The number of players who made a significant impact to the Milwaukee Brewers over the past couple of seasons that are now with other teams is astounding. If another team lost more players of substance than the Brewers this offseason, it would be hard to believe. As pitchers and catchers report to the American Family Fields of Phoenix Spring Training complex, unknowns abound about how these losses will affect the 2020 version of the Milwaukee Brewers.
With so many former Brewers on others teams, let’s take a look back and remember fondly (or not so fondly at times) the contributions that these players made to the Brewers.
After languishing in free agency during the 2018-2019 off-season, Grandal signed a 1-year, $18.25 million contract with a mutual option for 2020 to play in Milwaukee. As we know, Grandal chose not to accept his end of the option and signed with the Chicago White Sox for 4-years, and $73 million. Grandal was quite simply fabulous for the Brew Crew in 2019. He slashed .246/.380/.468 while crushing 28 home runs and handling the catcher position as well as anyone in baseball. Who can forget the bomb he hit in the first inning of the Wild Card game that should have been a difference maker that propelled the Brewers into the NLDS.
Mike Moustakas suffered through two awful free agencies for him in 2018 and 2019. In 2019, the Brewers were the beneficiaries as he signed a 1-year deal for $10 million. His patience paid off as the Cincinnati Reds signed him to a 4-year, $64 million contract. Moose showed himself to be a leader in the clubhouse and an unselfish player as he agreed to handle second base duties early in the 2019 season so Travis Shaw could return to third base. Moustakas was more than a clubhouse presence though. He slashed .254/.329/.516 while hitting 35 home runs.
For many Brewers fans, Eric Thames might have been the hardest player to see go from a pure personality standpoint. Once the best players in the KBO, David Stearns brought the slugger stateside to play first base for Milwaukee. Not many have started better than Eric Thames as he hit 11 home runs in April of 2017. He would eventually hit 31 in that season. He would later lose his job to a very hot Jesus Aguilar in 2018, but not one to be deterred, he would come back in 2019 and return the favor to Aguilar. His slash for 2019 ended up at a very good .247/.346/.505. He also hit 25 home runs in just 459 plate appearances. Thames will now be in the nation’s capital as the Nationals enjoy his penchant for getting on base, hitting bombs, and keeping the clubhouse light.
Travis Shaw is a tale of two seasons. In 2018, and 2017 for that matter, Shaw was one of the better hitting third basemen in all of baseball. In 2019 he was simply one of the worst hitters in the game. A slash line of .157/.281/.270 and a wRC+ of 47 had everyone’s head scratching. Bringing Shaw back was probably too much risk for David Stearns, but it would not be a surprise to see Shaw help the Toronto Blue Jays in a big way in 2020.
Chase Anderson has been a good pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers since he was acquired in trade from the Arizona Diamondbacks. His best season was 2017 where he put up top-of-the-rotation types of numbers. Yet in every other season, he took the mound and generally gave the Brew Crew a chance to win. While he always was vulnerable to the long ball, he was normally solid. 2019 was no exception as he pitched to a 4.21 ERA. Peripherals are generally not that kind to Anderson, and his 5.26 xFIP in 2019 may have been a concern for David Stearns and Company. Nonetheless, he will join Travis Shaw in Toronto as Anderson was traded there for a minor league first baseman.
Davies was part of a trade package that brought Luis Urias and Eric Lauer to Milwaukee from San Diego. Like Anderson, Davies was a solid pitcher for the Brew Crew for quite a long time. He originally came to the Brewers from Baltimore in exchange for Gerardo Parra during the 2015 trade deadline. During the first part of 2019, Davies was arguably the Brewers’ best starting pitcher as he was consistently among league leaders in ERA. Unfortunately he was unable to maintain that success later in the season. All in all he came out looking pretty good on the stat sheet for 2019 pitching to a 3.55 ERA and a 4.56 FIP. Now he will have a chance to take his high contact, command oriented arsenal to a much friendlier PETCO park.
Jimmy Nelson is quite simply one of the greatest disappointments in Milwaukee sports history. He is not a disappointment because he choked in a big moment, but because he was on his way to becoming an All-Star level starting pitcher. As we all know now, that slide back into second base in Chicago late in the season of 2017 not only injured Nelson’s shoulder, but eradicated the potential of what he was to become at least in a Brewers uniform. Now he is Los Angeles likely to pitch out of the Dodgers bullpen.
Guerra was David Stearns’ first acquisition, and he was undoubtedly a successful one. At times when his split finger was working, he was able to pitch like a number two starter and a high leverage reliever. He battled through injuries including one to his calf that occurred as he was hitting during his 2017 Opening Day start. Guerra was solid for the Brew Crew over four seasons with his last season being pitched out of the bullpen where he pitched to a 3.55 ERA and a 4.52 FIP. After being non-tendered by the Brewers, the Arizona Diamondbacks picked up the unheralded but effective pitcher.
Jeffress was one of the “electric dudes” of the 2018 Milwaukee Brewers that made it to within a game of going to the World Series. He was pivotal in the success to that club. An injury to his shoulder coming into 2019 delayed his arrival to the Brewers’ bullpen, and he was just not able to get back on track. His velocity was down and he seemingly lost confidence in his split finger change. Now he will look to bounce back in 2020 in a Chicago Cubs uniform.
Speaking of Chicago Cubs uniforms, Hernan Perez signed a minor league contract with that Milwaukee South ball club. Perez was the epitome of a utility man as he played every position on the diamond for the Brew Crew except catcher during his tenure in Milwaukee. Unfortunately 2019 was not a great year with the bat as he slashed .228/.262/.379.
Gio Gonzalez came to the Brewers at just the right time last season. With all three of the young starters struggling to some extent (Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta, and Corbin Burnes) into May, Gonzalez arrived to stabilize the starting rotation. Up until he injured himself later in the year, Gonzalez did yoeman’s work. Gio pitched in some big moments for Milwaukee across parts of two seasons. Now he will pitch for the upstart, Chicago White Sox with battery mate Yasmani Grandal.
Grisham will always be known in Milwaukee for botching the play in right field that cost Milwaukee the opportunity to advance to the NLDS. Whether the ball took a bad bounce (it did) or not, many in Milwaukee will find it hard to relive that play, and Grisham was the player attached to that play. Grisham looked like he would be a good player for Milwaukee, and he held his own in his first season slashing .231/.328/.410 while playing decent defense. His development as a major leaguer will continue in San Diego as he and Zach Davies were traded there for Luis Urias and Eric Lauer.
Pomeranz’ stay in Milwaukee was brief, but it was spectacular. In fact, he may have been the best reliever in baseball after Milwaukee picked him up in a trade that sent fan favorite prospect, Mauricio Dubon to San Francisco. As a Brewer, Pomeranz pitched to a 2.39 ERA and a 2.68 FIP while striking out more than 15 per 9. He parlayed that small sample of success into a really nice contract that sees him returning to the San Diego Padres for the next four seasons.
Like Pomeranz, Jordan Lyles parlayed his short burst of success with Milwaukee into a nice contract with Texas. Lyles was the Brewers best starter down the stretch last season after coming to Milwaukee from Pittsburgh. While in a Brewers’ uniform he went 7-1 and had a 2.45 ERA.
Cory Spangenberg, Tyler Saladino, Jay Jackson, and Tyler Austin all signed contracts to play in either Japan or Korea. All four players made contributions to the 2019 Brewers whether it be via big home runs at important moments in the season by the three position players or solid performance in the bullpen by Jackson.
Other players of note that wore a Brewers’ uniform that are playing with other teams are several. First Jesus Aguilar and Jonathan Villar are both taking their volatile talents to South Beach to play for the Marlins. The Brewers best starter in 2018, Jhoulys Chacin will try to take a spot in Minnesota’s rotation. Wade Miley signed one of those really nice contracts Cincinnati was handing out. And Stephen Vogt will get a shot to be the back up catcher in Arizona.
Most of the players on this very long list were more than just solid contributors, they were instrumental in the success that Milwaukee has enjoyed over the past few seasons. For that reason alone, it is hard to say goodbye. From the outside looking in, most of the guys on this list seemed like quality human beings as well, which makes goodbye even harder. Nonetheless goodbye is what is called for. So thanks for all the memories, and all the best in 2020.
That is, except when your team plays the Brewers.
Baseball statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and Fangraphs