The outfield for the Milwaukee Brewers was supposed to be a strength again this year, at least that was the thought when the team signed Jackie Bradley, Jr. shortly before the start of the season. Things haven’t quite worked out that way, however. While Avisail Garcia is enjoying one of the finest seasons of his career on both sides of the ball, Lorenzo Cain has been limited by injury, Christian Yelich has had injuries and still isn’t hitting like the MVP he was in 2018-19, and JBJ has been one of the least-productive hitters in baseball. Tyrone Taylor has stepped up in an increased role, Jace Peterson has been an admirable fill-in, but the group as a whole hasn’t been as impactful as hoped.
David Stearns and Matt Arnold undoubtedly recognize this, and sense that the org may be in a precarious place with their outfield depth moving forward. Garcia is likely to become a free agent after the season now that he’s reached his mutual option threshold. Who knows if or when Yelich will hit like the player he was when he signed his long-term extension, or what to expect from LoCain or JBJ in terms of production and availability next year. Taylor is intriguing — he’s controllable and capable of playing a good center, and has been a solid hitter during his overall brief (108 OPS+ in 305 career plate appearances). But heading into his age-28 season, he still hasn’t played even the equivalent of a full season at the highest level, so the club might be hesitant to move him into an even larger role. 27 year old Corey Ray has fallen off top prospect lists; while he hit .274/.325/.500 in Triple-A and collected his MLB debut and first hit this summer, he’s been limited to a total of 40 games this season between both the majors and minors. Other promising top prospects like Garrett Mitchell, Sal Frelick, Joe Gray, and Joey Wiemer are still a little while away from earning the chance to be potential contributors, much less becoming bats who can be counted on at the MLB level.
It’s therefore quite interesting to see this report out of Pittsburgh. In going through his attempt to identify the Pirates’ 2022 roster, writer Rob Biertempfel informed readers for The Athletic that Pittsburgh “rebuffed trade overtures about Reynolds from several clubs, including what a source described as “big-time offers” from the Brewers and Braves.” Reynolds was a 2nd round pick by the Giants in 2016, was traded to the Pirates in the Andrew McCutchen deal. With Pittsburgh he has become a premier player at the big league level, starting with finishing 4th place in Rookie of the Year voting during the 2019 campaign.
Reynolds, 27 in January, posted a .314/.377/.503 slash line during his inaugural season, and after slumping during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, he was an All-Star this year and is hitting .293/.382/.505 with 24 home runs in 153 games as Pittsburgh’s everyday center fielder. He’ll be arb-eligible as a Super Two player this offseason and has four more seasons of club control before hitting free agency. He’s a very good player (5.5 bWAR this year and 10.2 bWAR in 342 MLB games) and if the Brewers were willing to make a “big-time offer,” it would have surely required multiple top prospects and/or controllable MLB talent to warrant serious consideration from the other side.
The Brewers and Pirates have hooked up for trades on multiple occasions in recent seasons despite being division rivals, but obviously did not connect here. It will be interesting to see if the Brewers re-engage with the Pirates on trade talks this winter, even if Biertempfel is of the opinion that Reynolds isn’t going anywhere. Regardless, it seems likely that the outfield will be a priority for the Brewers this winter, and it’s interesting to know that the front office is supposedly out there making “big-time” offers for young stars with years left to go on their contracts.
In another compelling note, one route that was apparently considered to addressing the outfield issues this summer was a reunion with franchise icon Ryan Braun. The former stalwart told reporters that he had “pretty serious conversations” with the organization about returning in July and August. Of course, nothing wound up coming to fruition and the club honored Braun’s 14-year career in a ceremony commemorating his official retirement from the game during this past weekend.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference