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2019-20 MLB Free Agency Preview: Building a team of former Brewers

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Which #OldFriends are out there?

2019 ALDS Game 5 - Tampa Bay Rays v. Houston Astros Photo by Cooper Neill/MLB Photos via Getty Images

MLB Free Agency has officially begun, and without a top-ranked farm system in place, it’s likely that our Milwaukee Brewers will have to survey the open market if they want to make any truly impactful additions this offseason. David Stearns and company will have to fill several positions around the diamond and on the mound, but the club appears to have plenty of money available to pursue free agents who can plug those gaps on the roster.

We have already surveyed the free agent market to get an idea of who the strongest available players are and at what positions, including on the infield, in the outfield, the bullpen arms, and the starting pitchers on the open market. Today, we’ll conclude by building a lineup of players who have previously donned the Brewer blue:

Catcher — Yasmani Grandal

Grandal is the clear number one catcher on the free agent market, a true star on both sides of the ball who just completed his fifth straight season of 4+ fWAR. He set a Brewers record for home runs by a catcher last season, batting .246/.380/.468 with a career-high 28 dingers on his way to a 121 wRC+. As for the backup, the top choices are the offense-minded Stephen Vogt and defensive specialist Martin Maldonado. Jonathan Lucroy just finished up a sub-replacement level campaign so he should probably be avoided.

First Base — Eric Thames

Here we will go with another very recent Brewer, one who spent most of the last three seasons as the primary man at the cold corner. Despite a strong .247/.346/.505 slash and 25 home runs (116 wRC+) in 459 plate appearances, the Brewers let Thames walk rather than pick up his $7.5 mil team option. One might consider rolling the dice on 36 year old Mark Reynolds as a platoon partner, though with his 47 wRC+ in 2019, he might as well be totally blind.

Second Base — Jonathan Schoop

The exchange that sent Jonathan Villar, Luis Ortiz, and Jean Carmona to the Orioles for Jonathan Schoop at the 2018 Trade Deadline may end up going down as the biggest blunder of the Stearns era. Milwaukee non-tendered him after a .577 OPS down the stretch, but he hooked on with the Twins and enjoyed a solid bounce back campaign in 2019. He was back to his old self in 464 plate appearances, batting .256/.304/.473 with few walks but plenty of whiffs and home runs (23). Backup options at the keystone include Scooter Gennett, Brad Miller, and Neil Walker.

Third Base — Mike Moustakas

Moose continues to be, well, himself at the plate as he continues into his thirties. He bashed 35 home runs while hitting .254/.329/.516 (113 wRC+) in 2019, playing a steady third base while also adding second base to his toolbox. Cory Spangenberg is another, less appealing option.

Shortstop — Eric Sogard

Nerd Power posted the finest season of his career in 2019, batting .290/.353/.457 with 13 home runs in 110 games between the Blue Jays and Rays. That led to a career-best 115 wRC+, only the second time in his career that his total offensive output has come in above the league average. Hernan Perez slots in as a capable backup here and all across the diamond.

Left Field — Tyler Austin

It was not a banner year for former Brewer outfielders in 2019, and Austin has appeared in far more games at first base in his career than on the grass, but he’s the choice in left field after a .188/.296/.409 slash and 9 home runs in 89 games for an 85 wRC+. Veteran Curtis Granderson is another candidate for this position.

Center Field — Carlos Gomez

Gomez lasted only 34 games and 99 plate appearances with the Mets before they cut bait this season. He hit only .198/.278/.337 with a trio of homers. He no longer grades out positively in center and has really only posted one useful campaign since the Brewers shipped him out during the summer of 2015. But, it’s slim pickings at this position.

Right Field — Gerardo Parra

Parra became a fan favorite in Washington this season thanks largely to his “Baby Shark” walk-up song, which helped many overlook his actual on-field play this year. But his .234/.293/.391 slash line in 301 plate appearances didn’t hold the Nationals back from winning the World Series.

Starting Rotation

Jordan Lyles, Gio Gonzalez, and Wade Miley should give our team of former Brewers a rather dependable group of arms atop their rotation. Behind them, however, we are betting on bounceback seasons from a couple of veteran hurlers who were released from their respective teams before the end of the season — Jhoulys Chacin (who finished with the Red Sox) and Marco Estrada.

Bullpen

We could pretty lefty-heavy with this relief corps, adding Will Smith as the closer along with Drew Pomeranz as setup man. Tommy Milone could be the long man and Zach Duke as the lefty specialist, or Wei-Chung Wang is capable of filling either or both roles. Lest we focus too hard on southpaws, we can choose from Matt Albers, Jared Hughes, Jay Jackson, Jeremy Jeffress, Brandon Kintzler, Wily Peralta, Anthony Swarzak, and Tyler Thornburg coming from the right side.


Lineup:

C Yasmani Grandal
1B Eric Thames
2B Jonathan Schoop
3B Mike Moustakas
SS Eric Sogard
LF Tyler Austin
CF Carlos Gomez
RF Gerardo Parra

Bench:

Stephen Vogt
Scooter Gennett
Hernan Perez
Curtis Granderson
Neil Walker

Starting Rotation:

Wade Miley
Jordan Lyles
Gio Gonzalez
Jhoulys Chacin
Marco Estrada

Bullpen:

Will Smith
Drew Pomeranz
Brandon Kinztler
Jay Jackson
Anthony Swarzak
Wei-Chung Wang
Jeremy Jeffress
Jared Hughes


So...do you think this Milwaukee Brewers team can make it back to the playoffs for the third year in a row in 2019?

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs