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BCB Mailbag 36: Hunting, Pitching, and Hunting for Pitching

Answering the burning questions from you, the reader.

Pere David's Deer In Qintong Wetland Nature Reserve
A Pere David's deer, also known as a Milu.
Photo by China Photos/Getty Images

It’s been awhile! After another long week in the books, we are already in December and right on the cusp of baseball’s Winter Meetings. So without further ado, let’s get to those questions:


Could Jeremy Hellickson have a Chase-like awakening with the Crew?

And if so, should they sign him? Also: weren’t the Brewers linked to Hellickson at the trade deadline in July? This suggests Stearns already has interest, no?

My friend and colleague at BP Milwaukee, Nick Zettel, will certainly tell you so. Hellickson isn’t one of the top guys I would target, but Nick lays out an interesting case as to why Hellickson is the ideal buy-low candidate on the free agent market for the Brewers this offseason. He has a similar build, delivery, and repertoire to Chase, which leads Nick to believe that Milwaukee’s coaches and analysts could help him achieve success through adjustments in 2018.

The Brewers were indeed reported to have had interest in Hellickson back in July, so it stands to reason that there would be a similar attraction this winter now that he’s on the open market. Hellickson probably isn’t a guy I’m chasing at this point, but if he’s still on the market later on in the winter I’d be willing to offer him an inexpensive 1-year deal with a team option, or something like that.

Brew Crew Buster asks:

Hughes gets no respect

So the Brewers aren’t bringing Hughes back next year. What does this mean? Do they think they have enough Hughes quality folks in the minors or is it that they want to make a bigger splash in the reliever market?

The more I’ve thought about the Hughes non-tender, the less surprised I was about it. He was very good last season, and I would have preferred to keep him around, at the very least to bring in to camp and compete for a job (the Brewers as a club policy don’t guarantee one-year arbitration salaries, so any of the arb-eligible players on one-year deals can be released in Spring Training and are owed only a portion of their contract via termination pay - either 30 or 45 days worth depending on when they’re released). But adding Jeffress to the fold created a bit of a redundancy - both are ground ball machine middle relievers, and Jeffress throws harder and is younger. Stearns has shown he can be pretty ruthless when it comes to player transactions, all for the sake of the almighty $/WAR. My best guess is that, like he did with Vogt, Stearns offered both Hughes and Jeffress similar contracts and said “accept this or we’ll non-tender you.” Jeffress agreed to the deal (to the reported dismay of the Players Union) while Hughes decided he’d rather test the open market. Given his track record and level of success in 2017, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him score a deal for more than his $2.2 mil arb projection. I still believe that the Brewers will sign a reliever this winter, but I’m looking for it to be someone with more of a track record in the late innings to bridge the gap to Knebel, rather than what Hughes brought to the table.

Junbug11 asks:

Which movie would you rather have on a continuous loop for Xmas?

Elf or A Christmas Story?

For me, A Christmas Story, just because I loved watching it with my sisters and cousins as a kid around Christmas time. These days though I’d probably choose Elf, as my own children happen to love the film and are still a bit too young to properly appreciate A Christmas Story. My 4 year old daughter has already asked a couple times in the past week if we can have spaghetti with syrup and sprinkles on it.

Lerch&Brouhard asks:

Which of the big four free agent pitchers will be the last to sign with anyone?

Which of the four would you prefer the Crew to sign? Would it be the next Wolf/Lohse (decent) or the next Suppan/Looper/Garza (meh at best)?

If money were no object, I’d be all for Milwaukee inking Yu Darvish. He’s easily the best pitcher of the “big four” in my opinion. But taking the Milwaukee market and long-term payroll implications into account, I like Alex Cobb the best. He does have an injury history, but he’s not going to cost as much in years or dollars as Arrieta or Darvish so even if he were to flop, the 3 or 4 year contract he figures to receive couldn’t really become a true albatross. He doesn’t have the strikeouts that Lance Lynn, the other pitcher with him in that ‘next tier’ does, but he does boast pretty stellar control/command of the baseball and has a history of strong ground ball rates. With that type of profile and skill set, I’d bet on him aging more gracefully than Lynn and staying productive longer (provided he can stay on the mound, of course). Plus, he throws a splitter!

As for the last of the “big four” to sign, I’ll say it winds up being Arrieta and that he’ll sign for less than the 6-7 years that he and his agent Scott Boras are shooting for.

jgeisler95 asks:

I'm working quite a bit over the holidays

so this weekend is going to be the only weekend I can get home and go deer hunting. Any tips on how to not freeze if I end up staying out all day Saturday and Sunday trying to fill my tag?

Wear long underwear, multiple pairs of socks, put those Hot Hands things inside your gloves and boots (but not directly on your skin) to keep your fingers and toes nice and toasty, wear a neck gaiter, and keep your ears covered.

CrazyLarry asks:

Chatwood to the Cubs...

3 years $40 million. Possibly means that they are out of the running for Otani?

Given that Ohtani can only sign a minor league deal with a signing bonus (the Cubs are limited to giving him $300K after being penalized for going over their bonus pool previously) I don’t think the Chatwood signing takes them out of the running to the Japanese phenom, no. I don’t know that it’s especially likely that he lands there though. From what I’ve read, it sounds like Seattle and San Diego may have the best shot. I hope he lands in the AL so we can watch him DH and hit dingers on his days off from pitching.

As far as the Chatwood signing goes, the $38 mil guarantee he received was well above the various contract predictions, so good for him for scoring big money. He became quite the popular target of speculation around here and other team sites for pretty much all the same reasons: the home/road splits, the velocity, the spin rate, etc. Even before the winter started he was pegged nationally as “this year’s Charlie Morton.” Every team is pretty smart these days, so there’s little doubt in my mind that Chatwood generated plenty of interest, and that competition for his services was why he was able to score a more significant contract than was prognosticated. But as I mentioned above, Stearns is all about that $/WAR figure, so I’m not surprised he was apparently unwilling to commit roughly $13 mil annually to Chatwood as a free agent based on a middling track record and projections of his future performance. Worth keeping in mind, too, that Chatwood does have two Tommy John surgeries under his belt so he’s a pretty significant injury risk.

Dreman50 asks:

The Catching Logjam

The Brewers currently have 5 catchers on the 40 man roster, which doesn’t seem sustainable. What do you foresee happening with this logjam?

1. The Brewers let one of them walk during Spring Training

2. The Brewers attempt to sneak one or two of them through waivers subsequently succeeding or losing them

3. The Brewers use one or two of them in a trade before Spring Training

4. Something else

Well, both Jett Bandy and Stephen Vogt are out of contract options, so barring an injury to Manny Pina during Spring Training one of those two players will need to be waived. I imagine Susac will remain on the 40 man roster as catching depth due to his remaining minor league option, and Nottingham will continue his development in the minor leagues next season. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bandy is placed on waivers even before Spring Training if a 40 man roster spot is needed, although there may be other candidates (Drake, Jungmann) that get the boot before him.

-JP- asks:

When mail carriers are collecting from the blue mailboxes

What percentage of them contain some form of garbage in them?

I live in the bustling urban setting of Milwaukee, so I’ll guess that here, it’s 100%. In more suburban and rural environments where blue mailboxes aren’t used as frequently by people walking on the sidewalks, I’ll say 75%.

drezdn asks:

Who is pitching opening day 2018 for the Brewers?

Chris Archer.

Thanks for all the great questions this week everyone, I tried to answer a bunch of them in an effort to make up for missing the last mailbag. Here’s hoping that there will be a bunch of Winter Meetings activity and several new players on the roster for us to discuss the next time we get together!