The rebuilding Brewers almost assuredly won't be involved in the bidding for any of the highly priced free agents this winter (sorry to those on the #BringBackZack bandwagon). That does not mean, however, that the club will be spurning free agency altogether.
In an interview yesterday with MLB.com's Carrie Muskat, Milwaukee's GM David Stearns sounded open to the possibility of making some outside additions at center field and third base. Currently, the club is slated to open with Domingo Santana patrolling center while the hot corner could be manned by some combination of Elian Herrera, Yadiel Rivera, and Luis Sardinas.
Stearns noted that Santana "proved that he can do it if we need him to (play center field)," but added that he is better suited for a corner outfield spot. Beyond Santana, the club doesn't view any of their stable of outfielders as a candidate to play center field on a regular basis.
Regarding the third base situation, Stearns told Muskat "(O)bviously, it's a position that we probably need to get more production out of going forward." Stearns was more succinct regarding pursuing outside help at third, saying "we're certainly also going to look at external options."
It's hard for me to envision the Brewers bringing in an everyday center fielder unless they make a move to trade one of their several outfielders. Ryan Braun and Khris Davis are both proven as everyday options, and making an outside addition to take playing time away from those two or reducing the opportunity for Santana to prove himself as a regular wouldn't make sense. As Derek wrote earlier this week, the club might have trouble finding good value for any of their outfielders on the trade market due to the significant number of them available in free agency. If the Brewers can't match up with a trade partner, then they could conceivably try and add a fourth outfielder type capable of playing center as an upgrade for Shane Peterson. Former Brewer Nori Aoki could be a reasonably priced option in that vein, and his left handed bat could be useful in a righty heavy outfield. Peter Bourjos might also be a fit as a backup if he is non tendered by the Cardinals.
Based on what Stearns said in his interview, it seems more likely the club ends up adding a free agent third baseman than an outfielder. The club lacks a long-term third base option in the upper minors, and while the current triumvirate of options could provide solid defense, none project to have the bat desired at a corner infield spot. Derek and I have already noted that Juan Uribe or David Freese could be potential targets at the hot corner that should be available for a reasonable cost. Japanese import Nobuhiro Matsuda could be an intriguing short term option as he makes the jump to the US at age 33. Korean third baseman Jae-Gyun Hwang could represent another relatively low-cost option if he is posted by his KBO club this winter.
Whoever the club brings in off the open market this offseason (if anyone), don't expect to see any long-term deals. Anyone that Milwaukee signs at this point in their rebuild figures to be a stop-gap or buy-low option, someone that could be flipped at the trade deadline for prospects. Stearns has said that the free agent market is not the avenue through which he wants to build a sustainable contender, and he also told David Laurila of Fangraphs that owner Mark Attanasio "has given me complete autonomy" to build the club according to the vision he expressed during the hiring process. Stearns ended his interview with Muskat by saying that there is "nothing too exciting to report at this point" from the GM Meetings in Boca Raton, Florida, so we probably should not be expecting to hear news of a signing break any time soon.