Brewers' offseason might just be getting started

December 8th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Adam McCalvy’s Brewers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

MILWAUKEE -- The end of the Winter Meetings doesn’t mean the end of transaction action.

Often, the Meetings are merely the start.

Just consider the years since the last time the baseball world found itself lost on one of the atriums at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn.:

2022: Dec. 4-7 in San Diego. On the following Monday, the Brewers acquired catcher William Contreras and reliever Joel Payamps in a three-team blockbuster with the Braves and A’s. Two days after that, they picked up utility man Owen Miller for a player to be named from the Guardians.

2021: No Winter Meetings because of the lockout.

2020: No Winter Meetings because of the pandemic.

2019: Dec. 8-12 in San Diego. The day after returning home, the Brewers signed veteran left-hander Brett Anderson. By the end of the following week, they’d also signed Avisaíl García, Jace Peterson, Justin Smoak and Eric Sogard.

2018: Dec. 9-13 in Las Vegas. Eight days later, on Dec. 21, the Brewers traded Domingo Santana to the Mariners for outfielder Ben Gamel and Minor League pitcher Noah Zavolas.

2017: Dec. 10-14 in Orlando. Two days after departing Disney World, the Brewers agreed to bring back franchise strikeout leader Yovani Gallardo, though he would eventually be released during Spring Training. The more impactful deal was struck on Dec. 20, when they agreed to terms with right-hander Jhoulys Chacín on a two-year contract.

2016: Dec. 4-8 in Washington, D.C. After making a big move during the Meetings by trading reliever Tyler Thornburg to the Red Sox for third baseman Travis Shaw and prospects including Mauricio Dubón, the Brewers executed another trade the following week by sending Martín Maldonado and Minor Leaguer Drew Gagnon to the Angels for catcher Jett Bandy. The day after that, they signed free agent pitcher Tommy Milone as well.

2015: Dec. 6-10 in Nashville. Again, there was a big trade during the Meetings when new general manager David Stearns and his just-hired deputy, Matt Arnold, picked up a teenage Freddy Peralta and other young pitching prospects from the Mariners for Adam Lind. The following week, the Brewers signed three free agents who would appear in the Majors for them the following season -- Will Middlebrooks, Jake Elmore and Alex Presley -- and traded Jason Rogers to the Pirates for outfielder Keon Broxton and pitching prospect Trey Supak.

That’s why Arnold, who is now at the top of the Brewers’ baseball operations chain, talked about “groundwork” during his final chat with reporters in Nashville this week and added, “We’re not trying to win the Winter Meetings. We’re trying to win the World Series.”

Take the Contreras deal last year. The key pieces were agreed upon, most notably Sean Murphy from the A’s to the Braves and Contreras from the Braves to the Brewers while Oakland reaped prospects from both of those teams. They included Esteury Ruiz, the speedy outfielder whom the Brewers had just acquired months earlier from the Padres in the Josh Hader trade.

By the time the A’s, Braves and Brewers departed San Diego, it was down to “smoothing” the deal from all sides.

“It’s fair to say the framework was in place,” Arnold said. “I think we ended up working on the other pieces, pulling from both sides, to get it over the line.”

Did he depart Nashville with anything similarly close?

“It’s certainly possible,” Arnold said. “We have a lot of foundations in the works. Whether these things get over the line, we don’t know. We want them to benefit us, whether it helps us in ‘24 or beyond, I think we have to balance that. We certainly have talked about a lot of different frameworks.”

So, stay on your toes over the next week or so.