Arbitration-eligible (with projected salaries from MLBTR):
Write "tender" or "non-tender" after each of the following names. You can also trade a player before or after tendering a contract.
- Jared Hughes - $2.2 mil - tender
- Jeremy Jeffress - $2.6 mil - non-tender
- Stephen Vogt - $3.9 mil - non-tender
- Jonathan Villar - $3.0 mil - tender
- Jimmy Nelson - $4.7 mil - tender
- Hernan Perez - $2.2 mil - non-tender
- Corey Knebel - $4.1 mil - tender
Explain the toughest calls if necessary:
Jeffress and Hughes seemed a bit redundant to me as right-handed ground ball specialists, so I kept the one who was more successful in 2017. Redundancy was the same issue with Villar and Perez, both players who are probably better served as utility players at this point in their respective careers. I stuck with Villar, who has demonstrated the higher upside of the pair, and plan on having my him coached up in the outfield during Spring Training next season. As for Vogt, his atrocious defense and the poor on-base ability he showed last season with the Brewers gave reason to explore other catching upgrades.
Contract options (pick up or buy out)
Impending free agents (re-sign, let go or qualifying offer)
- Neil Walker: made $17.2 mil in 2017 (ineligible for QO) - let go
- Anthony Swarzak: made $900K in 2017 (ineligible for QO) - let go
- Matt Garza: made $12.5 mil in 2017 - let go
#1: RHP Miles Mikolas (2 years, $12 mil)
#2: RHP Tyler Chatwood (2 years, $20 mil w/ vesting option for 3rd year at $13 mil)
#3: RHP Steve Cishek (2 years, $14 mil)
After an unsuccessful first run through the MLB between 2012-14, Mikolas went over to Japan and became one of the top pitchers in NPB. Last season he posted a 2.25 ERA across a league-leading 188.0 innings with 187 strikeouts and just 23 walks. He, along with Chatwood, will provide some low-cost depth for the starting rotation. Chatwood may still have some untapped upside now that he’s able to leave Coors Field, though he’s at least established himself as a back-end type starter. Health has been an issue, though, so an option has been placed in his contract that will vest if he’s able to pitch a combined 325 innings during the first two seasons of the deal.
In the bullpen, Cishek has never posted an ERA above 3.58 in a career that has spanned parts of 8 seasons. He’s not reliant on top-notch velocity, but he generates a good amount of ground balls, limits walks, and excels at avoiding hard contact. The last two season he has posted DRA- marks of 59 and 51. Cishek has a much longer track record of success than Anthony Swarzak was available for around the same price (per MLB Trade Rumor’s estimation), so I went with the more proven arm.
Propose a trade or two or several that you think sound reasonable for both sides, and the rationale behind them. Example:
#1: Trade Lewis Brinson, Corbin Burnes, Jesus Aguilar, Trey Supak, and Josh Pennington to Tampa Bay for Chris Archer.
#2: Trade Luis Ortiz, Mauricio Dubon, and Bowdien Derby to Philadelphia for Cesar Hernandez.
#3: Trade Lucas Erceg, Jorge Lopez to Los Angeles for Yasmani Grandal.
With Brett Phillips showing well down the stretch in 2017, that made it easier to feel comfortable dealing top prospect Lewis Brinson as a part of the package for Chris Archer, the legitimate frontline starter that Milwaukee needs. The package to acquire him was steep, no doubt, but the Brewers now have a workhorse with four straight years of 190+ innings to put at the top of their rotation and remain there for the next four seasons.
To shore up the hole at the keystone, the Brewers parted with another good package of talent to bring in Cesar Hernandez from the Phillies. The 27 year old switch-hitter has posted OBPs of better than .370 in each of the last two seasons, drawing plenty of walks while not striking out excessively. He doesn’t offer a ton of power, but he’s a versatile on-base machine with experience at third base, shortstop, and center field in addition to his work at second. Hernandez is controlled for another three seasons through arbitration.
Manny Pina had an excellent first full season in the big leagues, but he faded a bit down the stretch as he became a near-everyday player last season. With Vogt getting non-tendered, Yasmani Grandal was brought in to share time with Pina behind the plate. Grandal is a switch-hitter who mashes righties and has launched at least 15 home runs in four straight seasons, including 49 total between 2016-17. He’s been an outstanding pitch framer and overall stout defender behind the plate during his career. He’ll most likely catch 3 out of every 5 days with Pina covering the rest of the starts (provided they’re both healthy), and Grandal’s potent bat should be a welcome addition to the lineup. He’s a free agent after 2018.
C Yasmani Grandal ($7.7 mil)
1B Eric Thames ($5 mil)
2B Cesar Hernandez ($4.7 mil)
3B Travis Shaw ($545K)
SS Orlando Arcia ($545K)
LF Ryan Braun ($19 mil)
CF Brett Phillips ($545K)
RF Domingo Santana ($545K)
OF Keon Broxton ($545K)
IF Eric Sogard ($2.4 mil)
IF/OF Jonathan Villar ($3 mil)
C Manny Pina ($545K)
SP1 RHP Chris Archer ($6.2 mil)
SP2 RHP Chase Anderson ($4.25 mil)
SP3 RHP Zach Davies ($545K)
SP/LR RHP Miles Mikolas ($6 mil)
SP/LR RHP Tyler Chatwood ($9 mil)
SP/LR RHP Junior Guerra ($545K)
SP/LR LHP Brent Suter ($545K)
RHP Jacob Barnes ($545 K)
RHP Taylor Williams ($545 K)
RHP Jared Hughes ($2.2 mil)
RHP Steve Cishek ($7 mil)
LHP Josh Hader ($545K)
RHP Corey Knebel ($4.1 mil)
DL: RHP Jimmy Nelson ($4.7 mil)
Total Projected Payroll: $91,790,000
Rather than focus on free agency to shore up the roster this winter, my version of Milwaukee’s offseason has them pouring their resources into the trade market. The Brewers have a strong foundation of talent in place at the big league level, allowing them to utilize their stash of prospects to bring in controllable studs Chris Archer and Cesar Hernandez. Those deals (along with the one-year rental of Grandal) did indeed make for a notable hit to the farm system, but there are still plenty of talented players left over. And if for some reason things were to go sideways, Acher and Hernandez could still be traded later on in their contracts to recoup some of that lost prospect value.
I did dip into free agency to shore up the pitching depth, bringing in two starting-caliber arms with higher upside than their projected contracts suggest. Mikolas and Chatwood will compete for rotation spots in Spring Training with Junior Guerra and Brent Suter, with the losers headed to the bullpen in long relief roles. This allows Brandon Woodruff to head back to AAA for some more fine-tuning and to stay stretched out as rotation depth.
The additions of Grandal and Hernandez to the starting lineup should provide a jolt to the offense. Phillips and Broxton will platoon in center field, and with Jesus Aguilar out of the picture that will allow Ryan Braun to start taking some starts at first base to spell Eric Thames against lefties.
Time to win a World Series.