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Brewers Inbox, in-flight edition: Braun at 1B?

Beat reporter Adam McCalvy answers fans' questions on his way to Phoenix
@AdamMcCalvy
February 11, 2020

SOMEWHERE BETWEEN MILWAUKEE AND PHOENIX -- We’re emptying the metaphorical Inbox while hurtling through the air toward Spring Training with Sophia Minnaert and 140 of our closest friends: **With the Brewers signing Justin Smoak (who switch hits), does Ryan Braun really see much time at first base? -- @CarsonS_97 via

SOMEWHERE BETWEEN MILWAUKEE AND PHOENIX -- We’re emptying the metaphorical Inbox while hurtling through the air toward Spring Training with Sophia Minnaert and 140 of our closest friends:

With the Brewers signing Justin Smoak (who switch hits), does Ryan Braun really see much time at first base?
-- @CarsonS_97 via Twitter

Put me down for “I’ll believe it when I see it” on this one. Not because I am down on Smoak, and certainly not because I don’t think Braun can play first base. (I believe he can play it well; his rookie issues at third base were almost exclusively of the throwing variety.) I am skeptical because I have a fresh memory in my mind of Ryan Braun, 2018 Opening Day first baseman. We obsessed for six weeks that spring about the additions of Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich to an outfield that already included Braun and 30-homer-hitter Domingo Santana, and we thoroughly covered every ground ball to Braun at first base in the Cactus League. Then things happened, including the emergence of Jesús Aguilar, and Braun’s season at first base amounted to 18 appearances (12 starts). And still, everyone got their at-bats.

The plan going into this season is that Braun will see some time at first base, since Avisaíl García and Yelich are expected to see most of the time at the outfield corners, and Cain has center. So what would a first base platoon look like? Might it be something like 80/20 in favor of Smoak? Closer to 50/50? We just don’t know, especially coming off a 2019 season in which Braun, Cain, Smoak and Yelich all missed time with injuries. The most important thing is that they are covered at all of those positions.

Craig Counsell is confident that he’ll find at-bats for everyone, and history says it will work itself out.

Adam, please tell me the left side of the infield on Opening Day is not going to be Jedd Gyorko and Orlando Arcia.
-- @ntretts via Twitter

If the Cubs throw a lefty, sure, that could be the left side of the infield. Right now, it looks like Luis Urías won’t be ready for March 26 at Miller Park (that could change, however), so Arcia is the frontrunner at shortstop. Eric Sogard is a possibility to man the position on a short-term basis, as well. And yes, it looks like third base will be a timeshare of Gyorko and Sogard at the start of the season. The Brewers’ front office is far more confident in the potential of that duo than Brewers Twitter. As I wrote in my Spring Training preview, we’ll see who is right and who is wrong.

What are the chances of a Josh Hader trade still happening before the year? If so, what would they prioritize?
-- @Towns43 via Twitter

I wouldn’t bet on a trade of that magnitude happening at this late stage, especially after Counsell and David Stearns were so emphatic at Brewers On Deck about their expectations for 2020. Trading away the (arguably) best reliever in the game on the eve of the regular season would be incongruent with those expectations.

What is the Brewers' plan? With all the contracts signed and extreme payroll cut, we will be right back to square one next offseason.
-- @danergabrielson via Twitter

To the contrary, the aim of this offseason was avoid the downside of many long-term signings while also avoiding being back to square one next winter. Of all the Major League acquisitions via trade, free agency and waivers -- I count 14 -- only one is guaranteed to be a free agent after the season: lefty starter Brett Anderson. The others are either under club control beyond 2020 or signed one-year deals with club options. That puts the Brewers in control of who they keep.

If Urías isn’t ready for Opening Day, who is most likely to get that spot on the roster?
-- @TonyTorres_1 via Twitter

Ronny Rodríguez jumps to mind. He’s an interesting player -- versatile like Hernán Pérez, but with more pop. Also, a hip-hop artist. Plus, he has Minor League options.

Realistically, how far away is Ethan Small? It’s gotta be post-service time hurdle in 2021, right?
-- @BigAaronJ44 via Twitter

If Small is in the Majors by June 2021, something has either gone very wrong at the Major League level or very right for last year’s first-round Draft pick. He has seven professional starts under his belt at this point. It’s probably going to take a bit longer than you have in mind, Aaron.

I see a lot of people upset with the proposed playoff rules, but I haven't seen actual arguments against them. Could you two do some pros/cons of the proposal?
-- @Redfox1701 via Twitter

If you haven’t yet, go read Mark Feinsand’s rundown of the proposal. I’ll stay out of the opinion business on this, but what I find so fascinating is that so many of the pros can be construed as cons, depending on your personal opinion.

To wit, some pros:

• More teams contending.

• More playoff games is a good thing (they’re fun!).

• More playoff berths = more incentive to spend.

• The top seed choosing its opponent brings drama!

• More money for owners to see as they see fit.

And, some cons:

• Too many teams contending.

• More playoff games is a bad thing (they’ll get diluted).

• More playoff berths = less incentive to spend.

• The top seed choosing its opponent brings drama.

• More money for owners to spend as they see fit.

When everyone decides, just tell me the plan and I’ll go cover the games.

@SophiaMinnaert, is @AdamMcCalvy one of those jerks that uses both arm rests on a plane?
-- @JaymesL via Twitter

Upon boarding, I cross my arms and don’t let go until we land. I am typing this with my nose.

Are you a part of #TeamRecline like @Dario_Melendez?
-- @VanBerf via Twitter

Dear #TeamRecline, please be kind to your fellow air travelers and don’t do it. It’s literally the least we can do for each other.

Cheez-Its, peanuts or cookies?
-- @beckjason via Twitter

Yes, please.

Did you guys use those free drink coupons I gave you?
-- @Todd_Rosiak via Twitter

Wait, Sophia has drink coupons up there in first class??

What kind of candy did you pack for the flight?
-- @ktek7 via Twitter

Three pounds of Wisconsin candy raisins for my cheesehead friends who live in Arizona. Hopefully some of them make it to wheels down.

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