MLB Free Agency has officially begun, and without a top-ranked farm system in place, it’s likely that our Milwaukee Brewers will have to survey the open market if they want to make any truly impactful additions this offseason. The Brewers treated us to their best season in a generation in 2018 and have quite an array of talent under control for next year, but there are still a few spots around the diamond where the team could use an upgrade or additional depth. With close to a projected $110 mil on the books already for 2019, Slingin’ David Stearns and company may have to get creative in their dealings this winter.
We have surveyed the free agent market to get an idea of who the strongest available players are and at what positions, including on the infield, in the outfield, the bullpen arms, and the starting pitchers on the open market. Today, we’ll conclude by building a lineup of players who have previously donned the Brewer blue:
Catcher - Martin Maldonado
In one of the small handful of misses by David Stearns over the years, he dealt Maldonado and prospect Drew Gagnon to the Angels in the winter of 2016 for Jett Bandy. He went on to post a .608 OPS in parts of two years with Milwaukee before getting DFA’d and leaving via minor league free agency this offseason. Maldy, on the other hand, won a Gold Glove behind the plate in 2017 and has hit .223/.276/.360 with 23 homers in 257 games with the Angels and Astros since leaving Milwaukee. Jonathan Lucroy (.241/.291/.325 in 126 games for Oakland in 2018) could even be signed as backup.
First Base - Mark Reynolds
Despite being totally blind, Reynolds continues to mash against big league pitching. Most recently it was a .248/.328/.476 slash with 13 home runs in 86 games and 235 plate appearances for the Nationals. With six more dingers, the 35 year old will surpass the 300 threshold for his career.
Second Base - Neil Walker
Walker underwhelmed with the Yankees after being forced to settle for a one-year deal in the Bronx last winter. He hit only .219/.309/.354 with 11 home runs in 398 plate appearances for New York and is facing the market again at age 33. He does have a solid offensive track record, though, and he was pretty good in Milwaukee during the late summer of 2017.
Shortstop - Alcides Escobar
Alcides had another typical season at the plate in 2018 after reuniting with Kansas City, posting his usually anemic batting line - this time .231/.279/.313 in 531 plate appearances. His defense at the six is no longer what it once was, though, and as a result he was well below replacement-level in 2018. He was still better than backup Eric Sogard, though, who hit .134/.241/.165 while somehow visiting the plate 113 times.
Third Base - Mike Moustakas
Moose will mash you a good amount of homers and plays an okay third base, he puts the ball in play relatively often but isn’t an on-base threat. He hit .251/.315/.459 with 28 homers in 152 games between Kansas City and Milwaukee in 2018, and did record a memorable walk-off hit for the Brewers in the postseason. He’s hoping that free agency goes better this time around than it did last offseason.
Left Field - Michael Brantley
This might be cheating a little bit since he never played for the Brewers in the big leagues, but Brantley was drafted by Milwaukee in 2005 and spent four years in their minor league system before getting dealt to Cleveland in 2008 CC Sabathia deal. He has had his share of health issues but worked to establish himself as an All-Star caliber player when he is on the field, batting .311/.371/.475 with 62 homers and 61 steals over the last five seasons.
Center Field - Carlos Gomez
Gomez’s star has faded since he was dealt away from the Brewers at the 2015 deadline, and he struggled throughout the 2018 season with Tampa Bay while batting .208/.298/.336 with nine homers and 12 steals in 408 plate appearances. He does hope to one day retire as a Brewer.
Right Field - Nelson Cruz
Some are still sore about Cruz being one of those “one who got away” kind of guys, even though all 29 teams had the opportunity to claim him when he was outrighted to the minor leagues in 2008. Since then he has become one of the most feared sluggers in the game (even after getting suspended for PEDs) and is the owner a cumulative .274/.342/.518 batting line with 360 home runs across parts of 14 MLB seasons. He’s been mostly a DH lately but did start four games in right field for the Mariners last season, so of course the Brewers can trot him out there for 150+ games in his age-38 season in 2019.
Reunions with Wade Miley and Gio Gonzalez would get the top of the rotation started, as we all remember how effective both southpaws were while with Milwaukee in 2018. Next are a couple of veteran right-handers who had their struggles this past season - Marco Estrada (5.64 ERA in 143.2 IP for Toronto) and Yovani Gallardo (6.39 ERA in 94.1 IP with CIN and TEX). Rounding out the starting five is someone who the Brewers should have perhaps considered keeping around - right-hander Jordan Lyles, who could be on the verge of his long-awaited breakout in 2019.
Zach Duke returns to Milwaukee to fill the designated left-hander role, joined by lefty Tommy Milone to serve as the long reliever. Joakim Soria re-signs in the Cream City to serve as closer. Blaine Boyer and John Axford come back to serve as setup men. We need to dip into minor league free agency to fill out the bullpen, and we’ll do so by reuniting with Paolo Espino, Damien Magnifico, and David Goforth.
C Martin Maldonado
1B Mark Reynolds
2B Neil Walker
SS Alcides Escobar
3B Mike Moustakas
LF Michael Brantley
CF Carlos Gomez
RF Nelson Cruz
C Jonathan Lucroy
IF Brad Miller
IF Eric Sogard
OF Gerardo Parra
LHP Wade Miley
LHP Gio Gonzalez
RHP Jordan Lyles
RHP Marco Estrada
RHP Yovani Gallardo
Joakim Soria (CL)
So...you think this Milwaukee Brewers team can make it back to the National League Championship series in 2019?
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference