The calendar has flipped as the earth celebrated another birthday last Friday, and wow, it's hard to believe that the earth is now 2016 years old. Science is truly amazing, folks.* The coming of the new year represents another passed checkpoint in the long, cold wait for baseball's return, and today there are just 46 days until Milwaukee's pitchers and catchers report on February 19, or the approximate amount of time it takes a female gray squirrel to bring a newborn to term. So if you're having trouble keeping track, I'd recommend putting on some Barry White down by the birdfeeder, letting nature take its course and just waiting until you hear the pitter-patter of tiny paws, signaling the arrival of Spring Training.
While you're messing around with the ecosystem of your backyard, the Brewers haven't the time to worry about the loves and losses of the animal kingdom -- there's simply too much yet to accomplish. We all know about some of the things the Brewers are doing in their organizational rebuild, so let's take a look at what remains to be done to field a team for 2016.
Find a first baseman
Coming into the 2015 off-season, the Brewers had a very clear need to fill their organizational ranks in the corner infield spots, from the major league team all the way down to rookie ball. Adam Lind technically remained the team's incumbent at first base after his $8 million option for 2016 was picked up, but his trade was perhaps the most foregone of conclusions for Milwaukee's immediate rebuilding efforts. Without a viable major league starter at either position and without any legitimate prospects for either position playing above A-ball, one of Milwaukee's top priorities this off-season was to fill out their organizational and major league depth chart at first and third base.
Between the acquisitions of Jonathan Villar, Garin Cecchini, Will Middlebrooks and Colin Walsh, it would seem that the Brewers have enough options at the hot corner to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. Villar and Walsh both possess the type of bats you'd rather have coming out of the middle infield, while Cecchini and Middlebrooks are a pair of former top Red Sox prospects who lost their shine after failing to produce at the major league level. In what is likely a lost year, Milwaukee has the luxury (perhaps that's not the best word for the situation) of giving these players at bats while the stakes are low. A team like Boston, facing the expectations of a perennial contender, doesn't necessarily have the ability to let Cecchini hit through it and see if he can realize the potential that once made him one of the game's top prospects.
While third base is likely sorted, there's still work to do on the opposite side of the diamond. In the wake of Jason Rogers being traded to the Pirates, the entire Brewers organization has a combined 152 innings of major league experience at first base. More than half of that comes from recent waiver pick-up Andy Wilkins, who possesses a .140/.178/.186 slash line in 45 major league plate appearances. The rest comes from Middlebrooks and Hernan Perez, neither of whom are on the 40-man roster as of today, and Shane Peterson, whose spot on the 40-man may be in jeopardy as the Brewers continue to hoard outfielders.
It's conceivable that Milwaukee could enter 2016 with one of those players as their starting first baseman, but it's more likely, as has been talked about on this site ad nausuem, that they'll look to add a short-term free agent on a value-rebuilding contract. Your author once again humbly submits his request for Pedro Alvarez, who long ago sold his glove to the baseball devil in exchange for DINGERS.
Name an official closer
Clear the corner outfield logjam
Promising prospect Domingo Santana ended the season in 2015 as the Brewers de facto starting center fielder, but a number of things point to this not being the plan moving forward. One of those things is that GM David Stearns keeps telling us that that's not the plan. Another is the number of major league-ready center fielders the Brewers have collected over the past month: between Keon Broxton, acquired in the Rogers trade, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, whose name I steadfastly refuse to learn to spell and will be copied and pasted on this website until I die, the Brewers likely plan to have a center fielder play center field, which in my humble opinion is a good idea.
This however leaves the Brewers with three starting corner outfielders, and only two corners to put them in. It doesn't benefit Santana's development to have him come off the bench, where his at bats would be limited, nor would it be of any use to send him back down to AAA-Colorado Springs, where he has nothing left to prove. It also doesn't benefit Khris Davis -- and perhaps more importantly to the team, Khris Davis' trade value -- to have him riding the pine either.
As Kyle pointed out today, the number of free agent outfielders that remain available on the market makes it difficult to determine where a potential fit might be for the 27-year-old slugger. One team that could have interest, however, is the San Francisco Giants as they retool their roster for their biennial World Series championship run. It's widely known that the Giants are seeking a solid outfield bat, but after handing big contracts out to pitchers Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija (another name I downright refuse to learn how to spell), they may not have the cheddar to be in on the big names like Yoenis Cespedes and Alex Gordon that remain available.
*I'm just joking, don't write letters.