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Recent waiver claims cause roster crunch

The Brewers recently claimed a center fielder, first baseman, and catcher. The first two could theoretically be easy fits. But the Brewers already have two catchers, leaving them with a decision to make regarding Josmil Pinto.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

I usually do a roster projection update after the Brewers make a transaction in the offseason. But I haven't done that since the Brewers claimed CF Kirk Nieuwenhuis, 1B Andy Wilkins, and C Josmil Pinto off waivers on the 23rd. The holiday had something to do with that. But I'm also just not sure how this will impact the roster.

Here's my most recent roster update (before the waiver claims):

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 OF: 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

It's easy enough to swap out Keon Broxton for Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Broxton has minor league options remaining. Nieuwenhuis is out of minor league options. So that's pretty straight forward.

The 40-man roster is full right now so Will Middlebrooks--who isn't on the roster--gets removed. As of this moment that means Andy Wilkins is the top in-house first base option if only because there's no other first baseman on the 40-man roster. I'd be surprised, though, if the Brewers actually went into the season with Wilkins as the starting first baseman. He does have minor league options remaining and I think it's much more likely he starts the year at AAA.

The one player that is hard to find a spot for is catcher Josmil Pinto. The Brewers aren't very likely to carry three catchers. It's certainly possible. It's a rebuilding year so the bench construction doesn't really matter. But it's pretty rare for any club to do it. And who do you remove in favor of Pinto? Walsh, Villar, and Peterson are out of minor league options. It doesn't make sense to send Domingo Santana to AAA. Maldonado has a minor league option remaining but it doesn't make sense to send him down either.

Here's what catches my eye about this potential roster. There are five outfielders. And with Nieuwenhuis a more likely candidate to play in center than Domingo Santana, I see 3 starting caliber outfielders with only two available spots. It's incredibly unlikely the Brewers can trade Ryan Braun and they've stated time and again they're not considering him at other positions. So we know he's pretty much guaranteed one of those spots. That means we're looking at competition between Santana and Khris Davis for the other spot.

The most simple solution is sending Santana to AAA. That opens the roster spot needed for Pinto. But I don't believe that's something the Brewers want to do. They could also DFA Shane Peterson. But that's only a temporary solution because eventually Ramon Flores will need a spot on the bench. And besides, it seems unlikely they have Santana ride the bench. I could be wrong about that though. The other obvious scenario is trading Khris Davis. At this point I have no idea how likely that is.

I suppose it's also possible the Brewers look to trade one of their more established catchers: Lucroy or Maldonado. But I'm beginning to get the sense that is unlikely at this junction. The only other option I see is to attempt to pass Josmil Pinto through waivers. I actually think this is the most likely outcome.

Pinto has been put on waivers twice this offseason. First by the Twins. Then by the Padres. Pinto has a pretty solid bat--even if it did take a step backwards in 2015. There's still potential for a good batting average, with enough walks to provide a solid OBP, and 12-15 home runs. It's possible he could become an above average offensive catcher. But the bat doesn't profile quite as well anywhere else and he's never really played anywhere else either. The real problem is that he's not very good defensively. He's bad at throwing out runners and framing pitches. So bad the Twins started using him as a DH.

With over 4000 innings logged at the catcher position it's probably not wise to expect him to finally figure things out in his eleventh year. But the Brewers have had success in developing catchers--in the minors. Maybe if they can give him a year with their minor league coaching staff he can start to build on that. It's not much to go on but it's probably better than having him ride the major league bench. And even a slim chance he can work at catcher is better than trying to live with a below average bat at first base--for example.

The risk is in losing him on waivers. But the Brewers can afford to be more strategic in their timing. Most rosters are full in spring training. And with a poor defensive catcher, if the Brewers wait long enough into spring training, they might be able to sneak him through waivers. That's my guess as to what happens with Pinto, barring a Lucroy/Maldonado trade.

There are still four months left in the offseason. Plenty of stuff can and will happen. The wavier claim of Josmil Pinto--coupled with the full 40 man roster--just makes it all the more clear. And that's really my main point here. It's going to be very interesting to see how things shake out.