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Milwaukee Brewers considering “stepping up” pursuit of Josh Harrison, per report

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They’re also interested in DJ LeMahieu but think he might be too expensive.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Pittsburgh Pirates Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

After the Milwaukee Brewers agreed to a reported one-year deal with catcher Yasmani Grandal, rumors emerged yesterday that the club was “in heavy pursuit” of finding an infielder to help fill their void at second base. Since then, we have learned a little bit more about who they could be zeroing in on:

Harrison, a familiar foe from his days in Pittsburgh, became a free agent this winter after the Pirates elected to decline his team option and instead buy out his contract. He’s coming off a poor year offensively, having hit just .250/.293/.363 with eight homers (78 wRC+, 89 DRC+) in 374 plate appearances during his final season for the Steel City Nine. In fact, since his breakout season in 2014 when he posted an .837 OPS, Harrison has batted a decidedly mediocre .274/.319/.396 with 32 home runs in nearly 1,900 plate appearances across the last four seasons. He’s versatile inasmuch as he’s played all over the diamond defensively, but he doesn’t grade out very highly at any given position, and his glove work at his primary spot at second base appears to be declining. Given the continued presence of Hernan Perez, who provides a similar skillset to Harrison both offensively (.262/.294/.411, 36 home runs in 391 games over the last three seasons) and defensively, it would seem that the 31 year old Harrison’s presence might create a roster redundancy.

One player that Milwaukee may have difficulty attaining at this point is DJ LeMahieu, who is believed to be seeking a multiyear contract. With Milwaukee’s payroll projection already in the $115 mil range, which would be a new club record, ownership may not be willing to add too much more money to the books for the upcoming season. But if the Brewers are willing to make a second “splashy” signing for an infielder, LeMahieu might be the best candidate now that Jed Lowrie is off the board; the 30 year old is a premium defender at second base who appears to have some untapped offensive upside, which you can read more about here.

One final player to keep an eye on may be Wilmer Flores, although there hasn’t been any specific connections between his camp and Milwaukee so far this winter. Since nearly joining the Brewers in 2015, Flores has battled through some knee issues while still remaining a productive hitter at the plate. He’s topped double-digit home runs in each of the last four seasons while never striking out even 15% of the time, recording a .267/.309/.440 slash with 61 home runs since the start of 2015, good for an wRC+ of 104 and a DRC+ of 109. He played mostly first base last year due to the personnel the Mets had on their roster, but he’s experienced at all four infield positions. Flores doesn’t grade out as a particularly good defender at any of those spots, though Milwaukee’s shifting tendencies should help mitigate any weakness that would come from playing Flores at second base.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs