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How Brewers' Opening Day roster might look

@AdamMcCalvy
November 6, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers have decisions to make as they plan a 26-man roster for 2019 Opening Day. And no, that was not a typo. Rosters are expanding from 25 to 26 for the 2020 season, with a maximum number of pitchers still do be determined and specific guidelines in

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers have decisions to make as they plan a 26-man roster for 2019 Opening Day. And no, that was not a typo.

Rosters are expanding from 25 to 26 for the 2020 season, with a maximum number of pitchers still do be determined and specific guidelines in place for two-way players should one come Milwaukee’s way.

Here's a very early look at the state of the Brewers' roster:

Catcher
Locks: Manny Piña ($1.85 million club option picked up)
Possibilities: Jacob Nottingham, David Freitas
Yasmani Grandal is a possibility to return if he and the Brewers can work out a followup to the one-year, $18.25 million deal that landed him in Milwaukee in January when he didn’t find a multiyear deal to his liking. But it would take a hefty offer, considering Grandal reportedly turned down a four-year, $60 million offer from the Mets. He had another excellent season, posting a .380 on-base percentage and setting a Brewers record for home runs as a catcher while trailing only the Phillies’ J.T. Realmuto in WAR among MLB backstops. If Grandal doesn’t return, the Brewers may have to fortify the position unless they have great faith in Nottingham, who was limited to a .668 OPS at Triple-A San Antonio last season despite big offensive numbers across the Pacific Coast League.

First base
Locks: No clear internal favorite
Possibilities: Ryan Braun, Travis Shaw
The Brewers' surprising decision to decline Eric Thames' $7.5 million club option removed the only obvious lock from the team's first-base picture. Replacing Thames with Braun is a possibility, though the idea of having Braun split time with Thames at first has been floated before, and aside from a short stint at the start of the 2018 season, it has not come to fruition.

Second base
Locks: Keston Hiura
Possibilities: Tyler Saladino
The Brewers delayed promoting Hiura last season, then they sent him down in June to give Shaw one last chance to get going. But now Hiura is here to stay, and while there are questions about his defense, there is no doubting that Hiura will hit. His 19 home runs were third all-time for a Brewers rookie, trailing only Braun's 34 in 2007 and Prince Fielder's 28 in '06.

Shortstop
Locks: None
Possibilities: Orlando Arcia
When Arcia was promoted to the Majors in August 2016, he was the team’s most-anticipated prospect since Braun. But after three full seasons, he still hasn’t established himself. Arcia's best asset is his glove, though the metrics and the eye test both say he took a step back on defense in 2019 while slashing .223/.283/.350 and ranking as MLB’s worst qualified hitter by wOBA (.269) and wRC+ (61). Now that he’s eligible for arbitration for the first time and set to make more than a minimum salary, it’s hard to characterize Arcia as a “lock.”

Third base
Locks: None
Possibilities: Travis Shaw
The Brewers’ trickiest offseason question is what to do about Shaw, who delivered a .551 OPS while making $4.675 million in '19, and is arbitration-eligible again. On one hand, he topped 30 home runs in each of his first two seasons in Milwaukee. On the other hand, that’s not an insignificant sum to gamble on a bounceback. Without a clear candidate in the Minor Leagues to take over at third base -- Lucas Erceg hit .218/.305/.398 in a great offensive environment at San Antonio in 2019 -- the Brewers will have to either take that chance with Shaw or spend to bring in a replacement. A reunion with free agent Mike Moustakas is possible.

Utility
Locks: None
Possibilities: Tyler Saladino
Hernán Pérez has filled this role for several years, but he opted for free agency after the Brewers removed him from the 40-man roster for the second time in 2019. Cory Spangenberg was solid when given an opportunity in the Majors and has the versatility to play all over the diamond, but he was cut loose as well.

Outfield
Locks: Braun, Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich
Possibilities: Ben Gamel, Trent Grisham, Tyrone Taylor, Corey Ray
It looks like the strength of the team is in the outfield, where Braun is entering the final guaranteed season of his contract. Gamel and Grisham have certainly proven that they are Major League players, but both have Minor League options remaining, so the team has flexibility to start the season. Yelich went down on Sept. 10 with a fractured right kneecap, but is expected to be healthy long before the start of Spring Training.

Starting pitchers
Locks: Brandon Woodruff, Adrian Houser, Zach Davies
Possibilities: Brent Suter, Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta, Jake Faria
Woodruff was a stud when healthy in 2019, and Houser showed flashes of the same ability. Davies led the team in innings last season. Then there are some decisions to make on pitchers like Suter and Peralta, who had success late in the year out of the bullpen. Burnes is a fascinating case because he has the stuff to be an excellent Major League starter, but he struggled so terribly after opening the year in the big league rotation. There is room for a steady veteran or two here, perhaps a free agent like Jordan Lyles.

Bullpen
Locks: Josh Hader, Junior Guerra, Alex Claudio
Possibilities: Corey Knebel, Bobby Wahl, Brent Suter, Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta, Jimmy Nelson, Ray Black, Devin Williams, Deolis Guerra, Taylor Williams
The bullpen makeup depends on offseason additions and subtractions, as well as decisions about the starting rotation. For example: Suter will surely be a big part of the team, but will he start, relieve or some combination of both? When will Knebel and Wahl be ready to return from injuries? What do the Brewers have planned for Burnes? Will Nelson be back? How significant a role will Black play after some encouraging late-season outings? It’s not unusual for the bullpen to be unsettled at the start of an offseason.

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