designed to tide him over for a year.
Signing both Bourne and Lohse would cost the Brewers both of their top two picks, but the marginal damage of losing the second rounder is far, far less than a first, given that the loss of a first-round pick severely limits a team's flexibility for the rest of the draft, financially speaking. Moreover, the acquisition of Bourn could push Ryan Braun to first base for the first part of the season, giving the Brewers the best defensive outfield in the majors, and providing significant depth when Hart returns. It would also allow Gomez and Aoki to enter into a platoon to nullify their struggles with same-handed pitchers.
Now, obviously all of this would be contingent on Bourn's demands coming down significantly. He's been angling for a five-year deal that seems increasingly unlikely to materialize. But given that no one seems to want to add him on his terms, a one-year deal designed to rebuild his market could be exactly what he needs just before spring training starts. What's more, he and Lohse could provide the extra production necessary to push Milwaukee back into the postseason before their competitive window closes for good.