The Milwaukee Brewers will be significantly upgraded on the grass in 2021 by the sheer fact that their three incumbent outfielders will be back. Lorenzo Cain will be manning centerfield after opting out of 2020, playing stellar defense and getting on base. Avisail Garcia will be in his more natural position of right field and hopefully putting up offensive numbers closer to his career norms. Christian Yelich will most likely exorcise the demons of 2020 and return to an MVP caliber player. The Brewers outfield will be good to exceptional in 2021. Nonetheless there are a few intriguing names that would still look real nice in Milwaukee blue and gold.
Springer was one of the big names to have supposedly benefited from the sign stealing scandal in Houston. For that to be accurate, Springer would have had to continue cheating or have figured else something out. In 2019 the Astros centerfielder put up a 156 wRC+ and a 146 wRC+ in 2020. George Springer is an amazing athlete, but to sign him would take a significant commitment. MLB Trade Rumors predicts his contract at 5 years/$125M. At 31 years old, one could question if he is worth it. I would not. Milwaukee is unlikely to sign him, but if they did, they would have arguably the best outfield in baseball and a tradable asset in Garcia.
Ozuna has two elite level seasons with the bat over his career. In 2017 he posted a 143 wRC+ with the Marlins. In the shortened 2020 season, he put up a 179 wRC+ with the Braves. In other years, he has demonstrated that he is a quality hitter with power. Defensively, however, he can be a detriment. Projections have him getting a contract in the neighborhood of 4 years/$72M. A reunion with Yelich in Milwaukee would make for a dynamic 1-2 punch, but Ozuna’s ineptness in the field and salary requirements probably make him an unlikely target.
Brantley is getting up there in age as he will turn 34 in May. Yet when he is healthy, Michael Brantley is one of the better hitters in all of baseball. Throughout his career, he consistently puts up OPS numbers above .800, and 2020 was no exception (.840 OPS). Brantley is probably one of those players that will be able to get out of bed when he is 50 and still be able to hit. He only played 19 games in the outfield in 2020. Houston felt they had better options to man their corner outfield spots. Would the Brewers entertain bringing in their former farm hand on something like a 2-year deal in the neighborhood of $25-$30M?
Pederson’s left-handed power is ideal for Milwaukee. He generally kills right-handed pitching, which means the Brewers could run a 4-man outfield throughout the season giving time off when necessary and putting players in the best position to succeed. As with many players around baseball, he did not have a good 2020. That could bring his salary potential down and make him a viable sign for Milwaukee. MLB Trade Rumors predicts he will get a 2-year/$18M contract. With that type of contract, the Brewers would be getting a player that put up a 126 wRC+ in 2019 and has demonstrated himself to be a very dangerous bat throughout his career. Plus he is just 29 years old.
Jackie Bradley Jr.
There are not many better defensive outfielders in baseball than Jackie Bradley Jr.. One exception might be Lorenzo Cain, which makes his signing in Milwaukee unlikely. Nonetheless he is an intriguing option. Bradley Jr. is generally thought to be a light hitter, but he hit 26 home runs in 2016 and 21 home runs in 2019. Might his power play up in Milwaukee? His defense plays anywhere.
Ryan Braun will not make the Hall of Fame, but he is an icon in Milwaukee. David Stearns and Company decided not to pick up his 2021 option, but that does not mean he would not sign up for one more season with the Brew Crew. Soon to be 37 years old, Braun can still hit. In 2020 he was a league average hitter, but really came on in September posting a 145 wRC+ for the month. It would be odd and just a bit sad not to see Braun in a Brewers’ uniform in 2021. Maybe he and the Brewers’ front office decide to put that inevitability off for just a bit longer?
Ryan Braun's great moments with the Brewers https://t.co/TxqlKRHXrX— David Gibson (@DrDavidGibson) November 11, 2020
There are other outfielders on the free agent market. Some of them would make nice additions and add depth to the outfield: Adam Eaton, Brett Gardner, Kevin Pillar, and Cameron Maybin. Others are intriguing because of their reputation: Yasiel Puig, Shin-Soo Choo, Billy Hamilton, Matt Kemp, and Yoenis Cespedes. Then there is always to option of bringing back Domingo Santana.
Milwaukee could find some interesting players from this group of outfielders to try and bring to town. If they do, it would be a bit of a surprise since their outfield is set on paper. But with that in mind, we have become used to surprises in Milwaukee.
Baseball statistics courtesy of Fangraphs