Things did not go well for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2022. Yes, they finished with an above .500 record, but their 86 wins was not enough to secure a spot in the post season. To make matters worse, the front office has been under some scrutiny from it’s players.
The criticism started becoming apparent to the public following the Josh Hader trade. Devin Williams had a very bleak reaction to the news. Eric Lauer then indicated it felt as if the front office was in a “we’re trying to develop for the future” mode, in which David Stearns “bite at the apple” comments did not help that matter. Lorenzo Cain then commented on issues with management that have been present for years.
It is clear that some players lost faith in the Brewers upper management this season. This is certainly true among some fans as well. Both the players and fans feelings may also be magnified by the pain of missing out on the post season.
So what can Brewers management do to restore faith in both the players and fans? Here are three moves they should make this off-season.
1) Learn from their mistake with Josh Hader by extending at least one or both in Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes
The decision to trade Josh Hader at the deadline had an impact on the Brewers. Was it the sole reason that they missed the post season? No. However, they failed to follow that trade up with a significant addition in order to help the 2022 Brewers and it did not sit well with some players and fans.
The trade also portrayed the harsh idea that upper management may never retain any of their star players past their arbitration years. Burnes already admitted in an interview early in September that the Brewers had never approached him with the idea of an extension. Both Burnes and Woodruff will be unrestricted free agents in 2025, unless something happens sooner.
If the Brewers want to flip the script on how they have typically handled business with star players, they would extend one of both of Burnes and Woodruff this off-season. Extensions for either player will not be cheap, but it would help illustrate that upper management is willing to spend money in order to expand their competitive window.
2) Give more of their top outfield prospects major league playing time by as early as Opening Day 2023
In 2022, both Esteury Ruiz and Garrett Mitchell received brief amounts of playing time in the big leagues. Ruiz made his MLB debut with the Padres and then appeared in just three games for the Brewers before being sent back down to Triple-A. Mitchell got the call towards the end of the season and made 28 game appearances. Both of these players possess elite speed and with more at-bats next year they will wreak havoc for opposing teams.
Looming in the minors are two other outfield prospects who may be ready to contribute at the major league level. Sal Frelick, the Brewers 2021 first round pick, advanced from High-A to Triple-A this season and actually played his best baseball at Triple-A. In 217 at-bats he collected 69 hits (.365 avg) with 17 going for extra base hits (.508 SLG) all while striking out just 16 times (7% k rate). He also got on base 42 consecutive games in a row (46 total games)!
The second player is Joey Wiemer. Out of the outfield prospects, Wiemer has the most pop in his bat while also possessing great speed. In each of the last two minor league seasons he has hit at least 20 home runs and stolen 30 bases. His contact skills are not as high as the other prospects, but his ability to slug the ball makes up for that.
This quadruplet of outfield prospects is a good problem to have. With Hunter Renfroe, Tyrone Taylor, and Christian Yelich under club control for 2023 it may make outfield playing time an issue, but the designated hitter spot can help with that. Having so many young prospects up at once will also allow for these young players to work through the ebbs and flows of a major league schedule and competition by letting the hot bat play.
Also worth mentioning is if the Brewers have a rookie player on the Opening Day roster and they win Rookie of the Year, the club will gain an extra draft pick. This is a new rule under the CBA that was established prior to the 2022 season.
3) Bring in an impact player this off-season
In years past, we have seen the Brewers bring in impact guys during the off-season. It all started with bringing in Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich. Following that we saw players like Yasmani Grandal, Mike Moustakas, and Kolten Wong. Last year the big signing was Andrew McCutchen. While McCutchen is a good player, at this point he is well past his prime and ultimately did not move the needle all that much.
This off-season, the front office/management needs to bring in another impact player. There are holes to fill on the roster. Examples include third base, catcher, relief pitchers, and possibly second base depending upon what they decide to do regarding Kolten Wong’s $10 MM club option.
How they elect to bring in an impact player will be interesting. They do have some intriguing trade chips in the minor leagues, so they could look to acquire them via trade. Signing a free agent is not out of the question, with the caveat that it will not be a long term deal. That has been the norm with the Brewers off-season signings, so hopefully the off-season market will help cater to that.
Regardless of how they add an impact player, it needs to be done. Brewer fans are appreciative of getting bites at the apple, but eventually you have to try and take a bigger bite. Since 2017, the Milwaukee Brewers have recorded a 481-390 regular season record. Over that time frame, they have made the post season four different times with a 7-8 record overall. Their last and only post season series win came in 2018. After the disappointment of the 2022 season, hopefully management realizes their mistakes made and puts together a great team this off-season.
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