The Brewers trade of Jason Rogers to the Pirates came as quite a surprise. I honestly didn't think Jason Rogers had any trade value. Not because he isn't any good--I'm actually quite a fan--but because his major league track record is so limited. Obviously the Pirates felt like he was worth acquiring. And now that he's gone the Brewers projected 2016 opening day roster has become even more unclear than before.
Here's what the roster might look like right now if the Brewers 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: Will Middlebrooks- $1.2M||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: Domingo Santana- $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: Keon Broxton- $507,500|
|Total: $30,780,000||Total: $3,155,000||Total: $16,822,500||Total: $4,245,000|
|Team Total: $59,335,833|
There are two significant changes to this roster projection. First, Jason Rogers is replaced by Will Middlebrooks. Be aware, I'm not arguing that Middlebrooks will be on the opening day roster. In fact, I believe the Brewers will sign a free agent for that spot. But as of right now, Middlebrooks is the leading in-house candidate to take over first base.
Second, is the inclusion of Keon Broxton. He's one of the players the Brewers got in return for Rogers. Broxton is a capable defender in center field and David Stearns has already said he will be given a chance to earn the center field job in spring training. I have him displacing Domingo Santana at the moment but this actually brings up more question marks than it solves.
As I've argued in the past, Domingo Santana shouldn't be relegated to the bench. It won't help his development to play less frequently. Neither should be sent down to AAA. He has nothing left to prove or learn at that level. Of course Khris Davis really shouldn't be put on the bench either.
They could have Domingo Santana serve a role similar to Gerardo Parra in 2015, where he plays at each three positions making 4 or so starts a week. But that positional instability is easier to thrust upon a veteran player like Parra. And it also means Khris Davis and Ryan Braun would play less. Depending on how much playing time they lose, their trade value could be hurt. If they end up looking like they aren't capable of playing every day teams will be wary.
It's entirely possible Broxton could be sent to AAA to start the season, but the Brewers would still need to find a CF--they've stated multi times they don't intend to go into the season with Santana as their primary CF. So Broxton's presence now just serves to accentuate the roster crunch created by a full time center fielder. It would seem to suggest that a corner outfielder might be traded. It's certainly not a guarantee--they'd have to find a buyer--but it just seems the easiest solution.
Of the three, Khris Davis appears the most likely to be traded. I don't believe the Brewers can move Ryan Braun right now--after offseason back surgery, his persistent thumb issue, and the PED suspension. Unless they can really get blown away, it doesn't make sense to move Santana because he's so young and offers 6 years of team control. He's exactly the type of player the Brewers are looking to acquire.
The outfield isn't the only positional question mark created by the Rogers traded. First base is much more up in the air now. Will Middlebrooks signed a minor league deal with the Brewers and he's probably the current leading in-house candidate to take over at first base. But it's far more likely the Brewers sign a free agent. Even then, Middlebrooks could make the MLB roster.
If you don't count Middlebrooks, the Brewers don't have a clear candidate for back-up first base duties. Shane Peterson has played some first base, but he's more of an emergency/depth option. Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado can play first base too, but it's best not to count on one of your two catchers to be your back-up first baseman. For some reason people seem to be under the impression that recent Rule 5 acquisition, Colin Walsh, can play first base. But according to Baseball Reference he's never logged an inning there.
So let's say the Brewers do trade a corner outfielder and sign a first baseman. The bench could feasibly include: Martin Maldonado, Colin Walsh, Jonathan Villar, Shane Peterson, and Will Middlebrooks. Walsh and Villar give them coverage in the middle infield. Peterson can cover all three OF positions--until Ramon Flores is ready to return to action. Walsh can also play LF. Walsh, Villar, and Middlebrooks get them coverage at third base. And Middlebrooks also gets them coverage at first base. That's an optimal bench makeup.
The Jason Rogers trade is fascinating for a number of reasons. He's the last player I expected the Brewers to trade. He was their top in-house candidate at a position of weakness. But they did seem to fill another weak spot--center field. But then that just makes the outfield composition even more unclear. Which is actually kind of exciting for the trade opportunities it opens up. These are questions we'll get the answer to in the next few months. And I'm very interested to see what happens.