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Brewers reflect on falling short, promising future

October 23, 2018

MILWAUKEE -- Tuesday was a day to look back and to look ahead for Brewers general manager David Stearns and manager Craig Counsell. They met the media for the first time since falling to the Dodgers in the seventh game of a National League Championship Series that couldn't have been

MILWAUKEE -- Tuesday was a day to look back and to look ahead for Brewers general manager David Stearns and manager Craig Counsell. They met the media for the first time since falling to the Dodgers in the seventh game of a National League Championship Series that couldn't have been much closer.
Here's how it went by the numbers:
Brewers hitters: 24 runs, .678 OPS, 10-for-56 RISP
Dodgers hitters: 23 runs, .633 OPS, 11-for-56 RISP
Brewers pitchers: 3.15 ERA, 82 strikeouts
Dodgers pitchers: 3.18 ERA, 79 strikeouts
Brewers wins: Three
Dodgers wins: Four
NLCS Game 7 not an end but a beginning
In the end, only the last numbers mattered.
"We spend a lot of time playing the long game in this organization, so stats in the NLCS are irrelevant," Counsell said. "It's who wins the most games. They won four; we won three. That tells you it was close. Either way, it was a good series. You're trying to find ways to win games. When you get to the playoffs, it's just 'try to find a way to win games.'"
Having three days to digest the 5-1 loss that ended the Brewers' season, would Counsell do anything differently to try to win Game 7?
"The play of the game was the [Christian] Yelich ball that was caught," Counsell said, referring to Dodgers left fielder Chris Taylor's fantastic catch of a Yelich line drive with the tying run at second base in the fifth inning. "That was a huge momentum play in the game. I don't know how much it changes any of the pitching decisions we had to make. From that perspective, it probably didn't change much. But with the feeling in the game, it had a chance to change things in the game.
"Decision-wise, I don't know. I don't think pitching-wise there's anything we would have done differently. We had [three] guys pinch-hit; none of them got hits. So order-wise, maybe we could have done that differently. But they were all going to have to take at-bats against pitchers that weren't probably great matchups. So, no."

Added Stearns: "Whenever they tell you to go home and whenever you can't play anymore, it hurts. The longer you play in the season and you're not the team that wins the final game, it hurts a little more. But from an organizational perspective … I think we put ourselves on a national stage and made everyone proud to be associated with the Brewers. That's a rewarding aspect of this for me. We genuinely believe we are set up to succeed going forward."
So to turn the focus forward, here's the start of the Brewers' offseason to-do list:
Free agents
Curtis Granderson
Giovany Gonzalez
Wade Miley
Mutual options
Mike Moustakas ($15 million, $1 million buyout)
Joakim Soria ($10 million, $1 million buyout)
Club options
Jeremy Jeffress ($3.175 million, no buyout)
Jordan Lyles ($3.5 million, $250,000 buyout)
Arbitration eligible
Xavier Cedeno
Zach Davies
Junior Guerra
Jeremy Jeffress (if option declined)
Dan Jennings
Corey Knebel
Erik Kratz
Jimmy Nelson
Hernan Perez
Manny Pina
Tyler Saladino
Domingo Santana
Jonathan Schoop
Travis Shaw
Stephen Vogt
Decisions on the options will come within three days of the end of the World Series, Stearns said. Free agents are free to sign elsewhere beginning five days after the World Series. And the non-tender date (the date by which teams must decide whether to move forward with their arbitration-eligible players or cut them loose) is Nov. 30.
Not surprisingly, Stearns declined to declare whether the Brewers would exercise their half of Moustakas' mutual option, though he did praise Moustakas' contributions to the Brewers down the stretch.
And the Brewers offered no hints about how they planned to proceed with Schoop, who earned $8.5 million last season and would get a raise in arbitration despite performing so poorly for Milwaukee after a July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline move from Baltimore (.202/.246/.331 in 134 plate appearances) that he was relegated mostly to bench duty during the postseason.

"That's a discussion that we're going to have to continue to have here over the next couple of weeks to a month," Stearns said. "Obviously, Jonathan has proven that he is a quality Major League player. He has had really impressive stretches throughout his career, and unfortunately for both him and us, we didn't see one of those stretches when he was a Brewer. We'll sit down to see if we can determine why, and then we'll go forward."
More highlights from Tuesday's wide-ranging news conference:
On whether any specific positions will be prioritized this winter:
"I think we're going into the offseason like we've gone into every offseason since I've been here: with an open mind about how we can improve the organization as a whole," Stearns said. "That's at the Major League level, that's throughout our organization. From a specific standpoint, a positional standpoint at the Major League level, we have the vast majority of our team returning. So I don't know that I would pinpoint a particular area or two that we see that absolutely must be addressed. I certainly imagine that we are going to show up in Spring Training with a slightly different-looking roster than the one we have right now, perhaps in ways that we don't envision."
On the projected depth of the starting rotation:
"We certainly like our numbers, and we do feel we have depth at that position," Stearns said. "We're always going to look to get better. We're always going to look to improve. But we think we have a number of high-upside, high-quality arms who are continuing to improve, and some who are entering that sweet spot in their careers. That's fun for us to see."
On the timeline for Nelson:
"He is going to go through a normal offseason," Stearns said. "He will begin to ramp up his throwing program at the appropriate time like he has done in seasons past, and we will see where he is when he gets to Spring Training. If he is still pain-free and feels good, then we will ramp him up accordingly. If we feel like we need to slow it down a little bit and go at a more modest pace, then we'll do that. The goal here is and always has been to get a healthy Jimmy Nelson back on a Major League mound, and we are focused on the health rather than the timeline."
On whether top prospect Keston Hiura could crack the big leagues by the end of next season:
"Look, I think it's a possibility," Stearns said. "I think we also have to recognize Keston hasn't played a day above Double-A, so there's a lot of growth left there for him."

On the timeline for infield prospect Mauricio Dubon coming off left ACL surgery:
"We anticipate Mauricio will be ready for Spring Training," Stearns said. "He's gone full force into his rehab. He's done a great job."
On getting over the disappointment of missing the World Series:
"I think right now," Counsell said, "you're still a little bit mad, sad, humbled for sure, in what's gone on here. Your desire doesn't change -- it's still the same. We've got a lot of work to do. It's not a lot of different work, it's just really hard to get to where we got. It's really hard. Really good teams cannot get to that point. That's what's so daunting about it, and what's so inspiring about is because you have to work for it again."

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