Coming off of a small rebuild during the 2015 & 2016 season, the Milwaukee Brewers quickly took the league by storm in 2017 by finishing six games back of the Chicago Cubs in the division. General Manager David Stearns, at the time, was responsible for a complete overhaul of the roster in those short years, taking on seasoned veterans on quick one to two year deals and taking a chance on flyers in hopes of flipping those veterans for young talented prospects. Some of those players and important trades include:
- 11/1/2014: Adam Lind acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays for Marco Estrada. Lind would later be flipped to Seattle, where the Brewers acquired young fireballer Freddy Peralta, along with two additional prospects. (Doug Melvin moves –also see below for the next one)
- 1/19/2015: Acquired notably Corey Knebel and two more prospects for longtime Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo.
- 7/30/2015: One of the biggest trades in Milwaukee Brewers history. Mike Fiers & Carlos Gomez were traded to the Houston Astros for Brett Phillips, Domingo Santana, Josh Hader, and Adrian Houser. Brett Phillips + a prospect would later on get flipped to Kansas City for infielder Mike Moustakas. Domingo Santana would be flipped to Seattle, where the Brewers gained a utility outfielder in Ben Gamel. You all have heard of Josh Hader, and Adrian Houser could be an important starter for the Milwaukee Brewers down the road.
- 7/31/2015: Outfielder Gerardo Parra was traded to Baltimore, where the Brewers in return received starter Zach Davies. A week ago, on 11/27/2019, Zach Davies was traded with Brewers former first round pick Trent Grisham & Cash Considerations to San Diego for young infielder and former top prospect Luis Urias & starter Eric Lauer.
- 7/30/2016: One last important trade I want to mention is catcher Jonathan Lucroy. At the time, Jonathan Lucroy had a no-trade clause that prevented a trade from going down with the Cleveland Indians. Jeremy Jeffress was also involved in the deal to the Texas Rangers, with the Brewers acquiring prospects Lewis Brinson, Luis Ortiz, and Ryan Cordell. Lewis Brinson was a prospect on the rise, who struggled to swing the bat. Brinson and other top Brewers prospects were the pieces necessary for Milwaukee to acquire a young and up & coming Christian Yelich in his prime, who has single-handedly put up monster numbers to become one of the best players in the game today. Luis Ortiz would be traded to Baltimore for Jonathan Schoop, who was an infielder with veteran leadership that didn’t produce like he should’ve for the Brew Crew in the second half and the postseason. Schoop walked in free agency and signed with the Minnesota Twins in 2018. Ryan Cordell was traded to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for reliever Anthony Swarzak, and Cordell has simply to this point just been a utility player and between Charlotte and Chicago on the minor league bus back and forth.
- 12/6/2016: Brewers fleece the Boston Red Sox by sending reliever Tyler Thornburg to the Red Sox for Travis Shaw (thank you for your service, see below), Mauricio Dubon, and two additional prospects. Dubon, played a few games in a Brewers uniform before being dealt to the San Francisco Giants, for Drew Pomeranz & Ray Black.
The point that I’m trying to make here is that David Stearns has made some acquisitions that have taken a ton of thought and patience, and have had to consider the risks involved with those players involved. Unlike the big market teams like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, the success of the Milwaukee Brewers come from young and promising prospects, those players needing a change of scenery, and wild cards. You could call the Milwaukee Brewers organization: the land of misfit toys with the players that they take fliers on (Junior Guerra, thank you for your service.)
It’s been a tough start to the offseason to say the least to most fans that saw catcher Yasmani Grandal and Mike Moustakas decline mutual options and go get their money. Grandal will now be behind the plate with the Chicago White Sox and Moustakas today signed a four-year deal to be the Cincinnati Reds new second basemen. Most fans see this as upper management giving up on years of Christian Yelich’s prime, seeing that they are supposedly “gun-shy” to offer free agents money that they’ve spent in years prior.
Maybe what happens is that Milwaukee will offer one-year contracts with mutual options again to those notable free agents? I mean, I’d be curious to see what happens now at 3rd base and at catcher, as today, it was determined those player who would be tendered/non-tendered contracts for 2020. The Brewers will let Tyler Saladino, Travis Shaw, Alex Claudio, Junior Guerra, and Jimmy Nelson walk and not offer them contracts. It was expected with the struggling Travis Shaw and Jimmy Nelson coming off of a bad injury – where both players couldn’t get back to their previous form.
I’m one of those optimistic Brewers fans knowing that I trust David Stearns and company to experiment with payroll and with those roles needing to be defined next year. The biggest thing I learned over the last three seasons of watching baseball is that pitching matters most importantly. With all of this money that will now be freed up from contracts, the money will be there to get the kind of starter that they would like. Personally, I don’t like allocating a ton of money on long-term deals to veterans who are past 30 years of age – that’s where the Ryan Braun and even the Lorenzo Cain situation will end up someday. Maybe it will be a reliever that no one takes a flier on, and will blossom to be an important piece (like Dellin Betances.) I’m not quick to make assumptions that this team will be worse and even start another rebuild over the next few seasons.
Considering that the Brewers have just undergone a rebranding phase throughout the whole entire organization, it’s tough for me to see that they are waving the white flag. They want fans to be excited and enthusiastic about the team. They still have one of the best players in the game to continue to build around. I’d expect the defense around the diamond to continue to improve with free agents that are out there, as well as some more trades that could maybe prove to be beneficial down the stretch.
Don’t lose hope Brewers fans – the offseason and free agency is a great time to be a fan and picture all different sorts of scenarios.