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David’s Offseason Plan

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Sign good free agent veterans and trade for a superstar

Cleveland Indians v Washington Nationals Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

In this post, I get the chance to pretend that I am David Stearns. My duty is to put together the Milwaukee Brewers offseason plan going into the 2020 season, and I get to do it without any of the accountability, pressure, and responsibility that Stearns and the rest of the front office have to sweat through. Unfortunately, that also means I won’t be getting the salary that goes along with such responsibility. Nonetheless, here is the team I would build to start the 2020 season with hypothetical transaction costs.

Arbitration-eligible players (with projected salaries from MLBTR):

  • Corey Knebel - $5.125MM - Tender
  • Zach Davies - $5.0MM - Tender
  • Travis Shaw - $4.7MM - Non-tender
  • Josh Hader - $4.6MM - Tender
  • Jimmy Nelson - $3.7MM - Non-tender
  • Junior Guerra - $3.5MM - Tender
  • Orlando Arcia - $2.7MM - Tender
  • Alex Claudio - $2.2MM - Tender
  • Ben Gamel - $1.6MM - Tender
  • Tyler Saladino - $1.0MM - Non-tender
  • Brent Suter - $900K - Tender

The salaries of Jimmy Nelson and Travis Shaw are too much to commit to based on the uncertainty they bring to the 2020 season. Stearns (or I as Stearns) could sign them to a lower salary and/or minor league contract later in the season if either is still available. The chances of signing one or both of them would be relatively low, so I will assume that non-tendering them means they will be playing for another team in 2020 for this exercise. Tyler Saladino showed very little at the plate in 2020. With the addition of Mark Mathias to the 40-man, Saladino becomes expendable.

To Exercise or Not Exercise Qualifying Offer

  • Matt Albers: made $2.5MM in 2019 (eligible for QO) - decline QO

With decisions made about tendering, non-tendering, and exercising qualifying offers, the 40-man currently stands at 33 That leaves seven spots. Free agent acquisitions and trades will fill those spots. Something to keep in mind, the 2019-2020 free agent market is moving faster than it has in the past few seasons. That might be based on players’ fears of being “Moustakas-ed” if they wait around too long for the market to play out. Atlanta and the Chicago White Sox have taken advantage of those probable fears.

In fact, my primary target, Yasmani Grandal, is now off the board because of Chicago’s aggressiveness. With that in mind, I might need to re-think, or at least re-calibrate my (remember I am David Stearns) “wait for the market to come to me” philosophy.

Kyle Lesniewski wrote that current projected salaries allocated for Brewers’ players stands at just over $87MM. If we take that number, and subtract the salary allocations that would go to non-tender players in this scenario (Shaw, Nelson, and Saladino), we would be at $78MM give or take. The Brewers opened the season with a $123MM payroll in 2019. If the Brewers would just match the 2019 opening payroll, we would have about $45MM to play with, and maybe more if I can get Mark Attanasio to open his wallet a bit wider.

Free Agents and Trades:

Free Agent Acquisitions

Mike Moustakas (3-years, $33MM): MLBTradeRumors.com predicts Moustakas at 2-years, $20MM. Right now the market seems to be going a bit higher than in the previous couple years. Moustakas fits Milwaukee, and I want him back not only for what he brings on the field and to nail down the third base position, but for what he means in the clubhouse. This contract ends in his age 33 season (he would turn 34 in September of that year). I should still get three seasons of serious production and leadership out of the Moose.

Stephen Vogt (1-year, $2MM): Since Grandal and to a much lesser extent, Travis d’Arnaud were signed, the catching market got really depressing. Jason Castro and Alex Avila have been mentioned as possible platoon partners with Manny Pina. Defensively both are relatively solid. Offensively neither engenders confidence. The one catcher on the market that still shows a propensity to hit is Stephen Vogt slashing .263/.314/.490 with a wRC+ of 107. He will be 35 for the entire 2020 season. Vogt is not going to win a Gold Glove, but he gives the Brewers another dangerous left-handed bat that will play at Miller Park at the catching position on the cheap. He can also play some first base.

Corey Dickerson (2-years, $16MM): The scuttlebutt is that Ryan Braun is going to see time at first base. I am not sure that I want to go into the season with Trent Grisham as my primary left fielder if Braun is playing first a lot. Corey Dickerson would provide another serious left-handed bat. He does come with injury risk, and he is an up-and-down defender, but he can hit. In 2019, he slashed .304/.341/.565 in 260 plate appearances resulting in a wRC+ of 127.

Jordan Lyles (2-years, $10MM): Again, Lyles just seems to fit Milwaukee. His performance down the stretch for the Brewers in 2019 was verging on ace-like. I would not expect that level of performance, but I would expect a solid mid-rotation arm that gets the job done.

Rick Porcello (1-year, $11MM, with a mutual option for a second year at $11 mil with a $1MM buyout): Porcello was the 2016 American League Cy Young winner. Outside of that season, he has been a decent to very good pitcher that makes almost all of his starts. In fact he has pitched at least 172 innings every year for the past nine years over 281 starts. Only Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and Jon Lester have made more starts than Porcello, and he is just 30. Just his ability to make every start and eat innings is worth the contract above. I would offer more, but he might be looking for a one-year pillow contracts that will allow him to re-enter free agency before turning 32.

Right now, I am at about $115MM in payroll, and I still have not filled out my entire roster. I also still need to make a major move, one that will make my owner more willing to start the season north of anything the Milwaukee Brewers have ever done. With that in mind, I need to make a trade and one that puts Milwaukee over the hump.

Trade

Francisco Lindor for Brice Turang, Trent Grisham, Orlando Arcia, and Freddy Peralta: Getting two years of control over a player of Lindor’s caliber does not come cheaply. In fact the trade package laid out, while a lot, still might not be enough. Yet this is a player worth trying to attain, and Cleveland is reported to be willing to talk about trading him.

Having Lindor in this lineup would be a game changer and make Milwaukee the favorites to win the NL Central and contend for a World Series title. He brings stellar defense and tremendous offense. In 2019 he slashed .284/.335/.518 while hitting from both sides of the plate. He lengthens and balances the lineup, improves the infield defense, and inserts a superstar at the top or the middle of the lineup.

The only burden this places on Milwaukee is that it takes two more spots of the 40-man roster. I was at 38 men before I traded for Lindor. Add Lindor and subtract Peralta, Arcia, and Grisham, I am now at 36. I need to find four more players, and I am at $126MM in payroll, because Lindor will make $10.9MM in 2020.

With major league rosters moving to 26-men, the bench is looking a bit sparse. It has been proposed that teams will only be allowed to carry 13 pitchers on the 26-man roster. Right now the bench looks like Ben Gamel, Stephen Vogt, and Mark Mathias (maybe). Not only are we short on the 40-man, but we need bench players. I could add David Freitas to the 26-man giving me a third catcher as well as someone who could play first base every now and then. I could also call on Tyrone Taylor to be a defensive right-handed option in the outfield. But a veteran presence that can play all over the field might make for one more worthwhile signing.

Howie Kendrick (2-year, $12MM): MLBTradeRumors.com posted 2-years, $12MM as their projection, and that number seems reasonable. While 36 years old, he still gets it done. His hard hit percentages and exit velocity numbers are near the top of baseball.

Howie Kendrick

Kendrick slashed .344/.395/.572 over 370 plate appearances for the World Series champion Washington Nationals in 2019. His right handed bat balances the left-handed heavy Brewers’ lineup, especially against tough left handers. Plus he plays multiple positions. He only adds one more man to the 40-man (now at 37), but I am sure I can find three players to fill the void.

Projected Lineups, Rotation, Bullpen, 26-man for 2020:

vs. RHP

CF Lorenzo Cain

SS Francisco Lindor

RF Christian Yelich

2B Keston Hiura

3B Mike Moustakas

1B Ryan Braun

LF Corey Dickerson

C Stephen Vogt/Manny Pina

vs. LHP

CF Lorenzo Cain

SS Francisco Lindor

RF Christian Yelich

2B Keston Hiura

LF Ryan Braun

3B Mike Moustakas

1B Howie Kendrick

C Manny Pina

Starting Rotation

Brandon Woodruff

Rick Porcello

Jordan Lyles

Zach Davies

Adrian Houser/Brent Suter/Corbin Burnes

Bullpen

Pencil them in: Josh Hader, Corey Knebel, Junior Guerra, Alex Claudio

Does not stay in the rotation and moves to bullpen: Two of Adrian Houser/Brent Suter/Corbin Burnes

Relievers to emerge: Devin Williams, Bobby Wahl, Ray Black, Jake Faria, Taylor Williams, Eric Yardley, (Corbin Burnes?)

26-Man Roster on Opening Day

Ray Black

Ryan Braun

Corbin Burnes

Lorenzo Cain

Alex Claudio

Zach Davies

Corey Dickerson

Ben Gamel

Junior Guerra

Josh Hader

Keston Hiura

Adrian Houser

Howie Kendrick

Corey Knebel

Francisco Lindor

Jordan Lyles

Mark Mathias

Mike Moustakas

Manny Pina

Rick Porcello

Brent Suter

Tyrone Taylor

Devin Williams

Brandon Woodruff

Christian Yelich

Stephen Vogt

Projected Opening Day Payroll: approximately $132MM