Third base, center field top Brewers' wish list
New GM Stearns takes rebuilding effort to Winter Meetings
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers head to Nashville, Tenn., for the Winter Meetings with a new general manager and new focus. Unlike last year in San Diego, where the club was seeking to fortify a contender, new boss David Stearns is heading a rebuilding project, fielding offers for many of Milwaukee's established Major Leaguers.
MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2015 Winter Meetings from the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, with the Network launching 35 hours of live Winter Meetings coverage on Sunday at 7 p.m. CT. Fans can also catch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, as well as the announcement of the Hall of Fame Pre-Integration Era Committee inductees on Monday at 10 a.m. CT and the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday at 9 a.m. CT.
Here's a breakdown of the Brewers' situation:
Third base: Jonathan Villar is an option to man third base every day, Stearns said, but the Brewers remain open to other long-term alternatives. If they stay in-house, options besides Villar are scant. Shortstop prospect Yadiel Rivera is one, though there are questions about whether any of those players will hit enough to be viable at the position.
Center field: After giving Shane Peterson a look in the wake of trades that cost the Brewers center fielders Carlos Gomez and Gerardo Parra, Milwaukee auditioned Domingo Santana down the stretch. Santana's power is intriguing (six home runs in 121 Brewers at-bats), though the consensus is that he's better suited to the corners. The Brewers must decide whether to cover the position with Santana until Brett Phillips or one of the organization's other center-field prospects is ready, or to acquire a short-term stopgap.
Who they can trade if necessary
Adam Lind: The Brewers don't have a clear alternative to man first base, but that doesn't preclude trading Lind, given the team's commitment to rebuilding. Lind drew muted interest from other clubs before the July 31 Trade Deadline, but then-GM Doug Melvin did not find an offer worth accepting. The 32-year-old finished with 20 home runs, 87 RBIs and an .820 OPS. The Brewers picked up his $8 million option following the season.
Jean Segura: His salary will increase significantly this winter as a first-time arbitration-eligible player, and he mans Milwaukee's deepest position. If the Brewers can find a club that sees room for improvement over Segura's last two seasons at the plate (.614 OPS in 2014, .616 OPS in 2015), it could make some sense for the Brewers to move him and hand the position to Rivera and, eventually, top prospect Orlando Arcia.
Jonathan Lucroy: Stearns has hinted against the likelihood of the Brewers trading their All-Star catcher, and keeping him does have merit. Lucroy has two years left on a club-friendly contract ($4 million in 2016, $5.25 million in 2017), and even a rebuilding team needs a veteran leader. But his reasonable contract is also an argument to trade him now; even after a down year at the plate in 2015, Lucroy's value on the market might be at its peak, considering his new team would get him for two years at a low price.
Will Smith: The reliever's value to the Brewers increased when the club traded Francisco Rodriguez to Detroit, but his price, too, is about to rise in arbitration, and the Brewers have some minimum-priced relief options they like. If a club came to Stearns with an offer, he would listen.
Scooter Gennett and Khris Davis: Both offensive-minded players are making near-minimum salaries. So why would the Brewers move them? Because the deepest parts of the organization are on the middle of the infield and in the outfield.
MLBPipeline's top 10 Brewers prospects are shortstop Arcia, outfielders Phillips, Trent Clark and Tyrone Taylor, infielder Gilbert Lara, outfielder Clint Coulter and pitchers Devin Williams, Jorge Lopez, Kodi Medeiros and Zach Davies. Given the team's search for "young, controllable talent," it is difficult to see any scenario in which Stearns parts with any of those players. Lopez and Davies have already appeared for the Brewers, and Arcia and Phillips are expected to begin next season at Triple-A Colorado Springs, putting them right on the brink of the big leagues.
Rule 5 Draft
The Brewers have three openings on their 40-man roster after removing Elian Herrera on Wednesday, and they spent the days leading up to the Winter Meetings exploring options for the fifth pick in the Rule 5 Draft. If the Brewers make a selection, that player would have to remain in the Majors for all of next season or be offered back to his original club.
Big contracts they might unload
Ryan Braun: The right fielder returned to All-Star form in 2015 and now enters the five-year, $105 million contract extension he signed early in 2011. Trading a contract of that magnitude would be extremely tricky, especially when it is attached to a player with a PED suspension on his resume.
Matt Garza: The right-hander's second season with the Brewers was a total bust, with Garza going 6-14 with a 5.63 ERA before manager Craig Counsell removed him from the rotation against the veteran's wishes. Garza has two years and at least $25 million left on his four-year contract.
After pushing the payroll into record territory in recent seasons, the Brewers' expenditures will come way down in 2015. At the moment, only five players have a fixed price for 2016 (Braun, Garza, Lind, Lucroy and backup catcher Martin Maldonado will combine to cost about $46 million) and Segura, Smith and Wily Peralta are also likely to garner seven-figure salaries in arbitration. The rest of the roster, at present, is comprised of players earning salaries at or just north of the Major League minimum.