Pitchers and catchers report in just a couple of weeks. Free agency has slowed as the market awaits decisions from Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. The Milwaukee Brewers could very well have their positional player group in place already. Corey Spanganberg might just have that final positional spot locked up as David Stearns suspects there COULD BE untapped power in his bat.
There are articles suggesting and reports connecting Milwaukee to Mike Moustakas, Josh Harrison, Jose Iglesias, and Marwin Gonzalez, implying potential signings to come. President of Baseball Operations David Stearns probably has feelers out about some of those players, but there is a quality major league player not being linked to Milwaukee or anyone else for that matter that would fit nicely in a Brewers uniform. Stearns has to be thinking about this guy too.
Former Miami Marlins utility player Derek Dietrich cleared waivers and elected free agency early in the offseason. Dietrich is a left-handed hitter with defensive versatility, including ability to play second base and each outfield corner. He is a good hitter, and the Brewers reportedly had interest in him at the trade deadline last year. Might they have interest in him now as a high-value, under-the-radar acquisition? When we compare some of Dietrich’s numbers over the past four years to those of Moustakas, Gonzalez, Harrison, Iglesias, and Spangenberg, he looks pretty good. Let’s start with Dietrich since 2015.
Derek Dietrich (age 29)
Brewers’ fans are likely most comfortable with the idea of bringing Mike Moustakas back. He was instrumental in Milwaukee’s run to the playoffs, and who can forget his walk-off hit against Colorado in the NLDS. Of all the six players mentioned for this post, Moustakas is probably the most feared of them all. He has the potential for serious power, once hitting 38 home runs with a team that played in a cavernous ballpark. He could do serious damage at Miller Park, although he failed to do so in a small sample last year. Moose would certainly be welcomed back to Milwaukee, but at what cost? Will he require multiple years at $10 million or maybe $12 million? His acquisition would also require Travis Shaw to move to second base. Shaw played the position admirably, but is not the ideal defensively.
Imagining Moose hitting seventh in the Brewers’ lineup or pushing one of the other big-bats down in the order would be amazing. But look at Dietrich’s four-year averages versus Moustakas’ (Moustakas had a very limited sample size of stats in 2016, as a result, 2016 is listed as an “injured” year). Moose is the more dangerous player, but Dietrich poses a pretty significant threat as well, especially when you think of him coming to Miller Park. Plus Shaw gets to play a position that he rates pretty well at defensively, while Dietrich plays an adequate second base. Dietrich would also save millions on the payroll versus Moustakas, plus he would be controllable for another additional season via arbitration. His defensive versatility would bring significant value. Moose offers only his bat and average defense at third, and signing him beyond one year blocks Keston Hiura.
Mike Moustakas (age 30)
Marwin Gonzalez might be the most versatile of all the players mentioned for this piece, and he has shown some offensive fire power as well. The problem is that he only put up those outstanding offensive numbers in one year. Otherwise, he is versatile player that is barely above league average that struggles to get on base. Prove of this comes from his fWAR over the last four years. He did have 4.0 fWAR in 2017, but was anything between 0.3 fWAR to 1.6 fWAR otherwise.
Dietrich would likely put up a similar slugging percentage to Gonzalez on average, but get on base at a better clip than the World Series champion. Neither player rates highly defensively, although Gonzalez rates decently as an outfielder, whereas Dietrich does not. The Brewers would likely pay more for Gonzalez than Dietrich. MLB Trade Rumors projected the Astros’ utility man to get four years at $36 million. Dietrich will command much less than that.
Marwin Gonzalez (30 in March):
Josh Harrison is a popular free agent amongst Brewers’ fans and broadcasters alike. Seeing Harrison seemingly always making something happen 19 times per year for several years has maddened Brewers’ faithful. It is no wonder why perceptions of the Pirates’ utility man are so high.
Dietrich is just a better player, at least offensively. Harrison does steal bases and makes a lot of contact, but he struggles to get on base and has little pop. Surprisingly, Harrison does not rate out as anything more than a below average to an average defender depending on the position he plays. The Brewers probably could acquire Harrison on a one-year deal however.
Josh Harrison (age 31)
Suggestions have been made that Jose Iglesias would be a strong fit for the Brew Crew. He is a magician at shortstop, but has limited ability with the bat. Does that sound familiar. His fit is certainly debatable, and Dietrich is probably the better fit since the Brewers already have a defensive wizard at shortstop that has trouble with the bat. In fact Orlando Arcia has much more upside than Iglesias, it is a bit of a surprise that the suggestion exists. Iglesias may only require a one-year contract though.
Jose Iglesias (age 29)
The Brewers already have Cory Spangenberg in-house. David Stearns has lauded his athleticism and baseball acumen, obviously hoping for something more than he has shown to this point. Stearns is a master at finding “diamonds in the rough.” Spangenberg is a commodity to be dreamed upon. Dietrich is a known quantity with upside as a “change of scenery” candidate. At this point, Dietrich is the superior player. Plus Spangenberg has an option allowing him to become a depth piece.
Cory Spangenberg (age 27)
Currently Milwaukee projects to platoon Hernan Perez and Cory Spangenberg at second base. Hernan Perez provides versatility and hits left-handed pitching reasonably well (.277/.304/.479). A platoon option at second base that includes Derek Dietrich becomes more formidable, and while Keston Hiura and Mauricio Dubon develop in San Antonio, Stearns and company can be allowed to take a patient approach. Once Hiura and/or Dubon are ready, the Brewers can figure out how to best handle Perez and Dietrich. With all of this in mind, Dietrich might be the best position player available that fits best with the Brewers needs.
Something to consider is the “Yelich Effect” manifesting itself with another ex-Marlins’ player coming to Miller Park. If we are to assume that Christian Yelich’s breakout 2018 campaign is at least partially the result of changing venues, would it also be safe to assume that Derek Dietrich might have better offensive results playing home games in Milwaukee too? We should not have expectations of Dietrich anywhere near those of Yelich, but could this left-handed, above average hitter see improvement with the change in setting? It likely helped Yelich. Derek Dietrich seems like a strong candiate to have his own measure of success in Milwaukee.
Baseball statistics courtesy of Fangraphs