MILWAUKEE -- Days after the Brewers fell just short in a surprise bid for the postseason, general manager David Stearns made public his top priority of the offseason: improve his team's starting pitching depth.
Three months later, Stearns has added free-agent veterans Jhoulys Chacin and Yovani Gallardo into the fold but remains open to adding more. Starting pitching was arguably the strength of the team in 2017, with the Jimmy Nelson-led rotation ranked 10th of 30 Major League teams in ERA, but Nelson will miss significant time in '18 while recovering from shoulder surgery.
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"There's a lot of time left," Stearns said on the day the Chacin and Gallardo deals were made official.
With six weeks remaining before the start of Spring Training, MLB.com is taking a look at the projected rotation of all 30 teams. Here's how the Brewers might stack up:
ROTATION IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
Chase Anderson, RHP
Zach Davies, RHP
Jhoulys Chacin, RHP
Brent Suter, LHP
Yovani Gallardo, RHP
There is something to be said for strength in numbers. Anderson (2.74 ERA in 25 starts last season), Davies (3.90 ERA in 33 starts) and Chacin (3.89 ERA in 32 starts for the Padres) look like safe, stable bets for the top three positions in the rotation. While Nelson builds arm strength, Stearns and manager Craig Counsell will pick from a relatively deep pool of candidates for the other two spots. It includes quick-working Suter, returning Brewer Gallardo and others with some Major League experience, like 2017 Opening Day starter Junior Guerra, rising prospect Brandon Woodruff and perhaps Taylor Jungmann or Aaron Wilkerson coming off solid Minor League seasons.
For now, we'll give the nod to Suter and Gallardo. Suter does not wow the scouts, but he does get outs, coming off a 3.42 ERA in 81 2/3 big league innings last season, including a 3.45 ERA in 14 starts. Gallardo's numbers for Baltimore and Seattle the past two seasons aren't pretty -- a 5.57 ERA in 248 2/3 innings -- but he was throwing with better velocity down the stretch. If he maintains the zip on his fastball in Spring Training, he may be worth a shot as a starter.
Just how much time will Nelson miss? If Brewers officials have a general idea, they have not shared it publicly. Nelson is not expected to resume throwing until Spring Training, and he will require patience to build up his arm until he'll be able to start a Major League game. Will that be in June? July? By the time team officials start making decisions about an Opening Day pitching rotation, they should have a much better projection.
"To me," Counsell said at the Winter Meetings, "it's a puzzle of the innings."
WHAT MIGHT CHANGE
The free-agent market remains stocked with starting pitching and trade talks persist. If Jacob Arrieta is out of the Brewers' price range, then perhaps Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn would work. Adding one more established starter would leave the Brewers only with Nelson's spot to fill at the start of the season and would help protect against further injuries.
"We think we've made progress with the work we've done to this point. We'll see what the next four, five, six weeks have in store for us," Stearns told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel just after New Year's Day. "There are plenty of free agents out there, so we're making sure we understand where the market is on those players. There's also a lot of trade discussion. I do think at some point over the next month there will be a flurry of activity that will involve trades and signings."