The Milwaukee Brewers’ hopes of making the playoffs took a big hit last night. They were victims of a demoralizing shutout at the hands of Homer Bailey and the lowly Reds while the Rockies defeated the Marlins to move to 2.5 games ahead in the 2nd Wild Card chase with four games remaining. Still, 2017 was expected to be a rebuilding year in Milwaukee, so it’s been a treat to have meaningful September baseball to follow along with.
The Brewers’ principal owner, Mark Attanasio, is similarly surprised and pleased with how well his ball club has performed this year. Attanasio told Adam McCalvy:
“You know, it's been a great ride for a lot of reasons. It was not expected this season. Or if somebody did expect it, I'd like to know who it was. Maybe Craig Counsell might have expected it. Craig said, 'Don't put any limits on the team,' and then David adopted that way of speaking. That certainly worked here."
With the Brewers emerging more quickly than anticipated from the full rebuild that Doug Melvin began and David Stearns completed, expectations for next season and beyond have been raised. Most of the core players on the team are under cheap team control for next year and well beyond. The only guaranteed contracts on the books for 2018 are Ryan Braun and Eric Thames, which will total about $24 mil. Combined with arbitration raises for several players on the roster, Milwaukee’s payroll situation for 2018 doesn’t look all that much different from this season, at least as of right now. The Brewers began the year with a payroll of around $62 mil, the lowest in the big leagues, though they did add to that with the aqcuisitions of Stephen Vogt, Neil Walker, Anthony Swarzak, and Jeremy Jeffress.
The Brewers have spent in excess of $100 mil on payroll in prior seasons, meaning there should be plenty of flexibility for the club to pursue some potentially major additions this winter:
"We're in a fortunate position so we can maybe punch a little bit above our weight," Attanasio said. "We have limited contracts this year and no bad contracts. They have to do all their planning. Then they have to see what our needs are and what the opportunities are," Attanasio said of the front office. "These guys have been an opportunistic group; we've all seen that. If there's an opportunity, we won't be shy about seizing it. But it has to be an intelligent opportunity."
Barring any unforeseen moves, the Brewers appear to have a good portion of their lineup and pitching staff already lined up heading into next season. With Neil Walker set to depart as a free agent, second base could be a position that Stearns looks to shore up this winter. Given the uncertainty surrounding Jimmy Nelson’s recovery timeline, Milwaukee will probably have interest in adding some starting pitching depth, as well. Between free agency and the trade market, there should be no shortage of players available who could help the team improve in 2018 and get over the top into the postseason.
Using MLB Trade Rumors’ 2017-18 free agent class list, here’s a quick rundown of some (not all) of the players that Milwaukee may have interest in pursuing:
2B Neil Walker
2B/3B/SS Eduardo Nunez
OF Carlos Gomez
RHP Jake Arrieta
RHP Tyler Chatwood
RHP Alex Cobb
RHP Yu Darvish
RHP Lance Lynn
RHP Michael Pineda
RHP Wade Davis
RHP Juan Nicasio
RHP Pat Neshek
RHP Addison Reed
RHP Anthony Swarzak
LHP Jake McGee
LHP Tony Watson