Inbox: When will Crew start making moves?

November 23rd, 2020

Do you expect the non-tender deadline of Dec. 2 to be the start of the Brewers making free-agent moves after they see who else will become available?
-- Josh W.

That would be fantastic, because it would mean the Brewers and other clubs are moving forward with the business off the offseason and keeping us Hot Stove watchers entertained. But a couple of factors make industry folks believe things will remain particularly cool into 2021. One, that’s how general managers tend to operate nowadays, believing there is more value in waiting than in being aggressive. Two, there remains so much uncertainty about what 2021 will look like. All of the usual planning for Spring Training that would typically be happening already is on hold.

Also, remember that the Dec. 7-10 Winter Meetings, which help spur player movement around the game, will be held remotely this year. Asked what impact that could have on offseason movement, Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns said, “Those events provide a time for the industry to be on a stage so they are valuable events, and we all understand why we do them. From a functional work standpoint, we can certainly work when we’re all not in the same place. Right now, we’re all working remotely anyway, and all of our meetings are being done via Zoom or conference call, so I don’t know there’s the necessity to have us all in one location from a work perspective. With that said, I think those are important events for the industry and I very much hope these are just one-year breaks, and we’ll be back at it next offseason.”

Hopefully, the flow of the offseason will improve as a 2021 season approaches. For now, here’s a reminder of the offseason schedule and which Brewers players are eligible for arbitration. Some of them could hit the open market if they are nontendered before Dec. 2.

Was Eric Lauer in L.A. with the team for the National League Wild Card Series? If he wasn't, how do the Brewers restore confidence in a player from what is [thus far] looking like a very lopsided trade?
-- Scott M.

I don’t specifically recall, but whether he was or wasn’t, restoring Lauer’s confidence in 2021 is high on the Brewers’ to-do list, considering what they gave up to the Padres to get him and Luis Urías. Lauer could be a big part of the ’21 rotation if he can get right.

I would resist the urge to write off Lauer based on his bad 2020 season. He spent the spring working on that new changeup and some other changes to his arsenal based off feedback from the Brewers’ pitching lab. Then Spring Training was shut down. Then Lauer missed most of Summer Camp and the start of the shortened regular season because of a COVID-19 contact. Then he struggled in a couple of starts and just never had an opportunity to settle into a rhythm. He’s a better pitcher than Crew fans saw in those outings.

What is the Brewers’ plan for first base and third base?
-- Larry S.

To be determined. We maintain’s depth charts throughout the winter, and at the moment I have Jace Peterson and Daniel Vogelbach listed at first base, and Urías, Peterson and Mark Mathias at third. But that’s almost certainly temporary; I would be shocked if Urías is the primary third baseman because of his limited power, and we shall see whether the Brewers proceed in arbitration with Vogelbach, who is eligible as a Super Two and profiles much more as a designated hitter than a first baseman. They’re probably going to have to find players from outside the organization for those spots again.

Since it has been reported the San Antonio Missions are going back to Double-A, what are some possible teams for the Brewers' Triple-A team next season?
-- @BrewersPilots

Teams are just as eager for the answer to affiliate questions as fans, as everyone awaits the result of Major League Baseball’s reorganization of the Minor Leagues. Even before news that San Antonio was shifting back to the Double-A level after two years (and only one season) in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, it was considered likely that the Brewers would get a new affiliate. I’ve heard two possibilities, though these are only possibilities: Wichita, which has a new stadium that was to house the Marlins’ top affiliate in 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic struck, and Nashville, the Brewers’ former longtime Triple-A home. Nashville opened a new stadium in '15, just as the Brewers were nudged out to their chagrin. Milwaukee officials would be thrilled about a reunion, should that come to pass.

With the Brewers owning the Class A Advanced Carolina Mudcats and the Midwest League moving to the Class A Advanced level, the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers look to no longer be possible for the Brewers. When this MLB/MiLB deal shakes out, where do the affiliates land?
-- Craig

Again, it’s all to be determined, but Stearns was rather sure last month that the Brewers would remain affiliated with the Timber Rattlers. Given that one of the aims of reorganization is geographic, the relationship makes perfect sense.

“We value our relationship with the Timber Rattlers. We expect to continue our relationship with the Timber Rattlers,” Stearns said.

There have been reports that the Midwest League could become Class A Advanced. Could that mean Carolina and other teams in the Southeast drop down to Class A? For now, it’s just speculation.

Any news on which prospects and coach are heading to Australia?
-- Craig S., Brisbane, Queensland

Sorry to repeat myself, but to be determined. The Brisbane Bandits, owned by former Milwaukee All-Star catcher David Nilsson, announced this week a partnership with the Brewers whereby a Crew coach and several players will play in the Australian League in 2021. Word is that three Minor League players will take part, but that’s not final yet because of the complicated logistics of international travel during a pandemic, especially considering that Australia requires a 14-day quarantine. So hang tight. It’s a cool partnership, though. If I were a prospect looking for a place to play in the winter, Australia sounds all right.

In a COVID-free world, which player would you want cooking your Thanksgiving dinner?
-- Keith G., Muskego, Wisc.

Carlos Gómez. I think Thanksgiving dinner needs more kiwi.

What's the best holiday candy?
-- Carlos B., Milwaukee

Obviously the correct answer is that old fashioned hard candy mix with filled raspberries and cut rocks. You pick out the good ones and leave the peppermint nonsense for your siblings.