Winter Report Card: Milwaukee Brewers
With little less than a month before pitchers and catchers report, we’re checking in on how each team has fared in conducting its offseason business while acknowledging that there’s still time for its prognosis to change. Teams will be presented in reverse order of finish from 2013.
2013 results: 74-88 (.457), 4th place in NL Central (Hot Stove Preview)
Key departures: RF Norichika Aoki, IF Yuniesky Betancourt*, RHP Burke Badenhop, LHP Mike Gonzalez* (* = free agent, still unsigned)
Key arrivals: LHP Will Smith
The one significant move the Brewers made this offseason was a solid one. With 26-year-old Khris Davis ready to take over in an outfield corner, they swapped 32-year-old slap-hitting rightfielder Norichika Aoki to the Royals for an impressive, young, lefthanded arm in 24-year-old reliever Will Smith. Davis is a career .288/.392/.506 hitter in the minors who raked in his major league debut last year, batting .279/.353/.596 with 11 home runs in only 56 games.
However, Milwaukee’s primary goal this offseason was finding a legitimate everyday first baseman. On Friday, the Brewers reached a minor league contract with Mark Reynolds, who batted .236 with 21 home runs for the Indians and Yankees in 2013. It remains to be seen whether Reynolds will make the team, much less be the solution the club needs.
Unfinished business: Bullpen
Milwaukee’s relievers posted an excellent 3.19 ERA in 2013, third best in the National League, but John Axford, Francisco Rodriguez, Burke Badenhop and Mike Gonzalez are all either gone or unlikely to return. To replace those four Milwaukee has added only Smith and righty Michael Blazek (acquired from the Cardinals in August for Axford), the latter of whom posted a 5.71 ERA with 6.8 walks per nine innings as a rookie last year. That’s a continuation of the control problems Blazek exhibited in the high minors over the last three seasons (4.5 BB/9).
Preliminary Grade: C-
Listen, Milwaukee, I know Prince Charming is off defending other castles, your boyfriend cheated on you, you had to tear all the Corey Hart posters off your wall this winter and there are several fairer maidens in your kingdom, but that’s no reason to sit around and sulk. You have a lot going for you. It’s only been two years since you last went to the ball, and you came close in 2012. Get back out there! This isn’t a fairy tale. Kendrys Morales isn’t going to climb up Bernie’s slide and sweep first base off its feet.
The Brewers had two goals this offseason — finding a major-league-quality first baseman and bolstering the bullpen — and have thus far accomplished only one of them. It says a lot about their performance, or lack thereof, this winter that a minor league deal for Reynolds, a .215/.321/.437 hitter over the past four seasons, has improved their outlook for the coming season.
NOTE: This post has been updated to reflect the fact that Milwaukee reached agreement on a minor league contract with Mark Reynolds on Friday afternoon.