Brewers enter camp brimming with options

After busy offseason, Crew facing more roster questions than usual

February 12th, 2018

Editor's note: With Spring Training rapidly approaching, is taking a look at different aspects of the 2018 Brewers. Last week, we covered What's the Vision?, "Excited to see ..." and took a stab at predicting the 25-man roster.

MILWAUKEE -- Spring Training is here, or at least it will be after Brewers pitchers and catchers report on Wednesday and take part in the team's first formal workout on Thursday morning at Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix. There is more than the usual work to do for general manager David Stearns, manager Craig Counsell and company.

Typically, teams report to camp with a battle or two in the front end of the bullpen or the back end of the bench. Maybe there is a spot in the starting rotation up for grabs. But generally, a GM or manager has the shape of the roster in mind before the first exhibition pitch is thrown.

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This year feels different. Among the matters that still need sorting out:

• Add another starter or stand pat? Jimmy Nelson's comeback from shoulder surgery is progressing well, but he will miss the start of the regular season. That means only three spots are set with Chase Anderson, and newcomer . There's money to add any of the prominent pitchers still available, owner Mark Attanasio said, and the Brewers have been linked to all of the top free agents still on the market, plus a number of trade candidates.

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• Trade an outfielder or embrace depth? The Brewers have four outfielders who warrant a full complement of at-bats in , , and . They also have two plus defenders with developing bats in and . The latter two have Minor League options, but it is still a crowded field, putting Stearns in position to make a major trade if he chooses.

• Who's on first? Braun is likely to try first base this spring, and he could play there during the season against left-handers to free up at-bats for the other outfielders. But the Brewers have a solid first-base pair in left-handed-hitter and right-handed-hitter . Aguilar is out of options.

• Upgrade elsewhere or platoon? At the moment, the Brewers have right-left platoons at catcher ( and ) and second base (, a switch-hitter whose power is from the right side, and ). There are free agents out there who represent potential upgrades at each position, including familiar ones in catcher and second baseman . If those prices fall, does it makes sense for the Brewers to spend?

The Brewers' first Cactus League games are Feb. 23, split-squad affairs against the Giants and Cubs. Opening Day is March 29 in San Diego.

There's work to do before then.

"We've got a lot of good choices, certainly," Counsell said. "They'll be tough choices, but there will be a lot of good choices. So that's how I'm looking at it. As we get better and the more good players we acquire, the lineup choices become tougher. David's making it tougher on me already with these moves.

"But that's great. They're going to be some tough choices. That part of it is still a long ways away."