First, here’s how the official press release announcing the trade of Aaron Hill was written, in case you haven’t seen it.
The Milwaukee Brewers have acquired right-handed pitcher Aaron Wilkerson and second baseman Wendell Rijo from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for infielder Aaron Hill and cash. The announcement was made by General Manager David Stearns.
“In Aaron Wilkerson, we are adding a starting pitcher who has had tremendous success in the minor leagues and could be an asset to the Major League team in the near future,” said Stearns. “Wendell Rijo adds even more young talent and strength up the middle to our organization.”
Wilkerson, 27, had been pitching this season at Triple-A Pawtucket, where he was 4-2 with a 2.44 ERA in 9 games (8 starts). He was holding International League opponents to a .223 batting average (41-for-184, 5hr) with 54 strikeouts in just 48.0 innings pitched. He also pitched at Double-A Portland this season, going 2-1 with a 1.83 ERA in 8 starts. While at Portland, he held Eastern League opponents to a .175 batting average (28-for-160, 2hr) with 48 strikeouts in just 44.1 innings pitched.
Wilkerson, who was signed by Boston as a non-drafted free agent on July 18, 2014, owns an impressive career minor-league record of 22-7 with a 2.52 ERA in 54 games (44 starts). He has produced 293 strikeouts in just 279.0 innings pitched.
Prior to joining the Red Sox organization, the product of Cumberland University (TN), pitched the 2013 season for three independent league teams: Fort Worth – United League Baseball; Florence – Frontier League and Grand Prairie – American Association.
Rijo, 20, began the 2016 season at Double-A Portland, where he appeared in 51 games. He was transferred to Class-A Salem in late June and appeared in 11 games there prior to today’s trade.
Born in La Romana in the Dominican Republic, Rijo was signed by Boston as an international free agent on July 6, 2012. He owns a career batting average of .250 with 16 HR, 129 RBI and 50 stolen bases in 333 minor-league games (2012-2016). Following last season, he was ranked as the 15th-best prospect in the Red Sox organization and 19th-best prospect in the Carolina League by Baseball America.
Hill, 34, was acquired by Milwaukee last January 30 from Arizona, along with right-handed pitcher Chase Anderson, shortstop Isan Diaz and cash, in exchange for shortstop Jean Segura and right-handed pitcher Tyler Wagner. He batted .283 (72-for-254) with 8 HR and 29 RBI in 78 games with the Brewers, making 71 starts (55g at 3B, 16g at 2B).
“Along with his statistical contributions, we thank Aaron for his veteran leadership and versatility during his time as a Brewer,” said Stearns.
For my thoughts on the trade both from the viewpoint of the Red Sox as well as the Brewers, check out my article over at Today’s Knuckleball by clicking here.
What I didn’t say there because it really didn’t fit is how this move is just the first salvo in what should be an incredibly busy month for David Stearns and company.
They have a plethora of movable assets and of those many that teams should desire to varying degrees. He even has assets that he’ll get calls on but shouldn’t move as they have a chance to be key parts of the future contender.
Here’s a quick list (alphabetical by last name) with a blurb as to why each could be moved. Oh, and let me say here that I’m not including Braun because I don’t believe he’ll be moved and I don’t feel like writing up a section about why Stearns would move him.
- Blaine Boyer
- Why you would move him: Really playing well (outside of San Francisco) and has shown the ability handle higher-leverage innings. Wasn’t expected to give you much when signing as a non-roster invitee to Spring Training so anything you could get in trade is a bonus from that aspect. All relief pitchers, middle relievers chief among them, are volatile meaning capitalizing on their value when you can should be considered. Plus, Boyer turns 35 next week so you can’t count on him as a part of the future here in Milwaukee.
- Why you wouldn’t: I guess you wouldn’t if no one asked you to. Really, in Boyer’s case where he was a flier on a team looking for roleplayer bullpen arms Boyer has positioned himself to potentially be of value to a contender who isn’t getting enough mileage out of their current group (like the Cubs, for instance). There are a bunch of teams who could use an arm like Boyer’s.
- Chris Carter
- Why you would move him: Having a good bounce-back year as he desired when signing here, has shown he can play everyday defense at 1B. Would be more expensive next year (though under team control for a time yet) and could cool off limiting trade value in the off-season or next year.
- Why you wouldn’t: He’s still quite inexpensive for the level of production he’s giving even with the 2nd year of arbitration eligibility looming (using this year’s one-year price as the starting point should temper the bottom line) and while there are some intriguing first basemen in the system, no one is exactly busting down the door to take the job in 2017. Carter could be move next July the same as this July plus most contenders who would covet the kind of power Carter would add to a lineup have solutions at first base already so the return might not enough during the year when the trade partner pool is limited.
- Matt Garza
- Why you would move him: He hasn’t performed particularly well over the last year and a half when healthy enough to pitch. He still has talent though and a change of scenery and pitching philosophy (despite there being a new pitching coach with Milwaukee this year) could benefit him. Garza is a competitor in the truest sense of the word and might subconsciously lock in if pitching in games that mean more. The main reason though is that despite his veteran leadership, the Brewers have been amassing a handful of knocking-on-the-door starting pitchers would need to be given big league chances (in some cases second chances) before 2018. Moving Garza frees up a spot for that to happen. The pool of available starting pitching isn’t exactly a robust one this year either so that could lead someone to giving Garza a shot like James Shields to the White Sox.
- Why you wouldn’t: If Stearns couldn’t get what he considers to be fair value, then you can give Garza more time this season to prove what he still has left in the tank. He’s a guy who is tradeable come August so you don’t have to force the issue this month.
- Junior Guerra
- Why you would: He’s come out of seemingly nowhere to be the most consistently good starting pitcher the Brewers have run out there this season and, again in a down market for starting pitching, that could translate to serious value if someone is willing to strike while the iron is hot.
- Why you wouldn’t: If the Brewers think he’s really for real then three years of league minimum-ish salaries and up to six years of team control mean you could conceivably control all of Guerra’s remaining effectiveness. Even if he’s never more than a mid-rotation guy, this season is proof positive that even that role can be a challenging one to fill.
- Jonathan Lucroy
- Why you would: He’s cheap, plays a premium position at a very high level, and could fetch the club a drool-worthy return in prospects.
- Why not: He’s cheap, plays a premium position at a very high level, and you could still trade him in the off-season if you aren’t going to extend him.
- Kirk Nieuwenhuis
- Why you would: He’s not exactly a long-term solution, especially when you have guys like Maverick Phillips on the way. He’s arbitration-eligible for the first time this coming off-season.
- Why not: He knows how to succeed at the big league level, especially defensively, and his role in mentoring a guy like Phillips (and to a lesser degree guys like Ramon Flores and Domingo Santana) is a valuable job. Plus he’s still under team control for three seasons if you want him
- Carlos Torres
- Why you would: See many of the reasons listed for Boyer. Torres is a quality enough arm to be valuable, quality enough to have played for the NL Champion Mets last year.
- Why not: Again, no real reason not to if you can get something of value. Let Torres play for a contender if there’s one who wants him and get something back that can help the future.
For another group of players, the write-ups would look extremely similar. You would trade them because they have value and performing well right now but you wouldn’t because they’re young enough with some ceiling still to reach (to varying degrees), and controllable/cost-effective that they could still be a part of the next contending roster. This group includes: Jacob Barnes, Michael Blazek, Jeremy Jeffress, Jimmy Nelson, Will Smith, Tyler Thornburg, and Jonathan Villar. That said, the return on packages containing those players or even straight-up on some of them would be intriguing.
I know I’ve only been going through names on the 25-man roster right now, but let me make one other point.
Anybody can be had for the right price and that’s what makes Stearns a good General Manager. He’s willing to listen — even on someone he 99% would never move. Look, I want Orlando Arcia to be the shortstop here in Milwaukee for the next decade-plus. That said, if the Angels were to extend Mike Trout for the next decade and offer him to Milwaukee straight up for Arcia (while paying 90% of Trout’s contract themselves), you shouldn’t and wouldn’t say no.
That example is wildly inequitable but I use it to illustrate that yes, even Orlando Arcia is tradeable under the right circumstances.
All this said, I expect a handful of players to probably be wearing other uniforms by August 1st. I also expect that anyone who leaves will do so to the betterment of the long-term goal which is to bring sustainable success to the home clubhouse at Miller Park.
These are the archived videos aired on MLB Network on March 4th as Greg Amsinger and Milwaukee’s all-time Saves leader Dan Plesac visited Brewers’ camp at Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix, Arizona as a part of the Network’s “30 Clubs in 30 Days” series previewing the 2016 season.
GM David Stearns sits down with Amsinger & Plesac
Ryan Braun talks about his bounce back 2015 and looking ahead to 2016
Jimmy Nelson with Dan Plesac
Domingo Santana talks about his fresh start
Will Smith on the bullpen
Ryan Braun demos base running/stealing with Plesac
Chris Carter talks to Greg Amsinger
Lucroy talks 2016 with Amsinger
Matt Garza talks youth and rotation with Plesac
Counsell with Plesac
Brewers Prospects with Jonathan Mayo
Brewers Fan Vote
List is subject to change but here’s the original list as released by the Brewers.
Orlando Arcia(canceled 1/30 due to illness)
- Jacob Barnes
- Yhonathan Barrios
- Michael Blazek
- Ryan Braun
- Keon Broxton
- Chris Carter
- Garin Cecchini
- Trent Clark
- Clint Coulter
Tyler Cravy(canceled 1/30 due to illness)
- Zach Davies
- Ramon Flores
- Matt Garza (added 1/20)
Scooter Gennett(removed 1/26 due a conflict)
- David Goforth
- Junior Guerra
- Josh Hader
- Adrian Houser
- Jeremy Jeffress
- Taylor Jungmann
- Corey Knebel
- Jorge Lopez
Damien Magnifico(canceled on 1/29 due to illness)
- Martin Maldonado
- Jimmy Nelson
- Shane Peterson
- Brett Phillips
- Michael Reed
- Domingo Santana
- Will Smith
- Tyler Thornburg
- Jonathan Villar (added 1/20)
Tyler Wagner(traded to ARI 1/30)
- Colin Walsh
- Craig Counsell
- Darnell Coles
- Joe Crawford
- Derek Johnson
- Marcus Hanel
- Jason Lane
- Pat Murphy
- Ed Sedar
- Carlos Subero
- Lee Tunnell
- Matt Erickson (Timber Rattlers manager)
- Don August
- Jerry Augustine
- Jeff Cirillo (added 1/21)
- Rollie Fingers
- Jim Gantner
- Larry Hisle
- Davey Nelson
- Ken Sanders (added 1/20)
- Gorman Thomas
- Greg Vaughn
- Paul Wagner (added 1/20)
Robin Yount(canceled 1/22 due to personal conflict)
Here is some additional information from the official release about Brewers On Deck:
Advance tickets are $15 for adults and $9 for children 14 and under. Tickets on the day of the event are $20 for adults and $15 for children 14 and under. On the day event, cash is the only accepted form of payment for admittance. A portion of the proceeds from Brewers On Deck will benefit Brewers Community Foundation. Tickets may be purchased at the Miller Park ticket office by calling the Brewers ticket office at (414) 902-4000 or online at Brewers.com/ondeck through Friday, January 29.
Once again, food donations will be accepted through Hunger Task Force. Donations can be dropped off at two main entrances to the Wisconsin Center, located at 4th Street and Wisconsin Avenue, and 4th Street and Wells Street.
Brewers On Deck will feature a number of activities for the entire family. Autographs and photos from Brewers players, coaches and alumni; interactive games in the Kids Area; Q&A sessions and Klement’s Main Stage game shows with Brewers players, coaches and broadcasters; vendor booths with baseball memorabilia; Brewers Community Foundation’s Treasure Hunt, a 50/50 raffle, live auction and many other activities will all be a part of Brewers On Deck.
During the event, the Brewers will unveil a new book – Explore MKE: Your Neighborhood Our City. The Book is published by SHARP Literacy, Inc. and is sponsored by Brewers Community Foundation and Ryan Braun. It tells the story of two children who share their differing experiences of Milwaukee and are attempting to figure out how they fit in. It also features informational sections that weave together iconic Milwaukee institutions and neighborhood-based landmarks with important themes in common.
SHARP Literacy, Inc. is a non-profit organization that enhances future life success by energizing urban children and motivating them to identify themselves as confident, capable scholars and lifelong learners by inspiring engagement in reading, writing and research through hands on interaction and visual arts.
Details regarding autographs include the following: Recipients of “PREMIER” autographs (players to be announced at a later date) will be chosen through a random selection process. Each fan in attendance will receive one Premier Entry sheet which may be redeemed at the Random Selection area outside the Main Exhibit Hall of the Wisconsin Center. The Premier Entry sheet will be exchanged for a numbered coupon to be entered into the random selection process for any one of the select Brewers players. Coupon distribution will be available at 8 a.m. the day of the event and will continue up to an hour before each designated autograph session. There is no cost for coupons to enter the random selection process; however, those holding winning coupons must pay $25 at the respective autograph stage to collect their player signature. There will be 250 winners for each of the autograph sessions. The winning ticket numbers will be posted at the designated autograph stage no less than 30 minutes prior to each player’s session.
Players and staff not included in the PREMIER autograph list will not use the random selection process. Each of these players will sign 250 autographs at prices ranging from free to $10. A schedule of players, their session times, and distribution info will be posted later. The autograph opportunities are for signatures on photo cards provided by the team. For additional information, visit Brewers.com/ondeck.
Autograph proceeds benefit Brewers Community Foundation. Please note that cash is the only acceptable form of payment for autographs. The Brewers cannot guarantee that any player will sign other memorabilia, and personalization of items is solely up to the discretion of each player.
Forgive me, but I’m a bit distracted as I write today what with the Wisconsin Badgers trying to win the BigTen Tournament and a pair of Brewers games in split-squad Cactus League action all happening simultaneously.
We’re 22 days away from Opening Day and if you don’t know how “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” works by now, I imagine you haven’t been by the blog before. Well, the man who wears jersey number 22 gets the focus today since we’re 22 days away from the Brewers’ first regular season game. So let’s take a look at…
Matthew Scott Garza is a 6’4″, 31-year-old, right-handed pitcher. A veteran of parts of nine Major League seasons, the Cal State – Fresno product debuted in The Show at age 22 for the Minnesota Twins. The Twins originally drafted Garza in the first round (25th overall) of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft. Garza has appeared in big league games for five organizations now. In chronological order, they are the Twins, the Tampa Bay Rays (where he pitched a no-hitter), the Chicago Cubs, the Texas Rangers, and the Milwaukee Brewers.
Garza’s contract is something else, with what’s basically a built-in free year in the event that his occasional injury issues pop up too often in Milwaukee. That’s been well-chronicled here and other places, but the short version is that Garza already has a nearly insurmountable task to get his fifth year option to vest. If he misses much more time, there’s a chance that the Brewers could pay him an incredibly team friendly salary in 2018.
For Garza, he’ll be looking to improve on his 2014 numbers which injury avoidance would go a long way in aiding. To that end, Garza has modified his pitching mechanics. He believes that “staying within (himself)” will be key to both maintaining his command and limiting exposure to injuries. (That’s a good article by Adam McCalvy I linked to complete with video and worth your time.)
As for those numbers, Garza posted eight wins and losses in his 27 starts. His ERA was 3.64 in 163.1 innings of work. He had his lowest K/9 rate (6.9) since 2010 with Tampa Bay and saw his walk rate creep back up a little bit. That said, his WHIP was 1.182 and he was nearly as predicted with a 3.54 FIP. Garza continued his full-season streak of above league average performances as well finishing with a 104 ERA+.
Garza has always had the talent to do great things on the mound but being physically able to be out there doing it has been his biggest problem. His last three seasons have seen him pitch in 18, 24, and 27 seasons respectively. So while he’s certainly trending in the right direction lately, he still hasn’t eclipsed 30 starts since 2011 and hasn’t hit 200 innings pitched since 2010. It’s a major tip of the cap to Garza that he realizes this and worked in the off-season to come up with a plan to address it. Hopefully it yields immediate dividends for Garza once the regular season begins.
For the Brewers to compete in 2015, Garza will need to be at the top of his game and on the top of the pitcher’s mound.
Catch up on the countdown!
- #24 – Adam Lind
- #26 – Kyle Lohse
- #27 – Carlos Gomez
- #28 – Gerardo Parra
- #29 – Jim Henderson
- #30 – Tyler Thornburg
- #35 – Dontrelle Willis
- #38 – Wily Peralta
- #40 – Johnny Hellweg
- #46 – Corey Knebel
- #47 – Rob Wooten
- #48 – Neal Cotts
- #50 – Mike Fiers
- #51 – Jonathan Broxton
- #52 – Jimmy Nelson
- #53 – Brandon Kintzler
- #54 – Michael Blazek
- #58 – Wei-Chung Wang
- #60 – Matt Clark
- #62 – Luis Sardiñas
- #63 – Brooks Hall
- #64 – Shane Peterson
- #65 – Yadiel Rivera
- #66 – Juan Centeno
- #67 – Nevin Ashley
- #68 – Ariel Peña
- #70-#75 – Matt Long, Adam Weisenburger, Cameron Garfield, Taylor Williams, Hobbs Johnson, Tyler Cravy
- #76 – Mike Strong
- #77 – David Goforth
- #78 – Taylor Jungmann
My annual countdown to Opening Day will return for another season!
There has been some decent 40-man roster turnover since Spring Training. I mark the passage of time from (roughly) the turn of the calendar until Brewers Opening Day by previewing players who wear a certain uniform number on the corresponding day.
We’re 98 days away from Opening Day, so we won’t get underway on this thing quite yet, but once the countdown coincides with a jersey, you’ll see the first column go up.
I call the series “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” and it works a little something like this:
- Opening Day is April 6, 2015.
- March 29th is eight days before April 6th.
- Ryan Braun wears number 8 on his jersey.
- I’ll write an article reviewing Ryan Braun’s 2014 and looking ahead to his 2015 and post it on March 29, 2015.
Make sense? Here’s another example:
- Jonathan Broxton wears number 51.
- 51 days before April 6th is February 14th.
- I’ll post my Broxton column on February 14th.
I do a column on every player who is on the Brewers 40-man roster along with most Spring Training non-roster invitees. I’ll update this space with a full schedule once the uniform numbers for the newest 40-man additions are announced. I’ll update it again as non-roster invitees are revealed.
Thanks for reading and sticking with me this winter. BBtJN is a very popular series and I thank you for that. Stay tuned!
The Milwaukee Brewers have made what is at least their first round of September call-ups prior to Monday’s game in Chicago.
As I first told you on Twitter just before 10pm on Sunday night:
— The Brewer Nation (@BrewerNation) September 1, 2014
I went on to mention how much sense it makes to have a third catcher in the month of September. Just think back to how the Brewers utilized Yorvit Torrealba, and you’ll get the idea.
In order to clear a 40-man roster spot, which I mentioned they’d need, the Brewers moved infielder Jeff Bianchi to the 60-day Disabled List.
The only other true September call-up at this point is outfielder Logan Schafer, likely recalled a day earlier than he would have been due to the uncertainty surrounding the injured wrist of Carlos Gomez. Gomez said he felt a pop in his left wrist while swinging during an at-bat in the top of the third inning on Sunday afternoon in San Francisco. He was pulled from the game after awkwardly finishing his at-bat with a bad swing.
To Schafer’s part, he’s had a whole lot full of better looking swings since getting back in a groove due to his regular playing time with Nashville. When he was demoted following the acquisition of Gerardo Parra, Schafer went back to a .236/.349/.375 slash line in Triple-A. All he’s done is get hits in 19 out of his 23 games (including eight multi-hit affairs) and raised his slash line to .273/.356/.461 which is not an insignificant increase. Schafer still brings his glove with him which he might need early.
As for the other additions made official on Monday, while Jimmy Nelson is technically a September call-up (he was only officially with the Brevard County Manatees on paper while awaiting his scheduled MLB start Monday afternoon), the Brewers otherwise activated both Matt Garza and Wei-Chung Wang off of the 15-day Disabled List.
Garza is scheduled to rejoin the Brewers starting rotation on Wednesday in Chicago. He has been out since being pulled during a brilliant start against the St. Louis Cardinals back on August 3rd after straining his left oblique. The Cardinals came back to steal that one from the Brewers prompting Garza to say that they “dodged a bullet.” Hopefully it doesn’t take Garza long to round back into that same form. The Brewers are going to need him.
The Brewers probably won’t need much from Wei-Chung Wang though. Wang has been stretching out during his rehab assignment, most recently completing the longest outing (7.2 IP) of his professional career with the Brevard County Manatees. In it, he tied a career-high with eight strikeouts, something he hadn’t done since his first appearance in 2013 in the Pirates’ system. It will be good experience for Wang to be around a pennant push, though I wouldn’t expect him to pitch maybe at all in September. They’ve got more than enough arms to cover themselves and Ron Roenicke rightfully won’t exactly trust Wang with every pitch being so crucial over the next 28 days.
The other new face in the Brewer locker room on Monday is expected to be relief pitcher Jonathan Broxton whom the Brewers officially acquired from the Cincinnati Reds just after noon on Sunday. For more on that deal, check my write-up here as well as my short interview with Broxton’s agent.
From my partner Legends of the Field (look to the right for their logo which links to their website), here are the autographed photos I’m giving away.
I have two prints of each player to give away, so there will be four winners on each platform (and no, I won’t let you win twice but you can certainly enter on both), so your odds of winning are pretty good.
For an extra entry, leave a comment on the blog with your social media username. You need a free account to do that, but taking the time shows you care.
Oh, and if you don’t win, go to their website, find something you want to buy, use my code at checkout and save 15%! The code: BREWERNATION15
A few funny things have happened on the way to June.
While the Brewers have been slogging through a seesaw month of May (two and six in their first eight, five and one in the next six, one and five in the six after that, five and two in the most recent seven games entering play on May 31st), they’ve tinkered and toyed with some things that we simply wouldn’t see — because we haven’t — in recent history.
First, the Brewers posted their May 24th lineup and it featured a major change. After a day off to rest his tweaked oblique, rightfielder Ryan Braun was back in the lineup but he was hitting second. It’s a move that sabermetricians would love as there is plenty of statistical evidence that the second spot in the lineup is the most efficient and productive spot for your “best” hitter. Braun and his offensive brethren would falter in that game from a run production standpoint as they would only score once despite 11 hits. (It was Braun that scored the run, for what it’s worth.) But this would not be a one day trial that manager Ron Roenicke would abandon due to lackluster results in the columns of R or W.
Roenicke explained his thoughts after the game, more or less, and confirmed that this was the plan for a while. Truth be told, it started in phases even though that might not have been by design. Season-long leadoff hitter Carlos Gomez needed a day off two days earlier on May 22. It was that day that Roenicke moved Jean Segura up to lead off for Milwaukee. Segura responded by going 3-for-5 with two runs scored in a loss to Atlanta. When Gomez returend on May 23, Roenicke left Segura at the top and inserted the powerful Gomez in the cleanup position. That was seen as a reaction to Braun being out and moving Jonathan Lucroy up to Braun’s customary third spot. It was seen as a blip and scarcely even mentioned let alone thought deeply about. Then Braun returned on May 24 and Segura, Lucroy and Gomez held their positions as Braun slid in at number two.
The offense has been on a tear since that 22nd of May, tying a franchise record with at least 10 hits in 10 straight games. All this has happened without Aramis Ramirez, and it’s almost June 1, which we collectively know as Aramis Ramirez Day. If he comes back (scheduled for Wednesday in Minnesota and likely DHing) and doesn’t take long to warm up, the offense could really make a splash early in the second third of the season.
But there is more going on than just a significant lineup change.
On that same May 24 in Miami, the Brewers outrighted Jeff Bianchi to Triple-A Nashville after he cleared waivers. Bianchi, who is out of options, has been outrighted off of a 40-man roster before in his career and therefore had the right to refuse this assignment thereby electing free agency. He eventually decided to stay, but the point here is that there was more going on than simply swapping one utility infielder for another (they called up Irving Falu, but you know that).
The Brewers of the recent past would not risk losing an asset, even one grossly underperforming as was Bianchi, by outrighting them. This is a front office displaying more of a sense of urgency than even they themselves did this off-season by signing Matt Garza and bolstering a rotation that many assumed they’d just fill in house with five readily identified arms.
That they were willing to shake up their lineup, one that had been struggling to score runs shortly beforehand, and outright Bianchi at all speaks to the team’s desire to sustain their position atop the National League Central. They are not going to stand idly by, subscribing to the Ned Yost School of Thought that once infamously and dismissively reminded worriers that his Brewers were “still in first place”.
No. These Brewers, while still in first place, were seeing a once large lead begin diminshing as perennial division rivals the St. Louis Cardinals began to find their stride a bit while the Brewers scuffled. Their lead was down to 1.5 games as recently as May 27. Milwaukee is certainly striding right at the moment as they’ve won their last three with St. Louis losing its last three and the division lead entering play on the last day of May was back up to 4.0 full games.
Complacency and status quo are not seemingly in the toolbox of the 2014 Milwaukee Brewers. Kudos to them for yet another day alone in first place (where they’ve been since April 9) but more so they deserve accolades and attention for not just thinking that was good enough.
What’s more? They aren’t necessarily done.
They could consider changes in their first base platoon, including dumping the defensively solid but weak-sticked Lyle Overbay. They could juggle their bullpen pieces a bit which they’ll have to do when Tom Gorzelanny is ready but there’s certainly room for more if they desire. They could certainly continue to tweak their bench and bring in a more powerful option their the currently versatile yet light-hitting duo of Falu and Elian Herrera. And if someone doesn’t perform in that rotation or if they need to use a piece to get a piece elsewhere, they could make the decision to go with Jimmy Nelson at some point.
The bottom line is that if they decide to stand pat this season it won’t be due to a lack of want to change nor will it be due to any apprehension thereof. This is a front office that not only sees the benefits in making moves, but certainly won’t be lured in by making a change for the sake of change.
It’s a different feeling than we’re used to as fans over recent history, but it’s certainly a welcome one.
We’re on the precipice of Opening Day, but there are still some decisions awaiting the front office staff of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Most pressing, if not most important, is how they will construct the 25-man roster to begin the 2014 regular season. In this, they’ve got some options.
Let’s assume a couple of things off the top here. First, a standard 13 hitter, 12 pitcher roster split. Second, that we’re all aware that things will change throughout the season and plenty of the players who don’t make the Opening Day roster will don a Brewers uniform at some point in 2014.
I’ll lay out the different roster groupings and then explain what went into my decisions thereafter. Cool?
With that, to the list!
Starting Pitchers (5)
- Yovani Gallardo
- Kyle Lohse
- Marco Estrada
- Matt Garza
- Wily Peralta
I did my best educated guess at the order here too. It was announced that Gallardo has Opening Day honors and that Lohse will follow in Game 2. It was also hinted that Garza could pitch the opener in Boston, but that isn’t for sure yet…at least not publicly. Couple that with how well Estrada has pitched and he’s the superior choice against Atlanta in Game 3 than is Peralta.
The wrinkle here is that the Brewers have the opportunity to start the season with four starters because of the off-days scheduled. They don’t need a fifth starting pitcher until mid-April. If they do that, Peralta would start with Nashville to stay on rotation.
Relief Pitchers (7)
(with one more starting on DL)
- Jim Henderson
- Francisco Rodriguez
- Will Smith*
- Brandon Kintzler
- Wei-Chung Wang*
- Rob Wooten
- Alfredo Figaro (Alternative: Tyler Thornburg)
- Tom Gorzelanny* (DL)
Henderson is the incumbent closer. Rodriguez was brought in on a MLB deal and has the longest track record out of any of the options. Smith has been great this spring after being acquired in trade. Kintzler was very good last year and has a spot locked up. Wang makes it in part because of how well he’s thrown but also because of the Rule V circumstances. Wooten pitched well enough in his time last year that he gets one of my “open” jobs. He’s certainly in a fungible position, though, as he’s got minor league options remaining.
For the final active spot, I’m going with Alfredo Figaro. I know that Tyler Thornburg is under consideration for that job, but I think that they’ll realize that he’s more valuable staying stretched out at Nashville in order to cover the inevitable first injury to the starting rotation than he is in pitching at best every other day in Milwaukee as the long man. Figaro filled the long relief role admirably last year as his stuff played up out of the bullpen.
Wooten, Figaro, and Thornburg all have at least one minor league option remaining so there’s no real consideration of roster depth when making any decisions concering the three. And I think we’ll be seeing all of them pitch at Miller Park in 2014 at one point or another.
As for non-roster invitee Zach Duke, I think that the Brewers have liked what they’ve seen but with Wang making good (so far), there really isn’t room for Duke to begin the season. The veteran lefty is on a minor-league deal, so most likely he’ll simply be assigned to Nashville to start.
- Jonathan Lucroy
- Martin Maldonado
They’re the only two on the 40-man and that’s because they’re the two best in the organization. Nothing more needs to be said here.
- Mark Reynolds
- Rickie Weeks
- Jean Segura
- Aramis Ramirez
- Juan Francisco** (Alternative: Lyle Overbay)
- Scooter Gennett**
- Jeff Bianchi (Alternative: Elian Herrera)
Reynolds was signed to a minor-league deal for roster considerations at the time. He’s got a job. Weeks is the longest-tenured player in the organization right now and isn’t moveable (yet). Segura and Ramirez are obvious inclusions. Gennett comes along if they go with two second basemen, which has been the hottest talk of late.
Despite all the talk to the contrary lately, I still think that if they must choose between them, Francisco’s potential, relative youth, power, and increased patience this spring outweight Overbay’s veteran savvy, locker room presence, and far superior defense. That said, I can absolutely see a scenario in which they trade Francisco for an asset and keep Overbay. Maybe I’m projecting Francisco simply out of hope.
The other hotly contested job has been the utility infielder role. Jeff Bianchi filled the role last year with middling success. The biggest challenger to Bianchi’s incumbency has been the 40-man rostered Elian Herrera, who was claimed off waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers over the winter. They’ve both hit, they both have defensive versatility. The differences that matter: Bianchi is a better defender at shortstop. Herrera is a much more natural outfielder (which is big when you’ve only got four rostered). Herrera is a switch hitter. Bianchi is out of options; Herrera has one remaining. It is that last point that I think will be the deciding factor. Herrera will start at Nashville and would absolutley be the first man called upon should an injury befall any infielder on the big league roster.
For the record: Should they decide that they can forego two second basemen to start the year to even the roster out a bit a more, I think Herrera would make the club over a fifth true outfielder.
- Khris Davis
- Carlos Gomez
- Ryan Braun
- Logan Schafer**
Another easy prediction. Schafer could see some time starting in left field, but as the only man on the projected roster that can backup centerfield, he’ll likely be providing coverage from the bench more often than not.
* - Throws left-handed ** - Bats left-handed ---
So there you have it.
I welcome feedback and want to hear your opinions. Do you agree? Disagree? Think I’m overlooking an important detail or better player? Look down there…a “Comments” section.
Eight All-Fan Bobblehead Giveaway dates are scheduled at Miller Park this season, and fans will get to choose which player will be immortalized in Bobblehead form on Sunday, July 27 when the Brewers take on the New York Mets. Beginning today at 10 a.m. CT and continuing through Friday, February 7 at noon CT, fans can visit Brewers.com to cast their vote for one of three Brewers players to be selected: pitchers Matt Garza, Jim Henderson or Wily Peralta.
In addition, fans can cast an extra vote via Twitter (using the hashtag of their choice shown in the graphic above) or text message. For complete details, visit Brewers.com/bobblevote. The winner will be announced on Monday, February 10 at 11am.