NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Brewers' front office did its job by finalizing an eight-year, $82 million contract for outfield prospect Jackson Chourio. Now it’s a priority for manager Pat Murphy and his coaching staff to help MLB Pipeline's No. 2 overall prospect take the next step and thrive in the Major Leagues.
Murphy was asked about Chourio’s future while meeting with the media on Monday, one of a number of scenes from the Winter Meetings at the sprawling Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.
Here are some highlights.
1. ‘Everybody’s got to earn it’
By signing Chourio to a contract that set a new industry standard for a prospect with zero Major League experience, the Brewers cleared a path to the Opening Day roster.
But Murphy, who happens to have decades of collegiate experience helping 19-year-olds access their potential, made it clear that Chourio won’t simply be handed the keys to center field.
“How do I view it? Everybody's got to earn it,” Murphy said. “He's no different than anybody else. I told him today, ‘You're No. 94 to me.’ He's always worn No. 94 in [Spring Training games]. ‘If you want that No. 11, you’ve got to earn it.’ I'll hang that No. 11 in my office and he can look at it every day if he wants, but he's going to wear 94 [in Murphy’s mind] until he earns that.”
Murphy and associate manager Rickie Weeks were among the dozen or so Brewers officials who attended Chourio’s emotional news conference. That’s the word -- “emotional” -- which Murphy used to describe seeing a player who is so young enjoy a life-changing day.
“You think about it because it’s a 19-year-old kid, and I can tell he's feeling all that pressure, but at the same time, his heart is all about taking care of his family. His heart is all about just playing baseball,” Murphy said. “‘Why are you giving me all this attention?’ It's pretty sweet to see. Beautiful kid, beautiful smile. …
“I think that's a huge part of our job right now, to understand what he needs. He doesn't know what he needs. We've got to be the ones that understand it. What's our support system like for him going forward, managing expectations, getting him to bring out close to his best self. It might not happen right away, but that's in the forefront of our minds. Our staff has got to do that.”
2. ‘We have a good amount of depth there’
After years of success fueled largely by homegrown pitchers, the Brewers seem to be transitioning into a period they hope is led by homegrown hitters, including Chourio and some of the prospects who preceded him. Many of those players are outfielders -- Garrett Mitchell, Sal Frelick and Joey Wiemer among them. Add Tyrone Taylor and Blake Perkins on top of that and, for the moment, it looks like there’s a serious surplus.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, said GM Matt Arnold, who stressed that it takes a lot more than a 26-man Opening Day roster to get through a Major League season.
But it also does open things up for the Brewers to consider some trades to fill other needs.
“It’s certainly possible,” Arnold said. “I mean, we always have to listen on trade opportunities, of course, and we do have a good amount of depth there. But like I said, it also works in our favor in a lot of ways. We had to work through almost 60 players on our roster last year, so we need a lot of good players to win another division title.”
3. ‘More kids are about to come’
I exchanged messages on Monday morning with two of the scouts who pushed for Chourio before the Brewers signed him to a $1.8 million bonus in January 2021. A deal like that is a group effort, and this one involved everyone from Arnold, who was assistant GM when the Brewers first started getting serious about pursuing Chourio, to former international scouting director Mike Groopman and many others. But two scouts were particularly proud: Director of international player evaluation Luis Pérez and assistant director of Latin America scouting and international player development Fernando Veracierto.
Pérez called it a “very proud” day and said, “Jackson has proven to be mature in any challenges he has had during his career, and I don’t think he will change the way he plays.”
Veracierto said he was crying tears of joy from afar with his family, and vowed to be at Citi Field for 2024 Opening Day against the Mets -- hopefully with Chourio in center field.
“Jackson will face the challenge with no fear,” Veracierto said. “He is a humble kid, a warrior. I’m sure he will lead our organization on and off the field.”
“More kids to impact our organization are about to come,” Veracierto said.