On Thursday, Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings concluded with the Rule 5 Draft. During the course of the four-day long meetings, over $500 million in contracts were given out and 79 players changed teams. The Milwaukee Brewers, however? They didn’t do a darn thing.
During a time when the Cubs and Pirates made significant moves to help their rosters for next season (in addition to the Cardinals-Braves blockbuster in November), the Brewers stood pat, seemingly content with the roster they have. The Brewers were one of only five teams that did not add a single player, and they are the only one of those teams that is coming off of a season where they spent 150 games in first place and failed to miss the playoffs.
Coming off of the extreme disappointment of last season, the Brewers need to figure out a way to win in 2015. With six players likely heading into free agency after this year, this could be the last hurrah for this core roster group before a rebuild could begin. This needs to be an “all-in” season. Ron Roenicke and Doug Melvin’s jobs are likely tied to the results of this year, and it certainly doesn’t feel as though they are acting like it.
The Brewers don’t need a lot to really solidify their team and push them over the top to the playoffs next year. Insisting the Scooter Gennett play against left-handed pitching is not one of them. The kid hit .103/.125/.128 against them last season. I get the whole “he can’t learn if he doesn’t play argument,” but why can’t he wait until 2016 to learn? There are so many platoon options on the market!
Emilio Bonifacio would be a perfect fit on this team. He hit .365/.411/.548 against lefties last year, and has a .291/.340/.380 career line against southpaws, the perfect partner for Scooter. He’s a switch-hitter who can provide tremendous versatility off the bench, which is an area the Brewers really struggled with last season. Bonifacio is a slick fielder that rated above average at all three outfield positions, second base, and third base according to UZR/150 last season, and he can play shortstop as well (although his defensive marks are less favorable). As a utility player, Bonifacio could likely be had for somewhere between $3-$4 mil per year, perhaps on a two year deal. He would be a tremendous addition.
There’s talk, however, that money could be tight. How about finding a suitor for Gerardo Parra? Parra is pegged at $6.4 mil by MLB Trade Rumors in his final run through arbitration, a pretty high price for a fourth outfielder. The Reds, Royals, and White Sox are all in the market for outfielders, with the Sox putting a specific premium on defense. No doubt the former Gold Glover Parra could be a good fit in any one of those outfields. Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse are on expiring deals, and we have six viable starting pitcher options. It’s almost certain a team would be willing to make a deal for one of them.
Doug Melvin seems to insist the team’s offensive personnel are fine. With the team losing Rickie Weeks, Lyle Overbay, Mark Reynolds, and Jeff Bianchi, the remainder of the Brewers bench combined for 0.2 WAR and a pinch hitting average of .180. While Roenicke seems high on waiver claim Luis Jimenez, he has a 1.3% walk rate in the 151 at bats in the majors and 4.5% in a six year minor league career. He hit .162 in 41 at bats last year, but figures to get significant at bats this year at first, third, and maybe even second. There’s a reason the Angels cut him loose. A championship team should have a proven, veteran bench.
Melvin is convinced that the team’s only need is relief pitching. He didn’t add a single reliever, however. While top rated arms like Andrew Miller and David Robertson ended up out of the Brewers price range, the Brewers could have at least checked in on guys like Pat Neshek, Luke Gregerson, Sergio Romo, etc. Even when the Brewers turn came up in the Rule 5 Draft, with players like Logan Verrett still available, the Brewers declined to make a pick. They could’ve brought someone into the fold for a miniscule financial commitment, someone to at least compete for a spot. They have taken players in the past and returned them. Why not take a low risk, high reward flier on someone? While it may be true that there have been relief bargains found late in the offseason previously, this team should be more aggressive to improve on a bullpen that was 15th in baseball in ERA, had the second highest home run percentage, and ranked 20th overall with a measly 1.9 WAR. The Brewers even admitted how that their meetings were so quiet that they didn’t generate one single rumor. Should that be acceptable?
Look, 2015 is going to be the last decent chance the Brewers might have for awhile. After the bitterly disappointing end to last season, this team should be taking a more aggressive approach to win it all. While the Lind trade was nice, there needs to be more. It’s so plain to see what the Brewers need to become about as complete a team as one can be. It’s nothing major, really. It’s not a blockbuster trade or a $100 mil free agent. A utility infielder that hits lefties well, a 1B/3B type that hits lefties well, and some solid relief pitching (another lefty for certain) will push the Brewers over the edge. It’s simple, Doug. Take some action!
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and Fangraphs