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Brewers enter camp brimming with options

After busy offseason, Crew facing more roster questions than usual
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

Editor's note: With Spring Training rapidly approaching, MLB.com 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.

Editor's note: With Spring Training rapidly approaching, MLB.com 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, Zach Davies and newcomer Jhoulys Chacin. 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 Ryan Braun, Lorenzo Cain, Domingo Santana and Christian Yelich. They also have two plus defenders with developing bats in Brett Phillips and Keon Broxton. 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 Eric Thames and right-handed-hitter Jesus Aguilar. Aguilar is out of options.

Video: McCalvy discusses Braun playing 1B, outfield logjam

• Upgrade elsewhere or platoon? At the moment, the Brewers have right-left platoons at catcher (Manny Pina and Stephen Vogt) and second base (Jonathan Villar, a switch-hitter whose power is from the right side, and Eric Sogard). There are free agents out there who represent potential upgrades at each position, including familiar ones in catcher Jonathan Lucroy and second baseman Neil Walker. 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."

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

Milwaukee Brewers