Last November I participated in a “what would you do if you were the General Manager of the Milwaukee Brewers” scenario.
As spring training wraps up, it’s time to compare my plan to reality. Armchair general manager Chris Zantow vs. real general manager David Stearns.
Write “tender” or “non-tender” after each of the following names. You can also trade a player before or after tendering a contract.
- Jared Hughes – Tender
- Jeremy Jeffress – Tender
- Stephen Vogt – Non-tender
- Jonathan Villar – Tender
- Jimmy Nelson – Tender
- Hernan Perez – Tender
- Corey Knebel – Tender
Explain the toughest calls if necessary:
I’d be exploring a cheaper option rather than Vogt, which isn’t really a tough call.
David Stearns went in a different direction and non-tendered Jared Hughes, which I totally didn’t expect. He offered everyone else a contract and didn’t need to look for a catcher.
Impending free agents (re-sign, let go or qualifying offer)
- Neil Walker: made $17.2 mil in 2017 (ineligible for QO): I’d take a pass, save some money and give Villar a chance to rebound. If he hasn’t by mid-season, there’s usually a Neil Walker type out there a team is looking to unload we could pick up.
- Anthony Swarzak: made $900K in 2017 (ineligible for QO): Re-sign for 2 years for $12 MM
- Matt Garza: made $12.5 MM in 2017: Buh-bye
Stearns did not agree with me on Swarzak and took a pass, choosing to sign other free agents instead. He agreed on Garza and Walker.
My free agent targets included Swarzak (as mentioned above) and fellow pitchers Pat Neshek and Miles Mikolas. I also wanted to pursue a couple of veterans – catcher Chris Iannetta and utilityman Mike Aviles. Stearns didn’t go my route here either.
He started slowly by signing pitcher Michael Brady in late November, then had a busy day on December 21 when fellow hurlers Yovani Gallardo, Jhoulys Chacin, and Mike Zagurski all signed.
January brought another crop of signings including position players Christian Bethancourt and Ji-Man Choi. Pitchers J.J. Hoover, Boone Logan, and Ernesto Frieri also signed as free agents.
The big free agent splash came on January 26th when outfielder Lorenzo Cain signed a five year deal to return to Milwaukee. I didn’t see that one coming! (The trade for Christian Yelich on the same day is in the Trades section below)
Stearns followed the Cain news by signing veteran reliever Matt Albers to a two-year deal, as I’d hoped to do with Neshek.
I made one trade proposal: Jesus Aguilar and Keon Broxton to Seattle for the following pitching prospects: Thyago Vieira (8th ranked), Wyatt Mills (22nd ranked), and Robert Duggar. Duggar and Mills are a bit away from the big leagues, and Duggar started 18 games out of his 31 appearances in 2017. Vieira can hit 100 mph with his fastball and needs a little more development before becoming a late inning reliever in the majors. My thought was trading Broxton and Aguilar would open roster spots for Brett Phillips and Lewis Brinson.
Except a roster spot for Brinson wasn’t needed! Unless you have been trapped under something heavy the last few months, the Brinson trade made headlines the Brewers haven’t seen in a while. Brinson, Isan Diaz (minors), Monte Harrison (minors), Jordan Yamamoto (minors) were shipped to Miami in exchange for star outfielder Christian Yelich.
I would do everything in my power to lock up Orlando Arcia and Domingo Santana long term. My salary projection below does not include this happening, however.
Here was my proposed roster:
Catcher: Manny Pina
First Base: Eric Thames
Second Base: Jonathan Villar
Shortstop: Orlando Arcia
Third Base: Travis Shaw
Left Field: Ryan Braun
Center Field: Lewis Brinson
Right Field: Domingo Santana
BENCH: Hernan Perez
BENCH: Brett Phillips
BENCH: Mike Aviles
BENCH: Eric Sogard
BENCH: Chris Iannetta
SP1: Chase Anderson
SP2: Zach Davies
SP3: Brandon Woodruff
SP4: Josh Hader
SP5: Miles Mikolas
BP: Corey Knebel
BP: Jared Hughes
BP: Jeremy Jeffress
BP: Brent Suter
BP: Anthony Swarzek
BP: Junior Guerra
BP: Pat Neshek
Injured: Jimmy Nelson
The short version of my strategy was to stay the course and keep payroll down for the moment, allowing for spending a little later if needed. Open spots for Brinson and Phillips to play regularly as I’ve seen enough of Broxton. I hoped to trade him for even more pitching depth, like previous deals made by Stearns.
I wanted to move Hader into the rotation, so re-signing Swarzek and picking up Neshek would allow me to make that move. But I’m totally on board with keeping him in the bullpen in real life and understand why that decision was made. When Nelson returns from the DL, most likely either Mikolas or Woodruff would be the odd man out of the rotation.
I honestly thought I was assembling a team that could win 90+ games in 2018 and make the playoffs.
David Stearns & Company: All in! Why wait until 2020 to try to push deep into the season? I completely agree, which is why I’m an armchair GM. But as always, I had fun charting a pretend offseason.
Here were my projections:
Guaranteed contracts (9 players – includes free agent signings) – $51.65 million
Arbitration (6 players) – $18.8 million
Pre-arb players (10) – $5.45 million
TOTAL: $75.90 million
In real life the Brewers are spending a projected $90 million to field a team this season.