So we are to a point where the Milwaukee Brewers have done their usual nothing in free agency, much like many other teams, and as big offers go out to big free agents we have to wonder if the Crew will make a big move. If they do, fantastic, but it’s time to stop writing about the hopeful prospects of signing someone like Reyes and talk about what I believe the Brewers should focus on during this offseason.
For starters, the bullpen. One of the big reasons the Brewers were considered such a strong team in the playoffs was their shut down bullpen that ranked 5th in the MLB with a 3.32 ERA, that was much stronger in the second half. Right now the bullpen is a major factor, and can be fixed with a few pieces reassembled. Adding Saito or Hawkins will make for a strong 6th/7th swing man and then finding a power arm by trade, free agency or within the system will help. Still the bullpen could be even stronger with a few more pieces, and Melvin has always been very good at piecing these things together.
Plugging the holes is the next important thing. The obvious ones are there, SS, 1B but then the bench needs to be filled with some experienced starters. Melvin seems stuck on getting Hairston back into the lineup and I have no problem with that. I think 1B will be filled by Gamel and then sign an incentive contract for a 1B who is slightly past their prime, much to the history of Melvin. I think the outfield spot missing on the bench will be filled inside the system, and would love to see a cheap alternative come in at short for Yuni, most likely being Clint Barmes. As far as McGehee’s weak season goes, I think Green on the bench with a possibility of replacing or platooning with Casey would be a cheap resolution and there is your answer with the bench, filling all open spots.
Finally, and I consider this most important, resign at least ONE key starter. I think it is very important to extend this staff beyond the years it is together for. Marcum, Greinke and Wolf are free agents after the year. I think it is easy to let Wolf go, but Greinke and Marcum may leave in free agency. Yovani Gallardo will also leave the team in 2013, completely destroying the staff. I think the Brewers expect to lose two of the aforementioned pitchers internally. It appears they have a desire to get Fiers or Peralta into the rotation and condition them to be a successful part of the 2013 staff. The Brewers also have two first round college picks and Cody Scarpetta. The Brewers don’t have a great history in developing their own pitching talent, especially for the rotation. In fact the only strong success stories come from Gallardo and Sheets.
From my point of view, in order to remain competitive, the Brewers are obligated to resign one of Marcum, Gallardo and Greinke. I think the biggest deal comes in signing Gallardo. It seems like Yo only gets better and better, even though he doesn’t have much to improve. It looks like his value will only increase throughout the years. I would go into finer details, quoting WAR and ERA and wins, but any Brewer fan has noticed Gallardo’s increased dominance inside 4-6 shaky performances a year. If he can limit those big mistake games, Gallardo is going to be poised to make major money. Right now it appears he’s very under the radar and can probably be put on a 5 year contract for $80 MM or less, which is a deal for elite pitching.
Marcum and Greinke then would depart next year. I think Greinke’s comfort level will be increased if the team can compete again, but first the Brewers would need to have another good season, maybe even make the playoffs. Greinke appears ready to stay for comfort, but also wants money. Another playoff run could set the Brewers up for just that. In the coming years the only major piece outside of pitching the Crew will need to replace is Cory Hart, which appears to be easy with the depth of outfield depth in the system. The money can be placed into pitching without large concern in the future, and pitching provides ability to compete for years to come. Marcum will also be considered midmarket when he departs, so if Greinke were to depart, Marcum could probably still be locked in for a similar contract to Gallardo.
This is what I think the team should focus on over the next few months. Signing a few more players for the bullpen, filling the empty roles on the bench and finding a shortstop (everything else seems to be an inside job) and resigning at least one of the star pitchers on the team. Got any disagreements? Challenge me with a comment, and I will get back to you and tell you if you changed my mind or made me more passionate to my plan.