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Milwaukee Brewers reshape infield now and for the future wth Kolten Wong signing

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An overall defensive upgrade comes with room to deal

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Milwaukee’s infield roster is a puzzle still taking shape, but the Kolten Wong signing is an important piece. He mitigates several defensive issues and leaves some flexibility to continue to level up the infield.

Though not a power bat and an average hitter overall, he gets on base enough to provide the Brewers with the consistency they could sorely use coming off a 2020 that was offensively woeful. He is a lefty who can bat a variety of places in the lineup, which offers flexibility for the right-hand heavy Brewers.

While Wong is an overall benefit to the Brewers, the team benefits from having him on this side of the NL Central rivalry 18 times per season. The Brewers had no control over whether or not Wong became a free agent in the first place, but it seems worth noting that they picked up a player who, had St. Louis retained him, would have rounded out one of the best defensive infields in recent memory. The margins at the top of the NL Central are tight, and it’s a good thing the Brewers aren’t facing an Arenado-DeJong-Wong-Goldschmidt conference rival infield 18 times per season.

The value Wong provides is concentrated in his defensive skill. He offers enough improvement at second base to translate to more Brewer wins in 2021. A 1:1 comparison of Wong, the best defensive second baseman in the league, and Keston Hiura, the worst defensive second baseman in the league, reveals that Wong is a clear upgrade.

Wong also brings a lot of less tangible value. Delightfully, he wants to help Orlando Arcia win a Gold Glove.

He’s also resilient, a player who learns from but doesn’t dwell on mistakes and has fun reaching his full potential. He was picked off on a baserunning mistake to lose a World Series game while playing for reported workplace bully and former Brewer Mike Matheny. He lost his mother to cancer a few months after that. He parlayed these experiences to become one of the best defensive players at his position and in all of baseball.

Signing Wong improves the whole infield. As the lineup stands, Keston Hiura moves to first, a position he’s likely better suited for defensively, as most of his defensive blunders come from throwing errors. Also, a less demanding defensive role gives him a better chance of returning to the offensive production expected of a first baseman, something he did in 2019, was far from in 2020, and will need to do in 2021 for the Brewers to retain him. The Brewers management and Keston Hiura are reportedly optimistic about preparing him to cover first base. Still, the Brewers are also interested in signing Shin-Soo Choo at first. This move could suggest a platoon situation at first with Hiura and potentially in the outfield with Avisail Garcia. It could also indicate the Brewers are hedging their bets on Hiura at first and aren’t dedicated to him in the opening day or long-term lineup. If talks with Choo progress, Dan Vogelbach’s future also becomes more uncertain without a National League DH.

If Milwaukee makes no more offseason moves, we’ll likely see the current longest-tenured Brewer Orlando Arcia at short and Luis Urías at third. The result is a defensively solid infield that is light on overall offense. With the exception of Keston Hiura, the Brewers’ presumed starting infield ranges from solidly to slightly below league average wRC+. In 2020, no one in this infield reached 100 wRC+, according to FanGraphs. Wong gets a lot of mileage from getting on base consistently, Arcia is trending upward at the plate, Luis Urias only made 120 plate appearances in 2020, and Keston Hiura will be angling for a 2019-like return to the plate. But one hopes the Brewers aren’t done dealing.

This brings us to another benefit of the Wong deal — $5 million of his 2020 salary is deferred, which could mean the Brewers aren’t done making moves. This flexibility could allow them to level up at third base, and the Brewers are still hanging in the discussions surrounding Justin Turner.

Overall, the Wong signing is an unexpected move that makes the Brewers a much better team. The Brewers went from having the worst defensive second baseman to having the best defensive second baseman. Making room for him at second improves the defensive infield altogether. He provides some flexibility in the offensive lineup as a lefty who can get on base from various spots in the lineup and brings a lot of intangible value to the team. Finally, the trade leaves room to acquire a corner infielder with a more proven bat, a possibility that has many fans crossing their fingers.

Poll

Do you agree with the signing of Kolten Wong for two years plus a club option?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    No, too much money/years.
    (8 votes)
  • 1%
    No, not a good fit.
    (10 votes)
  • 97%
    Yes!
    (611 votes)
629 votes total Vote Now