MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers remade the roster last offseason and reached the postseason for a third straight year in 2020, albeit with a losing record. Now they are poised for another winter of change after letting a number of veteran players go in the interest of financial flexibility entering an uncertain offseason.
“We don’t know what the environment is going to be as we do plan for a Spring Training in the 2021 season, so we have to remain flexible,” Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns said in the week following the World Series. “And that desire for flexibility has likely contributed to some of the decisions we’ve seen throughout the industry.”
So what are the Brewers’ biggest needs entering 2021, and what moves have they made to address them? MLB.com is keeping track here and will update this story throughout the offseason.
The Brewers’ splashiest offseason move to date was more defensively-oriented than anything, but they do believe new second baseman Kolten Wong’s contact rate will be a boost. The most significant help could come from within; Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain will be seeking different kinds of comebacks as the Brewers prepare for 2021 after setting numerous franchise records for offensive ineptitude in '20, including their lowest batting average and highest strikeout rate in club history. Is Omar Narváez the answer at catcher after slashing .176/.294/.269 during his debut season in Milwaukee? Will it be Orlando Arcia or Luis Urías at shortstop? Could Urías hit for enough power to be the answer at third? Will Yelich revert to superstar production? How will Cain’s year away impact his bat? Those are all questions that need answers.
The Brewers addressed uncertainty at first base by moving Keston Hiura there to accommodate Wong, but with the start of Spring Training two weeks away they still had a hole at third. Will it be Urías? Free agent acquisition Daniel Robertson? Or does Stearns have the capital to make another acquisition?
The Brewers are actually in a good spot relative to past seasons when it comes to their frontline pitching, with Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes at the top of the rotation. Adrian Houser is still developing, while Josh Lindblom provides a veteran back-end starter. Josh Hader, Devin Williams and an assortment of other capable arms like Brent Suter, Drew Rasmussen and Justin Topa make up a solid bullpen. But every team aims to improve its pitching depth every offseason, and the Brewers will be no different this winter.
Feb. 15: Acquired OF Derek Fisher from Toronto -- The Brewers cut loose Ben Gamel early in the offseason but picked up a similar player in Fisher, a former top prospect of the Astros who’d since moved to the Blue Jays and was designated for assignment the previous week. Fisher is out of options and will compete for a job to back up starting outfielders Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain and Avisaíl García.
Feb. 5: Signed 2B Kolten Wong to two-year contract -- The two-time Gold Glove Award winner improves the Brewers’ up-the-middle defense and solves uncertainty at first base, which will be manned by Keston Hiura. The deal with Wong represented the first major acquisition all winter for Milwaukee.
Jan. 28: Signed Blaine Hardy to Minors deal -- Hardy, who will turn 34 before Opening Day, got an invitation to big league camp. He missed the 2020 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last March. The left-hander pitched in the Majors for Detroit every season from 2014-19 and posted a 3.73 ERA in 233 games, including 13 starts. Hardy then signed with the Twins for the ’20 season, only to be injured in Spring Training.
Jan. 21: Signed Daniel Robertson to one-year deal -- The 26-year-old former top prospect with the A's has extensive experience at second base, third base and shortstop, plus some outfield time. Robertson considers the hot corner his most natural position, though, and as it happens, the Brewers don’t have a set starter there at the moment.
Dec. 22: Claimed INF/OF Tim Lopes off waivers from the Mariners -- The Brewers already had right-handed-hitting infielders in Luis Urías and Mark Mathias, and now they have another in Lopes, 26, who has logged starts at both corner outfield positions and both corner infield positions during his brief time in the big leagues. Notably, he has three Minor League options remaining.
Dec. 17: Signed LHP Hoby Milner and OF Dylan Cozens to Minors deals -- Both players received invitations to big league camp. Milner is a soft-tossing left-hander who tends to induce soft contact, and could compete to replace departed lefty Alex Claudio. Cozens is a left-handed power hitter and former Phillies prospect who primarily has manned right field in his pro career.
Dec. 3: Signed 3B Zach Green to Minors deal -- The 26-year-old put up solid offensive numbers in each of the past two Minor League seasons, hitting 25 home runs in 252 Triple-A at-bats in 2019 while slashing .282/.380/.659. His deal included an invitation to Major League camp, so he’s a candidate to help fill Milwaukee’s third-base vacancy.
Dec. 2: Tender deadline -- The Brewers began the day with 10 players eligible for arbitration and held onto six of them. Star closer Josh Hader and Brandon Woodruff were tendered contracts, so they remain in the arbitration process. Catchers Omar Narváez and Manny Piña, shortstop Orlando Arcia and DH Daniel Vogelbach all signed one-year contracts to avoid arbitration. Reliever Alex Claudio, outfielder Ben Gamel and utility man Jace Peterson were non-tendered, making them free agents. And former All-Star closer Corey Knebel was traded to the Dodgers for a player to be named or cash. Nine days later, the Brewers received Minor League left-hander Leo Crawford from the Dodgers to complete the Knebel swap.
Dec. 1: Agreed with C Luke Maile on one-year deal -- Maile, 29, adds to an already deep Brewers catching corps. He spent parts of the past five years as a backup with the Rays and Blue Jays and has a Minor League option remaining.
Nov. 20: Added three to 40-man roster -- The Brewers added a trio of prospects, catcher Mario Feliciano and right-handers Alec Bettinger and Dylan File, to protect them from being plucked away in December’s Rule 5 Draft. Feliciano is No. 4 on MLB Pipeline’s list of the top Brewers prospects, Bettinger is No. 24 and File is No. 25.
Nov. 19: Promoted Matt Arnold to GM -- The Brewers transferred the general manager designation from David Stearns to longtime lieutenant Arnold in part to shield Arnold from being poached by other clubs seeking to hire a GM. Functionally, the Brewers’ organizational chart remained unchanged, with Stearns at the top leading day-to-day decisions.
Nov. 2: Activated Cain from the restricted list -- Cain elected not to play in 2020 due to concerns about COVID-19 and a desire to focus on family, but reinstating him was the first step toward the Brewers getting back one of their most important players.
Nov. 1: Healy elects free agency -- The Brewers opted to remove Healy from the 40-man roster rather than head to arbitration with him, and he had the right to refuse and try the free-agent market instead. Remember, he was Milwaukee’s cleanup hitter in Game 2 of the National League Wild Card Series against the Dodgers.
Oct. 30: Declined options on Braun, Gyorko, Ben Gamel and Eric Sogard -- Gamel remained with the organization for now as an arbitration-eligible player, but the others became free agents, including Braun for the first time in his long career.