Baseball’s Winter Meetings begin today as executives from across the league matriculate to the Swan and Dolphin Resort at Walt Disney World in Orlando, where there figures to be plenty of wheeling and dealing over the course of the next several days. With that in mind, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe took the opportunity to preview what each of the league’s 30 teams may look to accomplish before the meetings end on Thursday and everyone heads home. Here’s what he had to say about our own Milwaukee Brewers:
The Brewers have the offense, now they need pitching. They need that No. 1 guy and they’re expected to be in the hunt for Arrieta and Darvish or seek a deal for someone such as Archer. They would have to be willing to move top prospect Lewis Brinson to make any major deal. They would love another reliever, and they would entertain dealing Ryan Braun.
It’s well-known that the Brewers are on the hunt for pitching this winter, with both David Stearns and Craig Counsell emphasizing the need to add proven innings to the rotation for next season in the wake of Jimmy Nelson’s shoulder surgery. Though Stearns has publicly downplayed all of the various scenarios that have been reported, there has been speculation tying his club free agents Jake Arrieta and Lance Lynn as well as trade possibility Chris Archer, among other players who are said to be available. Cafardo doubles down on those reports, saying that Milwaukee is “expected” to be involved in the bidding for Arrieta, Archer, as well as free agent stud Yu Darvish. In addition to starting pitching help, Cafardo suggests that adding to their relief corps is a priority.
Reports have also surfaced in the past few days that the Brewers are receiving calls regarding their plethora of advanced outfield depth, though most of that speculation has revolved around Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana. Cafardo adds that the team is still willing to listen to offers for former MVP outfielder Ryan Braun, who recently celebrated his 34th birthday. Braun, the final pillar left standing from the before the rebuild began, was nearly dealt to the Dodgers in an August 2016 deal that wound up falling through. Interest waned in his services last season though, as the outfielder battled injuries while batting .268/.336/.487 with 17 home runs and 12 steals in 425 plate appearances. While his 110 wRC+ was still productive, it was the lowest total that Braun has ever put up in his career. Some of that can probably be attributed to bad luck, however, as Braun’s .292 BABIP was the the poorest mark of his career even though his 39% hard-contact rate was his 2nd-highest ever.
There are several complicating factors to a potential Braun trade, of course. First is the fact that he earned full 10-5 no-trade rights last season after becoming a player with at least 10 years of MLB service and 5 consecutive years with the same team. He’s also still owed a sizable $57 mil guaranteed over the next three seasons, including the buyout of his 2021 contract option. Those obstacles haven’t stopped writers from speculating about a possible Braun deal, such as this Eno Sarris article from The Athletic that suggests that the Giants should pursue Braun as an alternative to Giancarlo Stanton. Braun has previously suggested that at this point, though, the only team he would be willing to approve a deal to is his hometown Dodgers.
One last interesting note from Cafardo is the suggestion that if the Brewers are serious about landing Chris Archer or another front-line pitcher via trade, they will need to be willing to part with top prospect Lewis Brinson. Milwaukee was previously unwilling to include Brinson in deals for Jose Quintana and Sonny Gray this past summer, though Stearns recently indicated in an interview Tom Haudricourt that that doesn’t necessarily mean Brinson or other top prospects would be off-limits this winter if the right deal were to come along:
“We’ve been pretty consistent that we don’t have untouchables,” Stearns said. “We’re willing to talk about anyone. That’s always been our philosophy.
“If the right deal comes along that motivates us on certain players, we have to listen. We have some prospects and younger, controllable major-league players that we think highly of. The industry also thinks highly of them. So, if some sort of blockbuster deal emerges that we think makes sense, we have to pay attention to it.”
Milwaukee’s GM has said that while there isn’t anything imminent, he and his front office are involved in several trade and free agent conversations. With all the speculation swirling, there’s certainly reason to believe that the Milwaukee Nine may make a splash during the Winter Meetings.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs