With the Hot Stove League heating up and baseball’s winter meetings happening soon, Milwaukee Brewers fans are wondering what could possibly be on General Manager David Stearns’ holiday shopping list. To take a look at what Stearns might do during the remainder of the offseason, first let’s recap what roster moves have happened so far and what holes need to be plugged.
Starting with waiver claims, the Brewers claimed righty relievers Steve Geltz from Tampa Bay and Blake Parker from the Angels. They also snatched up slugging Milwaukee native Adam Walker after he was let go by Minnesota. Walker’s stay with the team was brief – he was designated for assignment after Geltz was claimed and placed on the 40-man roster. The hope is that Walker can somehow clear waivers and provide some depth at Triple A. Reliever David Goforth was also DFA to provide a spot on the 40-man roster.
The following have been placed on the now-full 40-man roster: Outfielders Lewis Brinson, Ryan Cordell, Brett Phillips, Lewis Brinson, lefty Josh Hader, and righty Taylor Williams.
To tender or non-tender: First baseman Chris Carter, second baseman Scooter Gennett, outfielder Kirk Niewenhuis, catcher Martin Maldonado, RHP Carlos Torres, RHP Wily Peralta, RHP Tyler Thornburg, RHP Chase Anderson.
The big recent news is that Carter won’t be tendered a contract, and while it’s still possible he could be traded before the non-tender deadline, that probably would have happened already. Stearns quickly signed slugger Eric Thames who played the last three seasons in Korea after initially appearing in the majors as an outfielder. With the NC Dinos, Thames blasted 124 homers and stole 64 bases in his three seasons, plus had a slash line of .348/.450/.720 overall. His walk to strikeout ratio was 235/293.
Of the Thames signing, Stearns said: “Eric brings to the organization a left-handed power bat that is a good fit for our lineup. His ability to play first base along with both corner outfield positions adds versatility to the roster.”
All of the pitchers on the tender/non-tender list are most likely safe, as is Gennett, although look for him to be a trade candidate before next season starts. Maldonado and Niewenhuis are 50/50 to return as Brewers in 2017. Manager Craig Counsell may wish to have a longer look at Andrew Susac at catcher along with either Jasmil Pinto or Manny Pina as backup. All three had a shot to play a bit last year after the Lucroy trade. Prospect Jacob Nottingham is a bit away from the bigs, so a free agent pickup at catcher might be just a stopgap for the time being.
Outrighted to the minors: The aforementioned Pinto, infielders Garin Cecchini and Jake Elmore, infielder/outfielder Andy Wilkins, lefty Sean Nolin, righties Yhonathan Barrios and Ben Rowen. Elmore refused the assignment and elected free agency.
Placed on waivers: Outfielder Rymer Liriano. The Chicago White Sox signed him shortly afterward.
The David Stearns Shopping List: Stearns claims most of the “heavy lifting” is done as far as trades go. With a highly ranked minor league system, he does have some depth to deal from – particularly in the outfield. Stearns may actually only be looking to deal a couple players and will only move others “if the price is right.” The 2016-17 offseason may be one that leans toward free agent signings that fill spots and provide more depth.
Speculation has centered around Jonathan Villar becoming the second baseman of the future, and this makes sense if Gennett gets dealt. Hernan Perez may become the default third baseman, or another possibility is Stearns goes after a left-handed bat to create a platoon, leaving Perez open to play other positions as needed.
Don’t be surprised if Matt Garza is traded if the Brewers decide to eat some of the $12.1 he’s owed, plus they may be thinking about putting him in a package deal with Gennett. It will be interesting to see how the Garza saga plays out – as he could be dealt mid-season to a contender if he’s performing well.
The offseason will probably determine if Braun is a Brewer for life or traded. This is probably the best time for Stearns to make a deal since Braun’s veteran status will kick in this coming season and his health hasn’t been better in some time. The tough part is finding a trading partner due to the limited number of teams on Braun’s no-trade list.
Pitcher Junior Guerra is drawing trade interest – rightfully so – and Stearns will need to decide if the 31-year-old is part of the future or can bring back a decent return.
2017 Outlook: The team came in around $60 million last year in salary, and it isn’t expected this number will increase much until the Brew Crew are close to contending. At the second annual Brewers Town Hall Meeting in early November, Counsell talked about how much he liked having around guys who could play multiple positions. This philosophy will undoubtedly come into play as the roster is constructed for next season.
Expect a lot more development and auditioning for the future in 2017. Top prospects will be entering the conversation such as outfielder Lewis Brinson, outfielder Brett Phillips, lefty Wei-Chung Wang, lefty Josh Hader, righty Jorge Lopez, and catcher Jacob Nottingham. And that’s just to name a few! The future is looking brighter in Brew Town.