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Offseason checklist: Brewers’ needs and moves

@AdamMcCalvy
January 15, 2020

MILWAUKEE -- A second straight September surge put the Brewers in the National League Wild Card Game, where the Nationals scored the first of their late-inning comebacks on the way to winning the World Series. For Milwaukee, it was a sudden start to what is looking like a busy offseason.

MILWAUKEE -- A second straight September surge put the Brewers in the National League Wild Card Game, where the Nationals scored the first of their late-inning comebacks on the way to winning the World Series. For Milwaukee, it was a sudden start to what is looking like a busy offseason.

So what are the Brewers’ biggest needs entering 2020, and what moves have they made to address them? MLB.com is keeping track here. As the offseason continues, be sure to check back for updates.

NEEDS ADDRESSED

Starting pitching
Whether the Brewers addressed this need satisfactorily is up for debate, but the fact is that Milwaukee did add some pieces to help offset the 300 or so innings it lost in trading Chase Anderson and Zach Davies. Left-hander Eric Lauer, acquired in the trade that sent Davies to San Diego, was the Padres’ Opening Day starter in 2019. And Brett Anderson and Josh Lindblom arrived via free agency to join incumbents like Brandon Woodruff and Adrian Houser.

Catcher
The Brewers had a big hole after the departure of All-Star catcher Yasmani Grandal, who landed a four-year contract from the White Sox. It was precisely two weeks later that Milwaukee traded with the Mariners for left-handed-hitting backstop Omar Narváez to form a platoon with right-handed-hitting and defensively savvy Manny Piña.

First base
It looks like the plan is to platoon Justin Smoak with Ryan Braun after the Brewers inked Smoak to a one-year deal with an option.

NEEDS LEFT TO FILL

Third base
The Brewers began the offseason with needs everywhere on the infield except second base, where Keston Hiura is entrenched. The club opted to decline first baseman Eric Thames' option and non-tendered third baseman Travis Shaw after a down year. Mike Moustakas is gone after signing a four-year deal with the rival Reds. It’s possible that the Brewers will cobble together third base with some combination of players already acquired, including veterans Eric Sogard and Jedd Gyorko, as well as perhaps Luis Urías. But there is still room for a splashy addition here.

Bullpen
Good luck finding the team that is not in the market for relief pitching during the offseason. The Brewers have one of the best closers in the game in Josh Hader and are optimistic about Corey Knebel's return from Tommy John surgery, but like every other team in baseball, they will continue looking for some relief help right up to Spring Training.

MOVES MADE

Jan. 10: Signed Jedd Gyorko
Gyorko -- who agreed to a one-year deal with a club option for 2021 -- has positional versatility and provides the Brewers with even more flexibility around the infield. The veteran utility infielder has the ability to play first, second and third base, and, when healthy, he can provide some power at the plate as well. Gyorko’s solid career numbers vs. left-handed pitching (.796 OPS) make him a prime candidate for a platoon role.

Jan. 9: Signed Logan Morrison and Tuffy Gosewisch
Both veterans inked Minor League contracts that include invitations to Major League camp. Gosewisch played in the Brewers' system last year, but Morrison is new, three years removed from hitting 38 home runs for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2017. It’s a good landing spot for the right-handed hitter, considering that Braun is not exactly a lock to thrive at first base. When Braun tried the position in 2018, it proved a short-lived experiment, though that was more about the emergence of Jesús Aguilar than about any defensive shortcomings of Braun.

Dec. 20: Signed Justin Smoak and Eric Sogard
The Brewers’ flurry of pre-Christmas spending was capped by one-year deals for Smoak and Sogard, who figure to play significant roles on the infield in 2020. Sogard, for the time being, became the leading internal candidate to man third base, coming off a very productive season at the plate for the Blue Jays and Rays. Smoak was coming off a down year, but the Brewers like his bounceback potential, and love his left-handed power at Miller Park. Both deals include club options for a second season in Milwaukee.

Dec. 17: Signed Ryon Healy
Healy has started about the same number of games at first base and third base in his career, making him a perfect pick-up for a team with needs at both positions. He’ll have to make consistent contact to contribute, and he will have to be healthy coming off hip surgery to alleviate a spinal injury. Healy does have Minor League options remaining, so the Brewers can send him to Triple-A if he doesn’t make the big league club.

Dec. 17: Signed Jace Peterson
The left-handed-hitting utility player inked a Minor League contract that includes an invitation to big league camp. He hasn’t hit much in the Major Leagues (.228/.314/.330 in 1,632 plate appearances over parts of six seasons with four teams), but Peterson was extremely productive in 90 games with the Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate, hitting .313 with a .910 OPS and 10 home runs in 90 games. He has started a Major League game at every defensive position but catcher.

Dec. 17: Signed OF Avisaíl García
The Brewers love to “zig” when everyone expects them to “zag,” and that’s what they did in signing García to a two-year deal with a club option for 2022. He’s an outfielder, something Milwaukee has in relative surplus. But Stearns saw value and offensive potential, so he struck. The initial plan calls for García to play left field, further freeing Ryan Braun to see some action at first base.

Dec. 13 and Dec. 16: Signed LHP Brett Anderson and RHP Josh Lindblom
Both will be counted on to deliver innings for the Brewers, who continue to build their rotation with depth in mind rather than star power. Anderson, 31, has proven effective when healthy, as he was in 2019 for Oakland. Lindblom, 32, is fascinating in that he spent most of the past five seasons in South Korea, where he won that league’s version of the Cy Young Award each of the past two years, and was league MVP in 2019. Milwaukee sees upside, which is why it was willing to commit to a three-year deal.

Dec. 8: Re-signed LHP Alex Claudio and claimed INF Ronny Rodríguez off waivers
Claudio tied Milwaukee’s franchise record by pitching 83 times in 2019, but was non-tendered because the Brewers didn’t want to spend what he was likely to earn in arbitration. So the sides struck a deal for less. Rodríguez, who comes over from Detroit, is versatile in the vein of Hernan Pérez, but has a bit more pop in his bat.

Dec. 5: Traded for Omar Narváez
Milwaukee parted with Minor League right-hander Adam Hill – MLB Pipeline’s No. 24 Brewers prospect – and a compensatory Draft pick for 27-year-old Narváez, who swings a potent bat but has work to do on defense. His .373 on-base percentage and .516 slugging percentage as a catcher led the American League and ranked second in the Major Leagues in 2019. His 22 home runs as a catcher ranked fourth in the AL and seventh in the Majors.

Dec. 4: Signed RHP Justin Grimm
Justin Grimm pitched for the Cubs from 2013-17 and the Royals and Mariners in '18, but he did not appear in MLB during the '19 season. He got a Minor League deal with an invitation to Milwaukee’s big league camp, where he will compete for a spot in a bullpen undergoing an overhaul.

Dec. 2: Non-tendered five
No team cut more players loose at the tender deadline than the Brewers, who were unwilling to pay what third baseman Travis Shaw, right-handers Jimmy Nelson and Junior Guerra, left-hander Alex Claudio and utility man Tyler Saladino were likely to earn in arbitration. All five became free agents. That doesn’t preclude circling back to make a deal later this winter -- Milwaukee negotiated with Shaw’s representatives in the run-up to the deadline, for example -- but for the moment the decision opened yet more holes on the roster.

Nov. 27: Traded Trent Grisham and Zach Davies to the Padres for INF Luis Urías, LHP Eric Lauer and a player to be named or cash
Both teams dealt from areas of depth and acquired upside. In Urías, the Brewers are acquiring a versatile defender and a potential alternative for underperforming shortstop Arcia who can also play second base and third. Urías ranked among the elite prospects in baseball before accruing enough big league time in 2019 to shed that status, and is an accomplished defender with good bat-to-ball skills – the same traits that motivated Milwaukee's acquisitions of Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich two winters ago. Lauer adds a left-hander to a Brewers rotation long dominated by right-handers.

Nov. 23: Signed RHP Jesus Castillo
The Brewers inked the 24-year-old Castillo to a Minor League contract that includes an invitation to big league Spring Training camp. He has pitched professionally for the D-backs, Cubs and Angels, topping out at the Double-A level so far. He has modest strikeout numbers (7.4 whiffs per nine innings in his career) but makes opponents earn their way on base. Last year at Double-A Mobile, Castillo struck out 80 batters versus 26 walks in 99 2/3 innings.

Nov. 20: Added prospects to 40-man roster
At the deadline to protect eligible Minor Leaguers from the Rule 5 Draft, the Brewers made a trade with the Indians for infielder Mark Mathias and added him to the 40-man roster. Milwaukee also added outfield prospect Corey Ray and relief pitcher J.P. Feyereisen to the 40-man roster. Mathias has a full complement of Minor League options and has a chance to fill a utility role for the big league club by midseason 2020.

Nov. 15: Claimed RHP Eric Yardley off waivers from the Padres
In another move to add bullpen depth, the Brewers picked up the 29-year-old side-armer from San Diego, where he made his Major League debut in 2019 after a long Minor League journey and logged a 2.31 ERA with seven strikeouts over 11 2/3 innings. He has pitched parts of seven Minor League seasons, and while he does not have big strikeout numbers (7.0 per nine innings lifetime), Yardley does have a 2.90 ERA for his career and is coming off a season at Triple-A El Paso in which he held right-handed hitters to a .219 average. He has a full complement of Minor League options remaining.

Nov. 4: Chase Anderson traded; Eric Thames’ option declined and Manny Piña’s picked up
The Brewers’ offseason overhaul began in earnest with a flurry of moves that coincided with the true opening of the free-agent marketplace. Picking up Piña’s $1.85 million club option was an easy call, especially considering the departure of Grandal. But Milwaukee opted to free up $15 million by trading Anderson to Toronto for Minor League outfielder/first baseman Chad Spanberger and declining Thames' $7.5 million club option.

Nov. 2: Angel Perdomo added to roster
The Brewers purchased the 6-foot-6 left-hander’s contract from Triple-A San Antonio rather than lose him to Minor League free agency. He impressed last year in big league camp and logged 13.9 strikeouts per nine innings during a Minor League season split between San Antonio and Double-A Biloxi.

Oct. 31-Nov. 1: Nine players elect free agency
On Nov. 1, Catcher Yasmani Grandal and third baseman Mike Moustakas declined mutual options, as widely expected, to test free agency again. Outfielder/first baseman Tyler Austin and utility man Cory Spangenberg, meanwhile, elected free agency after Milwaukee outrighted them to Triple-A San Antonio in an off-ramp from the arbitration process. Those moves came a day after the Brewers’ five other free agents formally hit the market on the day following the World Series. They were starting pitchers Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Lyles and relievers Matt Albers, Jay Jackson and Drew Pomeranz. In many of those cases, there could be dialogue about a return. Stearns, for example, made clear he would love to have Grandal and Moustakas back, but questioned whether market forces will align. Lyles, meanwhile, could help add depth to the rotation and Pomeranz, who thrived after a move to relief in July, will be a target for any number of clubs interested in a lights-out left-handed reliever.

Oct 18: Free-agent RHP Deolis Guerra signs one-year deal
Guerra spent most of 2018 in Milwaukee’s Minor League system but did make it to the Major Leagues for one forgettable outing on July 5 at Pittsburgh, when he took over with a 6-1 lead in the ninth inning and allowed the first four of five Pirates runs in the inning to force extras. The Brewers won the game in the 10th inning and Guerra was designated for assignment the next day. That day aside, he had a solid season, with a 1.89 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP in 45 games with the Missions.

Oct. 16: Hernan Perez elects free agency
Perez, who previously was designated for assignment in June but remained with the organization, opted to try his luck on the open market after the Brewers outrighted him to Triple-A San Antonio a second time to avoid going into the arbitration process. The popular utility man played seven positions during the 2019 season, while slashing .228/.262/.379 in 232 Major League at-bats.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and like him on Facebook.