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Milwaukee Brewers 2016 In Review (Part 1): (Re)Building the Perfect Beast

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Let’s look back on the year that was.

MLB: General Managers Meetings Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

To forestall the obvious observation: the Brewers have NEVER been a perfect beast. But that doesn’t fit Don Henley’s album title, and that fit so well that I used it anyways.

We’ll go month by month, with a transaction summary at the end of each. January through June today; then July through December. For such a mediocre season it sure had its fun moments and reasons for hope.

JANUARY

Slingin’ David Stearns was very active last January, and the highlights were the free agent signing of Chris Carter on the 6th, and the trade of Jean Segura on the 30th. Carter went on to lead the NL in homers and games played. Jean went to the D’Backs along with Tyler Wagner for Chase Anderson, Aaron Hill, and Isan Diaz.

After an OK start, a bad stretch, and then settling down, Anderson pretty much gave the Brewers what they traded for: a starter than more or less could keep them in games for 5 or 6 innings. Hill performed well beyond expectations and was flipped to the Red Sox at mid-season, and Diaz shone in A ball, cracking the top 100 prospect list by the end of the season.

Minor League FA signings: 10; Major League FA signings: 1; Trades: 2; Players Designated for Assignment: 3; (passed waivers and were assigned to minors: 1)

FEBRUARY

This was a quieter month over-all, but featured the trade of BCB favorite Khris (‘Khrush’) Davis to the Oakland A’s. Davis went on to have a good year in Oakland, with a .247/.307/.524 slash (OPS .831) with 42 homers and 109 RBI, while the return - catcher Jacob Nottingham and pitcher Bubba Derby - toiled in the Brewer minors. Interestingly, Khrush slashed .247/.323/.505 (OPS .828) the previous season in Milwaukee. The A’s got what they traded for.

Minor League FA signings: 1; Major League FA signings: 1; Waiver claim: 1; Players that passed waivers: 1; Players released: 1

MARCH

With the team in spring training, management was again not overly active on the procurement front. Perhaps the hottest controversy of March was the status of our favorite stray, Hank, and the Brewers’ assurances that they weren’t trying to pull the fur over our eyes.

March 20th saw Rymer Liriano suffer a scary injury when hit by a pitch. His injuries kept him out for the whole season, and he was lost on waivers to the White Sox this off season.

Minor League FA signings: 3; Players released: 1

Spring Training record: 14-14; 9th in Cactus League...no Cactus Cup. (BTW, the Cubs went 11-19, for a 14th place finish; Arizona was the champ at 24-8)

APRIL

Baseball! Just before the season opened the Brewers signed Carlos Torres after he was released by the Braves and passed through waivers. The April 2nd signing didn’t get a lot of attention, but Torres went on to become one of the most reliable arms out of the pen, going from a mop-up guy to a mid-leverage situation reliever to occasional substitute closer.

Several Brewer starters struggled to open the season, with Taylor Jungmann the worst among them.

An important first occurred on April 6th, well, actually a couple: a GWRBI for Chris Carter and the first recap by yours truly.

The Brewers had a forgettable first month, going 8-15 and finding themselves already 9.5 games behind the Cubs.

Major League FA signings: 1; Minor League FA signings: 1; Designated for Assignment: 1; Trades - 1

MAY

May 1st saw an announcement about a starting pitcher that turned out to be very fortuitous for the Brewers: Junior Guerra was coming up from Colorado springs on May 3rd. Guerra went on to actually become the Brewers’ ace, as predicted by Kyle repeatedly during the off season, spring training, and regular season. Kyle’s prescience gave him a leg up when the coveted editorship of BCB became available, and he replaced Derek Harvey later in the season.

May 7th saw Aaron Hill continue his resurgence from a slow start with a 3 homer, 7 RBI performance that led the Brewers to a 13-7 extra inning win. Hill had a grand slam in the 10th inning.

My 12th saw JP tell us about budding Brewers’ legend Tim Dillard add to his legendary status.

Milwaukee bounced back for a 15-14 month, ending up at 23-29, 13 games behind the Cubs.

Minor League FA signings: 4; Waiver claims: 2; Designated for assignment: 2; Passed through waivers: 2; Trades: 1

JUNE

The annual player draft is in June, and Kyle Lesniewski gave us a look at potential picks. First pick Corey Ray was prominently featured. Lucas Erceg came in the second, as the Brewers added a third baseman to their prospect list. Erceg had a surprisingly good season, finishing up at A ball Appleton by the end of the season with an OPS of .895.

On June 12th, the Brewers sent another starting pitcher to the minors to try and get his stuff together: Wily Peralta went to AAA Colorado Springs after a very poor start to the season. Peralta ended up struggling big time at the Springs, but eventually came back to the big club and pitched well enough to still be in the Brewers’ plans for at least 2017.

The Brewers were 12-14 in June, finishing the month at 35-43, 16 behind Chicago.

Minor League FA signings: 8; Designated for Assignment: 1; Lost to Waivers: 1; Lost on return of Rule 5 picks: 2; Draft signings: 35

THE STATE OF THE REBUILD

So...David Stearns amassed the following statistics in the first six months of 2016: Minor League FA signings: 27
Major League FA signings: 3
Designated for Assignment: 7
Lost to Waivers: 1
Waiver Claims: 2
Trades: 4 (traded 4 players, received 7)
Outright Releases: 2
Rule 5 returns to original teams: 2
Draft signings: 36

By my count, that’s 48 transactions not including the draft signings. And it doesn’t include the many disabled list, minor league assignments and call-ups that didn’t involve players leaving or joining the organization.

Next up: More (and more significant!) player movement from July through December. The Boys of Summer would continue to entertain us (for the most part), David Stearns remained a Man With a Mission, and You’re Not Drinking Enough seemed less of a reasonable reaction to the Brewers.