The Brewers weren't nearly as active at the Winter Meetings as I expected them to be--though that's just based on the moves they made and the rumors we heard publicly, they could be and probably are still working on a number of fronts. Still, they did trade Adam Lind and add three new players to the major league roster. So despite the (perceived) inactivity they did accomplish a lot including likely filling their hole at third base.
The Brewers claimed Garin Cecchini off waivers from the Red Sox and ultimately completed a trade that sent cash considerations to Boston. Cecchini is coming off a pretty terrible season at AAA but I think there are probably extenuating circumstances that might have contributed to his poor performance.
He had a pretty solid season in AAA in 2014 which included a call-up to the big league club during which he performed well. He probably thought he had the inside track on the opening day third base job. Then the Red Sox went out and signed both Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. And instead of staying in the majors Cecchini got sent back to AAA where the Red Sox had him bouncing between third base, left field--a position he had limited experience at--and first base--a position he'd never played before. On top of that they tried reworking his swing mechanics.
I have to believe it's more than a little possible all of that negatively impacted his season to some degree. The Brewers can offer him positional stability, an open pathway to a major league job--they don't have another real option for third base--and a new coaching staff. I can't say for sure he'll get back to his sweet swing, but a lot of the noise is gone now. I'll just say I'm very hopeful.
He does still have a minor league option remaining. So it's possible he could be sent back to AAA. It wouldn't be inexcusable either, after his struggles last season. But with no other real options at the big league level--unless they want to play Jonathan Villar or Yadiel Rivera out of position--there's a very good chance Cecchini opens the season with the Brewers.
Two players that will have to open the season with the Brewers are their Rule 5 selections: RHP Zack Jones and UTIL Colin Walsh. The Brewers have to keep them at the major league level for the whole season or send them back to their respective clubs. It is possible they take a look at them in spring training and decide to ship them back, but for now we'll assume they stick around.
The other two roster changes from the last time we did this are the subtractions of Adam Lind and Elian Herrera. The former was traded and the latter was DFA'd. For right now the only real option to replace Lind is Jason Rogers. The Brewers are looking outside the organization for potential fits at first base though. So it's possible Rogers moves back to the bench. Herrera's role with the team has been replaced--for now--by Walsh.
One last thing. I don't currently have recent acquisition OF Ramon Flores on the opening day roster. That's because of the ankle injury he sustained late in the season. He's not a guarantee to be back by April 4th. But he's out of minor league options so as soon as he is ready he'll need to be added to the active major league roster. He plays a similar role to Shane Peterson so it's possible he takes his spot.
With that out of the way, here's what the Opening Day roster might look like if the Brewers only filled from within:
|C: Jonathan Lucroy- $4.35M||C/1B: Martin Maldonado - $1.125M||SP: Matt Garza- $12.5M||RP: Will Smith- $1.2M|
|1B: Jason Rogers- $507,500||INF/OF: Colin Walsh- $507,500||SP: Wily Peralta- $2.8M||RP: Jeremy Jeffress- $507,500|
|2B: Scooter Gennett- $507,500||INF: Jonathan Villar- $507,500||SP: Jimmy Nelson- $507,500||RP: Michael Blazek- $507,500|
|3B: Garin Cecchini- $507,500||INF: Yadiel Rivera- $507,500||SP: T. Jungmann- $507,500||RP: Corey Knebel- $507,500|
|SS: Jean Segura- $3.2M||OF/1B: S. Peterson- $507,500||SP: Zach Davies- $507,500||RP: Tyler Thornburg- $507,500|
|OF: Ryan Braun- $20M||RP: Ariel Pena- $507,500|
|OF: Khris Davis- $507,500||RP: Zack Jones- $507,500|
|OF: Domingo Santana- $507,500|
|Total: $30,087,500||Total: $3,155,000||Total: $16,822,500||Total: $4,245,000|
|Team Total: $58,643,333|
There's a lot going on with the final payroll figure, but I chose to just simplify things for you. There is some deferred money involved and I don't know how the Brewers account for that. So I'm considering the full value of Garza and Braun's contracts and adding the deferred money they owe Kyle Lohse--$2.33 million--starting this year. You can consider that final payroll number as the absolute highest range.
I've also included Jonathan Broxton's $2 million buyout. It's possible the Brewers counted that towards last year's payroll. But I think it would make more sense to include it in 2016's payroll. So I did.
This of course is not to suggest that's the team or the payroll the Brewers will take into opening day. If I had to guess right now I'd say they sign a center fielder and a first baseman. They might still trade Jean Segura, Khris Davis, Will Smith, and/or Jonathan Lucroy. None of that is a guarantee. But I think these are the possible moves left to make.
Here's the interesting thing. If the Brewers sign a first baseman they can simply move Jason Rogers back to the bench. They could then send Yadiel Rivera back to AAA as he has options remaining and the positions he plays are covered by Villar and Walsh. Things get more complicated if they sign a center fielder.
That would push Domingo Santana out of the starting role there, but what do they do with him then? Ryan Braun is entrenched at one of the corners and they're NOT moving him to first base. It makes little sense to move either Davis or Santana to the bench. Davis can only play LF so he wouldn't be a good fit for the bench and well...they're just not going to do that. Santana needs to get consistent at-bats to continue developing so he really shouldn't ride the bench either. He does have a minor league option so it's possible the Brewers could send him to AAA, but he has nothing left to prove at that level.
David Stearns has been adamant that their top priority right now is finding a center fielder. So I feel reasonably confident they will. With the roster crunch it would create it seems rather likely they would push to find a trade partner for Khris Davis. That's just speculation on my part but it's something to keep any eye on. Remember that just because the winter meetings are over doesn't meant the Brewers are done wheeling and dealing.