NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Now that 19-year-old outfielder Jackson Chourio’s record-setting extension is in the books, clearing his path to the Brewers’ Opening Day roster, it might be tempting to wonder whether the pact signals the team’s intention to go young in 2024, perhaps taking a step back after several years of “postseason berth or bust.”
Milwaukee GM Matt Arnold pushed back hard on that speculation.
“No, I see it the other way,” Arnold said on Day 2 of the Winter Meetings at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. “I think this is an investment in our franchise from our ownership group to do more. I think it aligns with what we want to do, which is to compete in 2024.
“Adding somebody like a Jackson Chourio potentially to our Opening Day [roster] and then signing somebody like Wade Miley, who’s 37 years old, I think it’s a commitment from [Brewers owner] Mark Attanasio and his family to make the Brewers really viable in Wisconsin for a long time.”
Chourio would follow other top prospects like outfielders Sal Frelick and Joey Wiemer, infielder Brice Turang and reliever Abner Uribe, all of whom made their Major League debut last season while the Brewers were on their way to winning the NL Central title. It can be a tricky balance.
“It is tricky, but it’s fun. It keeps us busy,” Arnold said. “We always have to keep one eye on the present, one on the future, but we don’t want to sacrifice too much in either direction. To the extent we can put a good team on the field in 2024, we absolutely want to do that. And to the extent we can add future value, we want to do that as well. I think that’s evidenced by the moves we’ve made this week.”
Here are three more takeaways from Tuesday’s chat with the Brewers’ baseball boss:
Chourio isn’t the only prospect with a path to Opening Day
The Brewers are open to bringing back free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, who posted a .773 OPS and cemented his place among the Gold Glove Award finalists following a midseason trade to Milwaukee. They also traded with the Yankees for Jake Bauers and like his power potential. But there’s another option for the opening at first base or potentially third: Tyler Black, MLB Pipeline’s No. 4 Brewers prospect.
“He can do a lot of things,” Arnold said. “His ability to play third, first, outfield if needed, DH. He’s so athletic. He’s really talented and we’re really excited about him wherever he winds up. … He’s a really good hitter. It’s fun to watch.”
Asked whether it’s within the realm of possibility that Black winds up breaking camp with the big league club, Arnold said, “I certainly think he’s in play, absolutely.”
One possibility that’s not in the mix for first base, according to Arnold: Christian Yelich. He’ll continue to get his at-bats in left field or as the designated hitter.
Arnold still says he expects to hold Burnes and Adames
At the onset of the offseason when he was asked about the potential of a Corbin Burnes trade as the right-hander heads toward his final year before free agency, Arnold said, “I would expect him to be a Brewer here next year.”
Two months later, has that stance changed?
“No, I think that’s still our position,” Arnold said. “Certainly we’re getting a lot of traction [on Burnes], and this week is a popular week to have those conversations, but we’re still certainly thrilled to have him.”
And shortstop Willy Adames, who is in the same contractual situation?
“Yeah, very similar,” Arnold said. “We love what he brings to our team and, again, thrilled to have him.”
Aaron Ashby is a Wild Card
Monday’s deal to bring back Miley on a one-year contract with a mutual option checked an important box for the Brewers, Arnold said, because “it really stabilizes our rotation. We’re going to need a lot of innings this year and he’s certainly going to be right in the middle of that.”
Innings will come from Burnes, precluding a trade, along with Freddy Peralta, Miley, Colin Rea and Adrian Houser. But Arnold and manager Pat Murphy were both vague this week about what the Brewers expect to get from talented 25-year-old left-hander Ashby, who scored a five-year contract extension in July of 2022, only to undergo shoulder surgery earlier this year and miss the entire season.
“He really feels good. He’s coming back, throwing, playing catch, working out,” Arnold said. “I think he’s on track to be a part of our rotation, hopefully next year. That’s the expectation. This guy is working his tail off to try to come back and he’s definitely on the right track."
Does that mean he expects Ashby to be game-ready from the start of next year, or just sometime next year?
“It’s hard to say,” Arnold said. “You want to be cautious with these types of things. When he’s ready, he’s certainly going to be part of our mix, for sure.”