Offseason Tracker and Analysis: Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers’ collapse in the Wild Card may overshadow what was otherwise a successful season, but it did illustrate some of their flaws- a lack of depth. Whether it’s adding more offense, or perhaps finally adding a starting pitcher, they’re likely to open to improving their team in any way possible, but with one of the worst farm systems in the MLB, they’ll still have to be mindful when making any sort of trades.

Expected Direction: Being Creative In Order To Contend Next Season

Brewers Trade SP Chase Anderson

anderson
Photo Cred: CTV News Toronto

Full Trade: Brewers Trade SP Chase Anderson To Blue Jays For 1B Prospect Chad Spanberger

Grade: 9/10

Rather than declining his $8.5 million club option, the Brewers have traded SP Chase Anderson to the Blue Jays, in exchange for first base prospect Chad Spanberger. Given that Spanberger is 24-years-old and still only in Double-A, it’s not much of an acquisition for Milwaukee, but still, they’re able to get something for Anderson, who’s been a well-below average starting pitcher the past two seasons- not much to gain, but it’s still a solid move.

Brewers Acquire SS Luis Urias and SP Eric Lauer From Padres

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Photo Cred: Madison.com

Full Trade: Brewers Acquire SS Luis Urias, SP Eric Lauer, and PTBNL/Cash From Padres In Exchange For OF Trent Grisham and SP Zach Davies

Grade: 9/10

In a very interesting trade, the Brewers have essentially exchanged young building blocks and starting pitchers with the Padres- they’ve acquired infielder Luis Urias and starting pitcher Eric Lauer, while sending outfielder Trent Grisham and starting pitcher Zach Davies to San Diego. Urias, 22, is the definite centerpiece of this transaction. Ranked as one of the game’s top prospects heading into the season, he faltered in his first major league action, posting just an 81 weighted-runs-created plus (wrc+) and .326 slugging percentage in 249 plate appearances. However, in the minors, he flashed his elite hit tool with a 137 wrc+, has strong plate discipline numbers, and also hit for much more power (.285 isolated power). Plus, with his above-average defense, he’ll slot into shortstop for the Brewers- they’re not only adding a potential piece for the future, but also are filling a need. Meanwhile, the 24-year-old Lauer figures to replace Davies in the starting rotation. With a 4.77xFIP, 4.72 SIERA, and 41.6% hard contact allowed, he isn’t much more than a back-end starting pitcher. However, he’s cheaper and comes with more club control than Davies, who may have been non-tendered anyways. In this trade, Milwaukee is getting the better end of both swaps (Urias for Grisham, Lauer for Davies). Thus, they definitely come out on top.

Brewers Acquire C Omar Narvaez From Mariners

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Photo Cred: sports.mynorthwest.com

Full Trade: Brewers Acquire C Omar Narvaez From Mariners In Exchange For RHP Adam Hill and Competitive Balance Pick

Grade: 7/10

After losing Yasmani Grandal to the White Sox in free agency, the Brewers needed to find a replacement to at least partner with backup Manny Pina. It appears they’ve found an answer, as they acquired catcher Omar Narvaez from the Mariners in exchange for pitching prospect Adam Hill and a competitive balance pick. Narvaez, 27, has been one of the better offensive catchers, especially with a 119 wrc+ last season. Still, his walk rate (9.8%) declined, which is concerning considering he ranks in just the 8th percentile in exit velocity and hard-hit rate, per Baseball Savant– it’s not a sure thing that his offense will continue to be above-average. That’s a major concern, as if Narvaez doesn’t provide enough value with his offense, there’s no way he can compensate for his awful defense- his -18 framing runs above average last season was the worst in the league, and could have some negative implications on Milwaukee’s pitching staff. Overall, the combination of Narvaez and Pina should be at least an average duo behind the plate, but still, I’m not buying in on Narvaez- I’d rather have had them emphasize a better defender at catcher.

Brewers Sign SP Josh Lindblom

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Photo Cred: The Crawfish Boxes

Contract Details: Three Year, $9.125 Million (Up To $18 Million With Incentives)

Grade: 9/10

In an under-the-radar move that definitely comes with some potentially high rewards, the Brewers have signed pitcher Josh Lindblom to a three-year contract worth $9.125 million, which can reach $18 million with performances bonuses. Lindblom, 32, hasn’t actually pitched in the majors since 2017, where he struggled as a reliever. However, in two seasons with the Korean Baseball Organization, he invented himself with two sub 3.00 ERAs in 361 1/3 inning combined innings. His velocity (91 MPH) isn’t exciting, but according to league sources, his spin rates are incredible, which is why analytically-inclined teams, like the Brewers, were so interested in his services. At worst, Lindblom is a decent swingman at a cheap cost. However, if Milwaukee can get the most out of him, like they’ve done several times with pitchers, they’ll once again have found a creative way to get quality innings from their rotation at a cheap price- I like this move for them a lot.

Brewers Sign SP Brett Anderson

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Photo Cred: Athletics Nation

Contract Details: One Year, $5 Million ($2 Million Extra In Incentives)

Grade: 6/10

Continuing to try to fix their rotation, the Brewers have signed Brett Anderson on a one-year deal, which will come with $5 million guaranteed and $2 million with incentives. Anderson, 31, would seem to be a decent addition for Milwaukee on the surface with a 3.89 ERA, but by no means am I buying that. After all, he struck out an absurdly low amount of batters last year (4.60 K/9), and although he induced a ground ball rate of over 50%, allowed hard contact at a 40.2% rate. Therefore, his expected statistics were all below average, and if that luck catches up to him, we’re looking at a 5.00 ERA/FIP type of pitcher. That’s not what the Brewers have in mind with this $5 million deal, and for that price, they probably could’ve gotten a pitcher without so many red flags- I don’t see the upside with this signing.

Brewers Sign OF Avisail Garcia

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Photo Cred: primetimesportstalk.com

Contract Details: Two Years, $20 Million ($10 Million Club Option 2022)

Grade: 7.5/10

The Brewers have made yet another acquisition, this time outfielder Avisail Garcia- Milwaukee signed him to a two-year contract worth $20 million with a $10 million club option for 2022. Garcia, 28, has had a very uneven career; in 2017, he posted a 4.2 WAR, only to follow it up with a 0.1 WAR, and in 2019 with the Rays, he had a 1.8 WAR. In other words, his last three seasons are the definition of the good, the bad (or mediocre), and the ugly, so he’s extremely inconsistent. Considering that his BABIP was near .400 in 2017 and was just .271 in 2018, Garcia’s 2019 season with Tampa Bay appears to be what the Brewers can expect from his going forward. If that’s the case, they’re looking at a slightly-above-average hitter and an average defender, and if he indeed is a 2 WAR player, he’ll be exactly worth the $10 million. However, it’s still an odd signing for a team that has much more clear needs that outfield, and considering Garcia’s volatility, Milwaukee probably would’ve been better off investing their resources elsewhere.

Brewers Sign INF Eric Sogard

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Photo Cred: UPI.com

Contract Details: One Year, $4.5 Million (With 2021 Club Option)

Grade: 7/10

Reuniting with a former player of theirs, the Brewers have signed infielder Eric Sogard to a one-year contract worth $4.5 million contract. As part of the Milwaukee organization in 2017 and 2018, Sogard, 33, had an uneven tenure with the Brewers, as after posting a decent 1.1 WAR in 2017, he fell flat with a -0.8 WAR in 2018 before being let go. However, between the Blue Jays and Rays last season, he definitely bounced back, as he accumulated a 2.6 WAR and a 115 wrc+. Yet, his production may have not been sustainable. As he ranked in 3rd percentile (!) in exit velocity and hard hit%, Sogard’s expected weighted-on-base-average (xwOBA) of .307 was much lower than his .342 wOBA; he’s probably a 0-1 WAR player. He’s decent depth in the infield, but for $4.5 million, perhaps they could’ve fixed their problems at third base or pitching.

Brewers Sign 1B/3B Ryon Healy

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Photo Cred: Lookout Landing

Contract Details: One Year, MLB Contract

Grade: 6/10

After being cut loose by the Mariners earlier this offseason, corner infielder Ryon Healy on a one-year MLB contract. Healy, 27, provides decent power, but not much else. His plate discipline is well below average, and because of that, his on-base percentage has been below .300 over the past two seasons. In fact, he’s been a negative WAR player in each of the last two seasons, and with little signs of improving. I don’t know what the Brewers see in him; he should be receiving a minor-league contract, rather than being guaranteed a roster spot for a contender.

Brewers Sign 1B Justin Smoak

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Photo Cred: MLB Trade Rumors

Contract Details: One Year, $4 Million (2021 Club Option With $1 Million Buyout)

Grade: 9.5/10

Continuing to reshuffle their infield with a multitude of signings, the Brewers have inked first baseman Justin Smoak to a one-year contract. Most likely, the former Blue Jay will be their full-time starter at first, and occupy a spot in the middle of the lineup. Last year didn’t go as planned for the 33-year-old, as he had just a 101 wrc+ and 0.2 WAR in 121 games for Toronto. However, that certainly doesn’t tell the story of his season at all- he quietly was excellent. His walk rate of 15.8% was a career-best, thus guaranteeing him a strong on-base percentage, especially his .223 BABIP regresses back towards average. Furthermore, with a 42.7% hard contact rate, his xWOBA of .366 was significantly better than his .323 wOBA, while his .495xSLG was also much better than his actual .406 slugging percentage. Assuming he has better luck next season, he’s a definite upgrade over any of Milwaukee’s other options at first base, and is even a fringe top-ten player at the position. It’s been quite the tumultuous offseason for the Brewers, who have made both excellent and questionable moves, but this definitely falls into the former category.

Brewers Sign INF Jedd Gyorko

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Photo Cred: Dodger Blue

Contract Details: One Year, $2 Million (w/Club Option 2021)

Grade: 9/10

Adding yet another infielder to the mix, the Brewers have signed versatile infielder Jedd Gyorko to a one-year deal for $2 million. Right now, he figures to platoon with Eric Sogard at third base, but for the moment, his role is a little unclear. The 31-year-old had a rough season last year, as he dealt with injuries and was awful (-0.7) when on the field, and now, he’ll look to bounce-back in Milwaukee. Notably, he always has had a knack for hitting well versus left-handed pitching, and should he play third base, has always been a great defender there. I don’t know what the Brewers will ultimately do with all these infielders, but this is another solid value signing for them, and I’ll trust that they have a plan.

Brewers Sign RP David Phelps

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Photo Cred: FOX6Now.com

Contract Details: One Year, $1.5 Million ($1.9 Million Incentives, $4.5 Million Club Option and $1.9 Million Incentives 2021)

Grade: 7.5/10

Strangely enough, the Brewers, despite being extremely active, have just now made their first bullpen addition, signing reliever David Phelps to a one-year contract worth $1.5 million. The deal also comes with $1.9 million in performance incentives, as well as $4.5 million club option for a second season with another $1.9 million in incentives. Phelps, 33, had a great season on the surface with a 3.41 ERA, but that isn’t backed up at all by his 5.01 xFIP. His main issues were his regression in strikeout rate (9.44 K/9) and home run rate (1.31 HR/9), as he induced fewer ground balls (39.8%) and saw his fastball velocity decrease by nearly 2 MPH (92.8 MPH). Now, perhaps this should be expected considering that Phelps missed all of the 2018 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, so perhaps he’ll get back on track this season. Still, Milwaukee’s bullpen had enough question marks as it is, so it’s a little surprising they didn’t try harder for a more consistent reliever, such as Pedro Strop. This is a deal that could work out very well for them, but also could just be another minor sunk cost.

Brewers Sign INF Brock Holt

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Photo Cred: NESN.com

Contract Details: One Year, $3.25 Million (w/$5 Million Club Option 2021)

Grade: 7/10

Further bolstering their infield depth, the Brewers have made a late signing, bringing Brock Holt on a one year, $3.25 million contract with a $5 club option for 2021. A Red Sox for the first six years of his career, Holt, 31, had served in a depth role with Boston, and it’s likely he’ll be used similarly in Milwaukee. In 87 games last season, he posted a 1.3 WAR and 103 wrc+, though that came with a very high .365 BABIP. As the projection systems indicate, he’ll likely that a step back from those numbers in 2020, so he’s at best a 1 WAR type of player. Honestly, this looks like a very superfluous signing for the Brewers, who already have signed enough infielders and have a similar player in Eric Sogard on the roster. The cost isn’t bad, but their approach to fixing their infield is perplexing, at least in my eyes.

Brewers Extend SP/RP Freddy Peralta

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Photo Cred: MLB- NBC Sports

Contract Details: Five Years, $15.5 Million (w/Club Options 2025 and 2026 Worth $14.5 Million In Total Value)

Grade: 8.5/10

In a very interesting move, the Brewers have reached an agreement with starter/reliever hybrid Freddy Peralta on a five-year, $15.5 million extension, with club options in 2025 and 2026 worth a total value in $14.5 million. Since he has just one year of service time, this will take care of 23-year-old Peralta’s arbitration years, as well as potentially two free-agent years. In 85 innings last season, he posted a 4.15 xFIP, and nearly identical numbers as a starter (4.24 xFIP) and reliever (4.09 xFIP). However, I figure he’ll end up as a reliever, since he basically relies on his fastball, which he throws 77.7% of the time. To that end, it’s a projectable pitch with 89th percentile spin (via Baseball Savant), and is the driving force behind his impressive 12.18 K/9. Now, inconsistent command and an inability to induce soft contact (30th percentile exit velocity allowed) means that he’s still a work in progress, but considering his upside and potential value, it’s reasonable that the Brewers decided to lock him up now. It’s not a deal without any sort of risk, but the pay-off could be massive for Milwaukee, so overall, I agree with this decision.

Brewers Extend OF Christian Yelich

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Photo Cred: Brew Crew Ball

Contract Details: Seven Years, $188.5 Million (Starting In 2022)

Grade: 8.5/10

Since they’re a small-market team, it always felt inevitable that one day, the Brewers would lose superstar outfielder Christian Yelich. However, in a shocking turn of events, the club was able to lock up their franchise icon, signing him to a seven-year, $188.5 million deal that will start in 2022. Yelich, 28, will still earn $26.5 million over the entirety of the next two seasons, but rather than be subject to a $15 million club option the following season, he’ll earn $26 annually from 2022 to 2028- his ages 30 through 36 seasons. In his two seasons with Milwaukee, he’s combined for a 15.5 fWAR; he’s been one of the best hitters AND overall players in the MLB. After increasing his launch angle (11.2 degrees) last season, he was able to post career high power numbers, and moving forward, I don’t see his offensive production slowing down anytime soon. At some point, his sprint speed (28.7 ft/sec, 88th percentile) will decline, but considering most of his value comes from his offense, I’m not overly concerned. It’s a little risky to extend Yelich two years before he’s a free agent, while also giving up the club option, but for a team with little talent coming through the farm system, it was important for the Brewers to keep their superstar long-term; they don’t have many other pressing contracts that they need to make. Plus, by the time Yelich’s deal starts, both Ryan Braun and Lorenzo Cain will be off the books, so they’ll be more than capable of building a contender around Yelich. I don’t see this as a heist for the Brewers, but overall, it’s a win-win type of extension for both the team and the player.

*Will Be Updated With Every Move The Brewers Make

 

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