Now that the World Series has ended the 2017 MLB season has drawn to a close, fans and front offices will start turning their focus on the how their team might be built for 2018 and beyond. As was discussed in our offseason preview earlier this week, this could be a pivotal winter for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Our beloved local nine will be looking to build on an 86-win breakthrough in 2017, and they have enough cash on hand and quality prospects in the pipeline to basically do whatever they’d like to as far as personnel moves go in the coming months. The only question is how aggressive Slingin’ David Stearns and company will be willing to get.
According to one outlet, there’s reason to believe that the Brewers may indeed “go big” this winter. Each year MLB Trade Rumors ranks their top 50 MLB Free Agents and predicts the contracts that those players will receive, and from whom. According to author Tim Dierkes’ conjectures, the Brewers will sign three of the top available players before next season begins:
4. RHP Jake Arrieta - 4 years, $100 mil
The 2015 Cy Young award winner has been one of the top pitchers in the National League over the last 4 seasons, compiling a 2.67 ERA across 751.1 innings pitched dating back to the start of 2014. He wasn’t quite as dominant in 2017, though, posting a 3.53 ERA while pitching 168.1 innings for the Cubs. ERA estimators weren’t even that high on him, with FIP- (96) and DRA- (90) painting him more as a mid-rotation starter than the ace he’s been in the past. He had some issues with the home run ball this year (1.23 HR/9), allowed the second-most hard contact of his career (29.4%), and lost nearly two MPH on his average fastball, according to Pitch Info data (92.6 MPH in 2017). At age 32, he’s on the older side for a free agent pitcher, as well. Still, Arrieta does keep himself in excellent physical shape and even in a “down” year, provided a lot of quality innings for the NL Central champs. MLBTR expects him to begin the winter by seeking a 6 year contract, but ultimately believes that the Brewers will sign him for 4 years/$100 mil. The Cardinals, Nationals, Astros, Rangers, Phillies, Yankees, Angels, Mariners, Braves, Twins, and Dodgers are listed as possibilites for Arrieta, as well.
28. INF Neil Walker - 2 years, $20 mil
Walker enjoyed another strong season in what’s been a very productive 9-year career, posting a .265/.362/.439 slash (114 wRC+) across 448 plate appearances with the Brewers and Mets. He clubbed double-digit homers for the 8th straight season, launching 14 dingers, and he also drew free passes at the highest rate (12.3%) of his career. The veteran doesn’t strike out a ton (17.4% career), gets on base, has some pop, and is versatile defensively - he started games at first base, second base, and third base during his 38 game stint with Milwaukee. Walker is entering his age-32 season and though he’s a switch-hitter, at this point he’s probably best utilized as a platoon bat against right-handed batters. As such, MLBTR pegs his return to the Brewers to cost only a total of $20 mil spread out over a 2-year term. The Angels, Blue Jays, Mets and Red Sox are also mentioned as possible suitors for Walker’s services.
36. RHP Anthony Swarzak - 2 years, $14 mil
Swarzak enjoyed the finest season of an up-and-down 8-year career in 2017, posting a 2.33 ERA and 67 DRA- across 77.1 innings covering 70 appearances with the White Sox and Brewers. His 95.0 MPH average fastball velocity (per Pitch Info) last year was the highest of his career, helping spur a strikeout rate of 30% that was nearly double his previous career total across 287 MLB games. He struck out more than 4 batters for every walk he issued in 2017 and controlled contact well, allowing a below-average hard hit rate and only 0.70 HR/9. Swarzak signed a minor league deal last winter before his surprising breakout campaign, and has never earned a 7-figure salary in career where he’s earned only about $5 mil total. He’s well-positioned to possibly triple those earnings entering his age-32 season, looking at the best opportunity he may ever have to secure a multiyear guarantee. MLBTR pegs Swarzak for a 2-year, $14 mil contract with Milwaukee, though the possibility of a 3-year pact is noted. The righty reliever has indicated he would be interested in a reunion with Milwaukee, too.
Beyond the three players predicted to land in The Good Land, Dierkes believes that Milwaukee could be involved in the bidding for starting pitchers Masahiro Tanaka (#5) and Lance Lynn (#9), as well. The three biggest needs in Milwaukee are rotation help, bullpen depth, and second base, and the avenue is there for the franchise to address every one of those weaknesses without having to dip into their coveted pool of prospects. That’s not to say they won’t be involved in the trade market this winter, of course.
Buckle up for a busy offseason, folks.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs