Inbox: What are Crew's plans at 1B, 3B?

Beat reporter Adam McCalvy answers fans' questions

January 14th, 2021

Who’s on first? Who’s on third? Will Jacob Nottingham get some run on first, and is there anyone in the Minors who we can pencil in as the everyday third baseman in 2021?
-- @e_ay34 on Twitter

"To be determined" at both positions.

That is strange to say for a team intent on being better offensively next season, but this is a strange offseason. I had a chance to ask Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns about both first and third base last week, so here is everyone’s chance to translate GM-speak and decide for themselves whether it sounds like the team is content with its current in-house options:

On whether Daniel Vogelbach could be the regular first baseman:

“I think Vogey is best suited as a hitter, and that means he’s probably best suited for the DH,” Stearns said. “If there is no DH in the National League -- right now we don’t have one -- then we would have to make a determination as to how comfortable we would be devoting meaningful time to him at first base.”

On whether Luis Urías could be the regular third baseman:

“I think there are a lot of different possibilities there,” Stearns said. “I think he could own a position. I think he could move around. He has the ability to do all of that. We think he’s a natural shortstop, and we think he can play there. We think he can certainly play third and second as well. We’re going to sort through that. We have plenty of time to sort through that. There’s no set-in-stone plan at this point. But it could still go a number of different ways.”

Sounds to me like Stearns still expects to make some additions at those spots. I would urge fans to stay patient, and to understand the difficult position GMs are in. Virtually nothing about a 2021 baseball season is a sure thing at this point, despite the scheduled start of Spring Training looming a little more than a month away.

If you had to guess, how many of the six catchers on the 40-man will the Crew carry on their Opening Day roster?
-- @CarsonS_97

If I had to guess, barring injuries or trades or some other unforeseen development, just two: Omar Narváez and Manny Piña. I think the Brewers see Nottingham as a catcher who can occasionally play first base, not the other way around. They might be facing a tough decision on him this spring, since he’s out of options. David Freitas is also out of options. Luke Maile has options and could begin the season at Triple-A. Mario Feliciano needs more time in the Minors.

Related

Are the Brewers planning on doing an auction or selling any of the "Miller Park" signage?
-- @BrewCrewBall13 on Twitter

I wondered the same thing, so I asked. I’m told that the team is keeping an inventory as items are removed or taken down as part of the switch to American Family Field. There aren’t as many signs as you would think, a Brewers spokesperson said, and many of the items that are coming out couldn’t be saved due to how they were affixed. As an example, there were more than 60 signs affixed to the suites, but despite best efforts, they could not be removed intact. The Brewers say they hope to make some items available but don’t know the extent of it just yet. Stay tuned.

As for the big items -- including the beautiful main sign at the pivot point and the sign atop the scoreboard -- the expectation at the moment is that they will wind up with Molson Coors, the parent company of Miller.

In your opinion, does Ryan Braun return on a one-year deal?
-- @Whiteywilhelm on Twitter

This is 100 percent opinion: I would bet no at this point. That’s based on the tone of Braun’s comments at the end of last season, the clues his family left in what looked like farewell social media messages, and the fact that as of last week, Stearns had no recent communication with Braun. The idea was always to push this decision right up against the start of a 2021 season, so I think we are still weeks from getting any real information about his intentions.

Is there any word on fans being allowed into games this year, or even some sort of tailgating experience? Socially distanced, of course.
-- @TonyTorres_1 on Twitter

It’s just impossible to answer those questions at this point. There has been some reporting this week about teams tentatively planning to host some fans in 2021, but as has been the case all along, that depends on local health regulations and the state of vaccine distribution. It’s simply unknown what things will look like at the end of March.

If you could pick one affordable starting pitcher for the Brewers to sign, who would it be, and why would it be Taijuan Walker?
-- @BrewersRaptor

Objection! Leading question. But I’ll give you one left-hander and one right-hander.

For the lefty, Brett Anderson. Why not bring him back? You could get him on a one-year deal. You know he can be effective when he’s healthy. He’s a lefty in a rotation still dominated by right-handers (pending the Brewers’ plans for Eric Lauer). And by all accounts, he liked playing in a Brewers uniform.

For a righty, Trevor Williams jumps off the page for me as a pitcher who had recent success but has fallen on tough times. The Brewers surely would not be the only team interested in Williams, who was designated for assignment when the Pirates needed 40-man roster spots in November. From my colleague Adam Berry’s story that day:

Williams went 14-10 with a 3.11 ERA in 31 starts in 2018, and his incredible finish -- including a 1.29 ERA over his final 13 starts -- helped him earn the Steve Blass Award as the Pirates’ best pitcher that year. But his fastball became less effective over the past two seasons, especially after an oblique injury that interrupted his ’19 campaign, and he posted a 5.60 ERA and 1.46 WHIP over his past 37 starts.

Williams’ full-season salary for the 2020 season was set at $2.825 million, and he would have received a raise this winter during his second trip through the arbitration process. Now, he’ll either be claimed by another team or become a free agent.

"Not surprised, but I understand the reasoning and I get it. It's 'what have you done for me lately?' and I haven't been producing at the level that I know I'm able to. So, that was really it,” Williams said. “For me, it’s [figuring out how] to get back to how consistent I was prior to the injury. … I know it’s there, and I get flashes of it. I need to remind myself that I’m a good Major League starting pitcher.”

Adam, what can you do to bring me some excitement to this season and not make me feel like we’re about to repeat the 2013 season?
-- @BigAaronJ44 on Twitter

Here’s what I can do: I can remind you that Christian Yelich, who did not play for the 2013 Brewers, will play for the 2021 Brewers.

If we all chipped in $5, could we get Stearns to sign Ben Gamel and DJ LeMahieu?
-- @jrdesignsinc on Twitter

That sentence sure took an unexpected turn at the end. I do not see the Brewers investing in a free agent the caliber of LeMahieu this winter, even if you send in $5. I would suggest a donation to the Brewers Community Foundation instead.

This Friday is signing day for the 2020-21 class of international prospects. What can you share with us about the expected Brewers signees?
-- @CreamCityPro on Twitter

I can share that my brilliant, hard-working colleague Jesse Sanchez is on the case, and will have a mountain of stories across MLB.com’s sites on Friday, when the delayed signing day arrives. No one covers this day better than Jesse.

How versatile is Tim Lopes? Does he have the ability to play positions other than OF?
-- @sjonesiegolfman on Twitter

Yes, definitely. Lopes mostly manned the outfield in his stints with the Mariners, but he was primarily an infielder in the Minor Leagues, mostly a second baseman. You can most definitely expect to see him move around the field, a la Hernan Perez or Mark Mathias.

First candy you had in 2021!??
-- @cbriz on Twitter

Swedish Fish from Kehr’s at the Milwaukee Public Market. I love a delicate, well-prepared piece of fish.

Dear Wisconsin Sportswriter of the Year: Will lightning strike your pen a second time in 2021?
-- @hurrayforfacts on Twitter

Unlikely. More likely, Steve Harvey will knock on my door any day telling me he made a huge mistake. Thank you to everyone who reached out this week with kind words. It was most surprising, and totally appreciated.