When you rack up the most wins in the National League and come within one game of reaching the World Series, it makes sense to want to keep most of those players.
So it’s probably no surprise that David Stearns and Craig Counsell said just that during their season-ending press conference this week, with Stearns saying while expects slight changes, this group will by and large be the one that’s back next season looking to make a second straight postseason appearance for the first time since 1981-1982.
Stearns said "vast majority of team" will be returning but said he expects slightly different roster when 2019 season opens.— Tom (@Haudricourt) October 23, 2018
That’s a nice change from the last time the Brewers were in the playoffs, when everyone knew Prince Fielder was leaving for a large payday following the 2011 season, and everyone had a pretty good feeling Zack Greinke would be gone after the 2012 season. With most of the core players from this year’s Cream City 25 signed long-term, expecting a return to October isn’t out of the question.
Still, there are a few players whose longterm future in Milwaukee is still in doubt, and Stearns addressed those the best he could — albeit in GM-speak, so as not to sabotage his next few months of phone calls.
The biggest question heading into the winter will likely be what the team will do with Jonathan Schoop, who is under team control for one more season but did not make a strong case to be the team’s starting second baseman heading into next season. He’ll be in his last year of arbitration and based on previous salary progression is expected to make about $10 million after this winter’s proceedings.
While everything is easier to swallow when it’s a one-year commitment and arbitration salaries are not fully guaranteed until Opening Day, that’s still a significant amount of money for a team like the Brewers to spend — even if they may be able to make it work within their budget given the extra playoff revenue.
With that — and the front office’s tendency not to tip their hand — in mind, Stearns’ non-answer-that-could-actually-be-an-answer regarding Schoop was interesting:
As for Jonathan Schoop's future with the #Brewers, Stearns said "that's a discussion we're going to continue to have."— Tom (@Haudricourt) October 23, 2018
While that could still conceivably mean just about anything, the non-committal nature of that answer becomes more glaring when juxtaposed with his answer on another player with a year of team control left who may have lost his spot:
Stearns calls Eric Thames "really talented player" and will come to spring training with chance to get playing time.— Tom (@Haudricourt) October 23, 2018
If you want to read in between the lines, that sure seems like Eric Thames is guaranteed at least a spot in Maryvale — but Jonathan Schoop isn’t.
Another player who will appear to get a second chance in the spring will be Chase Anderson, who was removed from the rotation with a couple weeks remaining in the season and was not included on any of the Brewers’ playoff rosters. Considering how he was a leading piece of the team’s rotation last year and the team made a multiyear commitment to him, it was a pretty fall far from grace, and one that could have easily led to some hard feelings. On that front, it sounds like Stearns and Anderson may have smoothed things over.
Stearns said he met with Anderson to mend fences over coming out of rotation and said he is ready to get after it next year.— Tom (@Haudricourt) October 23, 2018
When it comes to the other big acquisition the team made in July, Stearns says Mike Moustakas provided what he was looking for when he made the trade, but didn’t give much insight on what he thought might happen with the mutual option for next season.
Stearns said "Moustakas" gave club what he wanted after acquisition but gave no hint as to whether he might be back. There is $15 million mutual option. Not likely club would pay that.— Tom (@Haudricourt) October 23, 2018
The latter part of that tweet is Tom Haudricourt’s opinion, but he is also pretty familiar with the team’s thinking. While Moustakas gave the Brewers’ lineup some much-needed power while it was in the middle of an offensive funk, $15 million for a .256/.326/.441 (.767 OPS, 104 OPS+) line when Travis Shaw hit .241/.345/.480 (.825 OPS, 119 OPS+) and both struggled to hit left-handers — which may have ultimately cost them the pennant — would seem to be a bit much.
The fates of Moustakas and Schoop in Milwaukee may end up being intertwined — if Moustakas is retained somehow, it makes it more difficult to justify having Schoop on the roster, especially at a $10 million pricetag. If Moustakas tests free agency again, Shaw would move back to third base, giving Schoop or someone else another chance to win the job at second base.
What the team should do will remain a topic of debate — and, don’t worry, plenty of posts here at BCB — over the winter.