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Craig Counsell discusses how he will divide playing time in the outfield

2800 plate appearances between the outfield and first base would give about 560 to each player.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals
Is Jesus Aguilar out of the picture? (Not this one.)
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick quotes Craig Counsell on the Milwaukee Brewers supposed logjam of outfielders and first basemen, as reported on MLB Trade Rumors by Steve Adams.

Counsell told Crasnick:“If you split it evenly with five guys, that’s 560 [plate appearances] apiece. With injuries and everything, we’ll find a way. Some guys will get 500, and some will get 600, but it will work out.”

Crasnick lists Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, Domingo Santana, Eric Thames, and Ryan Braun as the five players for the four positions between the outfield and first base. And this is a fine group of depth to have for those positions - Braun, Cain, and Santana all have somewhat checkered injury histories, and Thames will need to prove his performance last season was not a fluke. But those four players along with Yelich give the lineup a very high upside for scoring runs.

Most telling to me in the Counsell/Crasnick conversation is the players not mentioned. Adams discusses Keon Broxton and Brett Phillips as viable options for playing time, as well as players who can be optioned to the minors to start the year. But nobody is talking about what this means for Jesus Aguilar. Brewer fans have long realized that the situation isn’t ideal for Aguilar’s longevity with the club, but to have it more or less confirmed when Jesus is still on the team must be a bit disconcerting. At least Broxton and Phillips know that they have a job at Colorado Springs, with opportunities to come back up if needed - for whatever reason.

It is entirely possible that the Brewers hope to wait until the end of spring training to DFA Aguilar, which could increase his chances of passing through waivers and perhaps accepting an assignment to the AAA Sky Sox, rather getting claimed off waivers by another club. While this feels a bit cold, it could very well be good management. Of course, as the Stephen Vogt situation reminds us, keeping Aguilar as insurance against injuries, especially to Braun and Thames, is also good management.

Another argument for hanging on to Aguilar for the time being are the trade rumors (that have lessened considerably recently) involving Domingo Santana. If Santana were dealt, Aguilar would become a very viable member of the team as Braun would be needed in the outfield on a more regular basis. If such talks are ongoing (under the radar), it makes sense to hang on to Jesus.

Jesus Aguilar did a good job for the Brewers last year. Between Thames and Jesus, Brewers’ first basemen hit 47 homers. First base wasn’t really viewed as a position of need in the offseason, but Brewers’ GM David Stearns changed the makeup of the position player group with his signing of Lorenzo Cain and trade for Christian Yelich. They are suddenly less reliant on the three true outcomes, and have changed their defense for the better as well. You want to keep all of the good players that you can, but adding two regulars to your team means that somebody has to go. With Broxton and Phillips having options, that leaves Aguilar.

Ultimately, it is Aguilar’s lack of versatility that makes him more expendable than other options. He can play first, pinch hit, and DH on the handful of games at AL ballparks. Thames (to some degree) can play in the outfield, and having a left-handed bat doesn’t hurt. It perhaps even makes more sense to keep Keon Broxton on the twenty-five man roster over Phillips, so that the Brewers can go with all right-handed bats against tough lefties if they so desire.

The fact that Jesus Aguilar is likely to be the odd man out with the addition of Yelich and Cain isn’t surprising or poor decision making. More or less admitting that early in the spring, however, might not be the best way to play poker.