After falling one game short of the World Series, the Brewers will look to take the next step this season. They’re losing some key pieces in Mike Moustakas, Wade Miley, among others, so they’ll need to upgrade in the infield and in the rotation.
Current State: World Series Contender
Brewers Acquire OF Ben Gamel and RHP Noah Zavolas in Exchange For OF Domingo Santana
The Brewers have acquired outfielder Ben Gamel and pitching prospect Noah Zavolas in exchange for outfielder Domingo Santana. Gamel, 26, had a .728 OPS in a limited role with the Mariners last season. He’s an average defender at best, and an average hitter at best. Considering Santana had a 2017 campaign in which he had a .875 OPS and rated as an above average defender last year, you’d expect a little more MLB talent in return than Gamel, who is the Brewers’ 5th outfielder at best and is a significant downgrade to Santana. Zovalas, 22, was a 18th round pick by the Mariners in 2016 who had a 3.03 ERA between Low-A and High-A. Considering his draft status, he’s unlikely to make an impact major leaguer. This is a very underwhelming package for a bounce-back candidate who should have generated more interest. There was no urgency to make this trade, with Ryan Braun a candidate to regress with one year left on his deal and Santana waiting to take over. Instead, the Brewers made a pointless trade that makes zero sense whatsoever.
Brewers Acquire RP Alex Claudio From Rangers In Exchange For Competitive Balance Pick
The Brewers have acquired reliever Alex Claudio from the Rangers in exchange for a Competitive Balance selection (Pick 40 or 41). Claudio, 26. was one of the league’s most productive lefty relievers in 2017, in which he pitched 82.2 innings and posted a 2.50 ERA. He took a step back in 2018 with a 4.28 ERA and 1.52 WHIP, but his 3.42 FIP signals that he’s still a reliable option in the bullpen. Claudio is not a strikeout pitcher by any means (5.4 K/9), but he makes his living inducing ground balls and forcing weak contact. In that regard, a move to Milwaukee, who had the second best defense with 116 defensive runs saved in 2018. However, that doesn’t make up for his career high 36.4% hard contact rate allowed, or his 23.1% line drive rate allowed. There’s a lot to like with Claudio with his impressive changeup and excellent command (1.7 BB/9), but his days of posting sub 3.00 ERAs are probably over. There’s a lot of value in a reliever with an ERA in the mid 3.00s, but the 40th or 41st pick is still a slight overpay for a team with tremendous bullpen depth already.
Brewers Sign C Yasmani Grandal
In a shocking move, the Brewers have signed catcher Yasmani Grandal to a one year, $18.25 million contract. Grandal, 30, has been one of the league’s top catcher over the past few seasons. 2018 may have been his best season yet, as he posted a .815 OPS and a 3.3 WAR. He’s also a tremendous defender, as he was ranked the top framer with 15.7 framing runs, according to Baseball Prospectus, and also had nine defensive runs saved. His hard contact rate (40.8%) and walk rate (13.9%) were both elite, and one has to guess a move from Dodger Stadium to Miller Park will also help them. To compete in the NL Central, the Brewers needed to make serious upgrades with all star caliber players, and Grandal is exactly that. With no risk since this is a one year deal, this could end up being one of the better signings off the offseason, though it’s unclear if Milwaukee had enough funds to make a much needed upgrade in the rotation.
Brewers Acquire RHPs Bobby Wahl and Adam Hill, INF Felix Valerio In Exchange For OF Keon Broxton
In a trade that will send outfielder Keon Broxton to the Mets, the Brewers have acquired right handed pitchers Bobby Wahl and Adam Hill, as well as infield prospect Felix Valerio. Wahl, 26, is the main piece that Milwaukee is receiving in this trade. Although he posted a 10.13 ERA in limited major league action last season, he posted a 2.20 ERA in Triple-A between the A’s and Mets. As shown by his 14.6 K/9, he has the stuff to be a solid reliever, especially if he improves his command. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Brewers gave him a shot in the bullpen next season. Hill, 21, was a fourth round pick last year for the Mets, and was outstanding with a 2.35 ERA and 15.3 K/9 in 15.1 innings in Low-A. He also is destined to be a reliever, but the fact that he was able to move up to Low-A right away is encouraging. Valerio, 18, had a .843 OPS in his professional debut last season and although he isn’t a power threat, the fact that he walked (34) more than he struck out (21) means that he’s a name to keep an eye on. While I would prefer for Milwaukee to keep Broxton as a depth piece, it wasn’t an outrageous idea to trade him. This is a solid return for a player as inconsistent as he’s been so far in his major league career.
Brewers Promote and Extend GM David Stearns
The Brewers have promoted general manager David Stearns to President of Baseball Operations and have extended his contract. Stearns, 34, is one of the brightest young minds in the game of baseball. Since taking over at the end of the 2015 season, the Brewers have gone 255-232 with two straight seasons with a winning record. Following a 2017 seasons in which they went 86-76, Milwaukee was able to take the next step and won the NL Central in 2018 en route to the NLCS. That was thanks to some bold moves by Stearns, who signed Lorenzo Cain to a five year deal and made arguably the trade for the century when he acquired 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich for a marginal prospect package. Milwaukee has an outstanding young core in the majors, and it’s likely they’ll continue to get better from here. Considering that both the Mets and the Giants pursued Stearns this offseason, it’s a terrific move by the Brewers to make sure Stearns remains in Wisconsin, hopefully continuing to build a winner with more bold, aggressive acquisitions.
Brewers Sign 3B Mike Moustakas
The Brewers have brought back third baseman Mike Moustakas, signing him to a one year contract worth $10 million. Moustakas, 30, was once again a solid contributor in 2018 between the Royals and Brewers. He posted a .774 OPS and a 2.5 WAR in 152 games, with a wrc+ of 105. Notably, Moustakas increased his hard contact rate all the way to 41.2%, and increased his walk rate to 7.7%. Yet, a .259 BABIP hampered his numbers, and as long as that hard contact rate doesn’t decrease this season, Moustakas could be looking at a return to the .835 OPS he had in 2017. This signing should likely move Travis Shaw to second, where he rated as league average. However, it looks like it may be Moustakas who moves to second, which makes some sense since Moustakas rates as league average at third base while Shaw rates as above average. Still, Moustakas’ value comes from being a left-handed power threat with passable defense at third, not from likely causing defensive issues by forcing someone to play out of position at second base. This signing definitely improve Milwaukee’s offense, but one has to wonder if they should have used that money to pursue a starting pitcher, such as Gio Gonzalez, since that remains their primary need.
*Will Be Updated With Every Move The Brewers Make
Stats Courtesy of Baseball Reference, Fangraphs, and Baseball Savant