LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Should the Brewers remain on the rebuilding road or is it time to go for it? As baseball executives prepare for the official start of the Winter Meetings on Monday, Milwaukee GM David Stearns would not publicly commit to one path or the other.
Perhaps a week at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort will provide some direction.
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"I don't know that you can say we're zeroed in on one or the other," Stearns said. "We certainly have players who intrigue us and [free agents] we have talked to and are discussing. Depending on which of those conversations progress, it will help us determine what the best path is for the remainder of our offseason.
"We understand there are a number of different ways this can go. One transaction can potentially change the path of the offseason. So we really need to keep an open mind and stay flexible."
It's no secret that starting pitching is the Brewers' top priority, a search intensified by the fact the team's 2017 pitcher of the year, Jimmy Nelson, is still recovering from right shoulder surgery, and the current "baseline," according to Stearns, has him not resuming baseball activity until the start of Spring Training. That means the Brewers might not get a firm idea of how much of the season Nelson will miss until their Opening Day roster has largely been shaped.
Matt Garza is gone via free agency, but the rest of the rotation is expected back, led by Chase Anderson (2.74 ERA in 25 starts in 2017) and Zach Davies (3.90 ERA in 33 starts). After that, options abound but so do questions. Is No. 4 Brewers prospectBrandon Woodruff ready for a full season in the Majors? Are left-handers Josh Hader and Brent Suter more valuable in the rotation or in relief? Can 2017 Opening Day starter Junior Guerra bounce back from a bad year? And so on.
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If Stearns opts to sign a free agent, Jacob Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn are among the top available pitchers. If he opts to trade for a starter -- Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi of the Rays, anyone? -- then "it's a possibility," Stearns said, that the Brewers will deal from their depth of outfielders.
Whichever path he chooses, MLB.com and MLB Network is on the ground and will have wall-to-wall coverage of the Winter Meetings from Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Fans can watch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, including the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday morning.
Stearns will brief the media every evening from Monday to Wednesday on club activity, and manager Craig Counsell will also participate in a media session on Monday at 9:30 a.m. CT.
"Activity to date has been slower than normal," Stearns said. "I think clubs, and players as well, realize it's a long offseason. You don't have to get things done in November/December. For a long time, there was this thought process that you got your major transactions done by December, then you spent January preparing for Spring Training, and then in February you went down to Spring Training. I don't know that the industry looks at it that way anymore. Players sign now during Spring Training.
"I think we have to be OK being patient, and we're in a fortunate position that I like our team."