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Inbox: Is it reasonable to expect a 'big' move?

Beat reporter Adam McCalvy answers offseason questions from fans
November 26, 2018

Is it reasonable to expect a "big" move (trade or free-agent signing)? -- @ntretts on TwitterIt seems to me that general manager David Stearns has been managing expectations in this area since the abrupt beginning of the Brewers' offseason, in part because of where the payroll stands -- we'll know

Is it reasonable to expect a "big" move (trade or free-agent signing)?
-- @ntretts on Twitter

It seems to me that general manager David Stearns has been managing expectations in this area since the abrupt beginning of the Brewers' offseason, in part because of where the payroll stands -- we'll know more about that after Friday's non-tender deadline -- and in part because the core of the team that made it to Game 7 of the National League Championship Series is controllable for next year and beyond.
Here's how Stearns previewed the offseason a few days in:
"We have the vast majority of our team returning," he said. "So I don't know that I would pinpoint a particular area or two that we see that absolutely must be addressed. But there are going to opportunities to improve our team in the offseason, and we are going to work hard to take advantage of those opportunities. I certainly imagine that we are going to show up in Spring Training with a slightly different-looking roster than the one we have right now. Perhaps in ways that we don't envision."
And here's what Stearns had to say the day before Thanksgiving:
"We touched on this right after the season, but this is likely going to be a different-looking offseason for us," he said. "That doesn't mean it's going to be any less impactful or that we're not going to be involved in as many conversations, but it's going to be a different-looking offseason for us. And that's OK."
So the door is open to a big move if one presents itself, but it doesn't sound as if the Brewers are steaming toward the Winter Meetings in a particularly aggressive way.
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If you mean Opening Day second baseman, I would say no. Mauricio Dubon -- ranked as Milwaukee's No. 7 prospect by MLB Pipeline -- had left ACL surgery in May, and while he's expected to be ready for the start of Spring Training, some Triple-A at-bats to begin the season are probably a good idea. More likely, he'll probably be an option for the Brewers around midseason.

I wrote about this three weeks ago and included some possibilities on the free-agent and trade markets. Second base happens to be one of the deepest positions in free agency, if you're looking for a short-term fit.
You can scratch one third-base idea off the list: Josh Donaldson apparently agreed to a one-year deal with the Braves on Monday.

Less than 50 percent, unless the market is cruel to Mike Moustakas again and he has to take a short-term deal. He could have come back for $15 million but opted to decline his half of that mutual option to join a free-agent class that is not brimming with third basemen. Moustakas was disappointed last offseason, when he hoped to land a multiyear contract but instead was one of the free agents impacted by a particularly cold market and signed a one-year deal with the Royals. This is his chance to cash in, and Donaldson's $23 million pact shows there are dollars out there for good players.

The plan calls for Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta to pitch as initial out-getters in 2019. Whether they are in the big league starting rotation on Opening Day depends on how the other pieces fit. Josh Hader was the 2018 NL Reliever of the Year and had a historic season pitching out of the bullpen. That's where he'll stay.
As for a Minor Leaguer to watch, history says it's Zack Brown. The Brewers' Minor League Pitcher of the Year winners in 2016-17 were Woodruff and Burnes, both coming out of Double-A Biloxi. The following season, they touched the Majors. Brown will try to make it three in a row.

With close to $70 million committed to players already signed for 2019 and 13 players eligible for arbitration, the Brewers are not well positioned to take on a big salary like Zack Greinke's ($104.5 million owed over the next three seasons). I would argue they are better to give some of those ascending, minimum-salary pitchers a shot to cover innings.

Unless Chase Anderson is traded, I would say yes.

It's a short list topped by Miami's J.T. Realmuto, the next in the line of Marlins likely to be dealt. He's close friends with Christian Yelich, but unfortunately that won't score the Brewers a discount on a player likely to fetch quite a ransom because he has two more years of club control.
As for free agents, Kurt Suzuki (Nationals) and Brian McCann (Braves) have already signed. Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos are the best available. Former Brewers Martin Maldonado and Jonathan Lucroy are free agents, along with Matt Wieters, Devin Mesoraco, Nick Hundley and braver of Wisconsin winters, A.J. Ellis.
The non-tender deadline is 7 p.m. CT on Friday, and Manny Pina and Erik Kratz are both arbitration-eligible. Even if they are both tendered contracts, it doesn't preclude the Brewers from continuing to shop. Jett Bandy, who was considered the catcher of the future when the Brewers sent Maldonado to the Angels for Bandy in 2016, has already signed with the Rangers. Christian Bethancourt is also a Minor League free agent after a solid Triple-A season. Catching prospect Jacob Nottingham is still an option here, though he is still searching for a foothold in the Major Leagues.

The day Bottlecaps appeared among the ice cream toppings. That, and Peralta's 13-strikeout performance in his MLB debut on Mother's Day. That stands out as one of the most memorable games of the regular season to me.

Devastating implies that the Brewers will sink to the bottom of the league's pitching. I don't see that happening. But it's a loss, no doubt about it. Johnson had a knack for getting the best out of pitchers, which is why the Reds made him one of the game's most highly paid pitching coaches.
But give Chris Hook a chance. The pitchers who have worked with him, including Burnes and Woodruff, speak in the same glowing terms that players like Anderson and Jimmy Nelson saved for Johnson. Hook already has the trust of many of the pitchers on staff, so he will be able to hit the ground running in Spring Training.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.