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Brew Crew Ball Mailbag #18: Brewers remain quiet at winter meetings

Answering questions for this week’s mailbag

MLB: Winter Meetings Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Happy weekend, everyone, and welcome to the first Brew Crew Ball Mailbag of the offseason!

The winter meetings just wrapped up, and the Brewers remained quiet amidst a frenzy of signings that saw teams combine to spend more than $1.1 billion on free agents. As such, most questions for this week focused on Milwaukee’s offseason plan. Let’s dive in.

Secret Stadium Sauce asks:

It’s early and a lot could happen, but could you see the Brewers going with three rookie position starters this year?
If I’m reading the tea leaves correctly, it seems like that really may be their plan, that they’re really high on their upper-level players.
They may also be looking towards ‘24...keep Burnes, Woodruff, Adames through their walk years and watch Chourio come up and light the league on fire.

The Brewers may be overly confident in some of their prospects, but I suspect a good deal of posturing is occurring. Publicly downplaying their best prospects would hurt the Brewers’ leverage if they attempt to use any of them as trade chips or negotiate with free agents at those respective positions.

I think the Brewers plan to have at least one rookie in their starting outfield, but I don’t believe any of their prospects are good enough to expect multiple to produce out of the gates in starting roles. I anticipate an external addition or two to push some of those guys further down the depth chart.

Brice Turang currently projects to get significant playing time at second base, but he would be a better fit in a utility role. The Brewers began exposing him to other positions in Nashville down the stretch in 2022, so they may agree.

leche10 asks:

This offseason so far seems to be more about getting cheaper than building a better baseball team... Convince me that I’m overreacting and there’s a better plan in the works

If the Brewers are primarily focused on cutting payroll this offseason, they’re not doing a very good job of it. They saved a projected $11 million by trading Hunter Renfroe and roughly $5.25 million by parting ways with Brad Boxberger and Brent Suter. However, they have so far declined other opportunities to save money.

The Kolten Wong trade was not a cost-cutting move because the Brewers sent money to Seattle to cover the difference between Wong and Jesse Winker’s 2023 salaries. Furthermore, they retained 14 of their 18 arbitration-eligible players and plan to build around Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Willy Adames rather than trade any of them.

I don’t blame anyone for being frustrated by Milwaukee’s inaction on the free agent market. Watching your team remain on the sidelines as others make headlines with major signings is not fun. However, most of these moves were deals for upper-tier free agents who were never realistic targets for the Brewers.

The market for the next tier of players figures to pick up now, including the catching market, where Matt Arnold hinted the Brewers will be more involved. They still have plenty of time to make additions.

kozlow22 asks:

Do the brewers move some prospects to get a C or 3B (well INF)? It seems like this may be the only way to really upgrade the roster.

I would be surprised if the Brewers hang onto all their outfield prospects. The Blue Jays have an abundance of catching depth but are in the process of remaking their outfield, making them a logical trade partner. That leads us to our next question...

Duhawk Steve asks:

Would you trade Ashby and filler for Sean Murphy? What about Lauer and Mitchell for Danny Jansen?

As a big Ashby believer, I would say no to the first proposal. I also don’t think it’s realistic to trade a player a few months after signing him to a five-year extension.

I’d like to see the Brewers sell high on Lauer and have little confidence in Mitchell becoming a capable big-league hitter in the near future, so I’ll accept the second deal. If you’re more bullish on either player, though, it looks like an overpay.

ianfromeagan asks:

Of all the minor league signings so far - Darrell Thompson, Adonis Medina, Eddy Alvarez, JC Mejia (might be missing some others) - who is most likely to have the biggest impact on the 2023 Brewers?

I’ll go with Mejia, but Thompson and his high-spin arsenal are very much on my radar.

Mejia only threw a couple of innings for the Brewers last year, but in that small sample, he flashed a significant velocity jump as a full-time reliever and added run on his power sinker. His slider was excellent in his debut season in 2021, holding opponents to a .274 wOBA and 41.7% whiff rate. The stuff is there for Mejia to become a quality reliever.

jorgejuliomachado asks:

If you could have one of Winker, Wong or Renfroe on the Brewers next year which one would you choose?

I’m picking Winker. He will easily be the best offensively, and the Brewers will benefit from having a big bat in their lineup against right-handed pitching. He may not provide much value in the field, but neither do Renfroe and Wong unless the latter can reverse his defensive decline.

Spaul149 asks:

With the way FA contract are going will the Brewers add even one starter?
Follow up:
As a fanbase should we be angry if they don’t add anyone?

I would be surprised if they don’t add at least one starter through free agency or trade. The position player group as it stands today is missing a reliable infielder and could do better at catcher. If the Brewers don’t add on either of those fronts, it should be cause for frustration.


I know it’s early, and MA-squared could surprise before pitchers and catchers report in 2+ months (maybe even before you read this, Jack!): But, two questions:
1. With the Contreras signing by the Cards, do you, too, get a sinking feeling about the Crew’s prospects in 2023?
2. With the incredible amount of $ spent - $43M/AAV for top starters, $17M #3 or #4 SPs, do you think the Brewers will abandon the idea of extending Woody and/or Willy? Or for that matter signing any needle-moving FAs? Or will they recognize this is a new world, use the additional income, and get back in the game?

The Cardinals already had the Brewers beaten handily on the position player side, and the addition of Contreras widens that gap. Even so, I think the overall difference in the standings will narrow next season. Better health and positive regression from some arms ought to give the Brewers a leg up on the pitching side. While Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado will remain excellent players, it’s unlikely both will again have MVP-caliber seasons at the same time.

The Brewers probably have no interest in doling out those top-end salaries you mentioned, but I think there’s a chance those figures could provide extra motivation to extend Adames. The best players at premium positions are getting more expensive, not cheaper. Knowing this financial reality, Adames’ love for Milwaukee, and that he may be capable of reaching another level on the field, the Brewers might view signing him to a long-term deal this winter as an efficient use of resources.

@Rebob72 asks:

The short answer is bats. Pitching depth whittled by injuries hurt the Brewers more than their lineup did in 2022, but I trust their pitching development system enough to improve that depth without major acquisitions.

On the other hand, the Brewers have been dreadful at building lineups. The 2022 team had the best wRC+ of any roster in the David Stearns era, and that 104 wRC+ was still underwhelming for a team with playoff aspirations. If the Brewers are willing to stretch their budget, they ought to devote it to an area in which they struggle internally.

Bats who could be had for short-term deals would be the best fit. Jose Abreu was my ideal free agent target before he signed with the Astros, and I like Michael Brantley if he can return to full health. I could also get on board with signing Justin Turner to man third base and shifting Luis Urias to second base.

Thanks for your questions this week! We’ll do a few more mailbags throughout the offseason as we wait for baseball to return.