The Milwaukee Brewers are going to churn through some 40-man roster spots this offseason. That’s just the way things happen every winter under the David Stearns regime. There will be waiver claims, trades, Rule 5 Draft protection, non-tenders, free agent signings, and DFA’s. In fact, we have already seen a couple of moves by Stearns and company even before the end of the World Series — Hernan Perez was waived and released, and Deolis Guerra was signed to a big league contract with a spot on the 40-man.
Once the Fall Classic has concluded, the Brewers will have to reinstate two hurlers to the 40-man roster from the 60-day Injured List — Corey Knebel and Bobby Wahl. That means that two slots will need to be opened up to make room for them to return. We have already covered the five departing MLB free agents that the Brewers are set to lose, as well as five other players who could join them on the open market depending on what is decided regarding their contract options. Beyond that, which depth players on the fringes of the 40-man roster could be at risk of losing their spots?
RHP Taylor Williams
Williams missed two years as a prospect after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but there was rampant optimism about his high-90s fastball and future outlook once he returned to health and was added to the 40-man in late 2016. Williams debuted the following September and got his chance to lock down a regular relief spot during almost a full season with Milwaukee in 2018, but he has been plagued by inconsistent command and more-than-occasional blowup outings. Williams spent 2019 on the bullpen carousel between San Antonio and the Cream City, posting a 2.83 ERA in 46 games in Triple-A but a 9.82 ERA in 14.2 innings in the big leagues. Heading into his age-28 season, Williams is an out-of-options reliever who owns a 5.23 ERA in 72.1 innings across 71 outings at the game’s highest level. He’s underpitched his peripheral stats like FIP- (92) and DRA- (97), but it might be up to some other team to unlock whatever untapped potential Williams may still possess.
C David Freitas
The Brewers acquired Freitas in a minor swap with the Mariners in April to bolster their catching depth, and he went on win the Pacific Coast League batting title by hitting .387/.459/.571 with a dozen dingers for a 155 wRC+ in 85 games with San Antonio. Unfortunately the journeyman backstop floundered at the big league level when was called up in September, recording just one hit and three walks in 16 plate appearances. The soon-to-be 31 year old Freitas will still have one minor league option intact for 2020, but so will the much younger Jacob Nottingham, which could make the veteran’s continued presence a bit superfluous.
1B Tyler Austin
Milwaukee signed Austin to a minor league deal in August after he was cut loose by the Giants. He delivered in a couple of key spots off the bench in September, but the journeyman spent time with three organizations in 2019 and has produced only a modest .219/.292/.451 slash in 583 MLB plate appearances since he debuted in 2016. Austin turned 28 in September and he’s both arbitration-eligible and out of minor league options.
UTIL Tyler Saladino
The organization clearly likes Tyler Saladino, as they went out and traded for him from the White Sox and then gave him chances to wrestle the starting shortstop job away from Orlando Arcia in both 2018 and 2019. A gruesome and ill-timed ankle injury ended an early hot streak when he debuted with the team, but outside of that stretch, Saladino has largely failed to produce with the Brewers. In 80 games and 201 plate appearances spread across the last two seasons, Saladino has batted .202/.265/.333 with seven home runs. He has played a solid shortstop, at least, and we’ll surely never forget that time he hit grand slams in back-to-back games. Saladino is another arb-eligible, out-of-options player, and he’s entering his age-30 season.
UTIL Cory Spangenberg
It looked like Spangenberg was ticketed for a platoon at second base when he joined the Brewers last winter, but the late signing of Mike Moustakas pushed the left-handed hitter to Triple-A. He enjoyed a strong season there while playing all over the diamond, then got regular playing time with Milwaukee after getting called up in September. He started games at short, second, third, and left field but batted just .232/.277/.358 with a pair of homers and three steals in 32 games. When he signed, the front office praised Spangenberg’s potential for untapped power, especially at Miller Park. But he’ll be 29 next spring, is arbitration eligible, and is out of minor league options.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference