When the 2018 baseball season began, there was plenty of concern among fans of the Milwaukee Brewers that the team had “too many outfielders.” Those worries didn’t end up lasting too long, however. Ryan Braun, Christian Yelich, and Lorenzo Cain have all spent time on the disabled list, Domingo Santana lost his power stroke and was demoted to the minors, and neither Keon Broxton nor Brett Phillips have really set the world on fire while bouncing between AAA and the major leagues. First baseman Eric Thames (who is currently on the DL) has been converted to play mostly outfield, and of course Hernan Perez has seen some time on the grass, but his 76 wRC+ hardly warrants any sort of regular playing time.
With all that in mind, the Milwaukee Brewers have added a couple of former big leaguers to the fold on minor league deals:
The name Rymer Liriano probably sounds familiar, as he was one of David Stearns’ first acquisitions as GM of the Milwaukee Brewers when the team grabbed him in a minor trade with the San Diego Padres back in January 2016. Liriano appeared to be well-positioned to earn a spot on the Opening Day roster that spring until he was hit in the face with a pitch during an exhibition game against the Dodgers. Liriano required surgery to repair the damage, and he wound up missing that entire season while dealing with concussion symptoms. He was lost on waivers to the White Sox following the conclusion of the 2016 campaign.
Liriano, 27, briefly made it to the big leagues with Chicago last season, but batted only .220/.304/.341 with a single home run in 21 games. In 167 career MLB plate appearances with the Padres and White Sox, Liriano owns a .220/.293/.287 slash with two homers. He signed a minor league deal with the Angels before the start of the 2018 season and produced a strong .268/.343/.523 slash with 16 dingers (121 wRC+) in 65 games with their AAA affiliate before getting released last week. He’s capable of manning all three spots in the outfield.
Richie Shaffer, also 27, was once a first round pick of the Tampa Bay Rays and he appeared in 51 games for that franchise during the 2015-16 seasons. He owns a .213/.310/.410 slash (99 wRC+) with five home runs across 142 plate appearances in the big leagues. He’s bounced around quite a bit since then, though. He was traded to Seattle following the 2016 season, and then made the rounds on the waiver wire from Seattle to Philadelphia to Cincinnati to Cleveland. He bashed 30 home runs with a .227/.338/.464 slash (123 wRC+) playing for the Indians’ AAA affiliate in 2017, but Cleveland released him after he hit a meager .164/.216/.310 through his first 125 plate appearances at that same level this season. A “true corner” utilityman, Shaffer has experience at first base, third base, left field, and right field.
With the trade deadline rapidly approaching, the Brewers are believed to be willing to trade from their outfield and right-handed pitching depth with the goal of upgrading the MLB roster. Both Shaffer and Liriano will report to Milwaukee’s AAA affiliate in Colorado Springs, perhaps with the purpose of providing experienced depth in the case of a trade involving someone like Brett Phillips or Domingo Santana.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs