Building & Rebuilding #6 (Reprise): Depth | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

Since Brewers President of Baseball Operations & GM Doug Melvin traded Yovani Gallardo and signed Neal Cotts, the 40-man roster has undergone changes that reshape some of the team’s peripheral depth. First, and foremost, the Brewers made two moves to clear roster space for their trade return and new free agent (I also added another move that occurred since my previous roster overview):

  • Elian Herrera was designated for assignment.
  • Hunter Morris was designated for assignment.
  • Ariel Pena was sent outright to Colorado Springs.

If the 2013-2014 seasons showed that the Brewers front office had little use for Morris at the big league level, the trade for Adam Lind allowed the organization leeway to take the long-time prospect off of the 40-man roster. Unfortunately, it does not appear likely that Morris will appear in Milwaukee as a big leaguer. While Herrera provided excellent flexibility, if not great defense at each of his positions, his place on the roster was deemed expendable thanks to Shane Peterson, Gerardo Parra, Yadiel Rivera, Hector Gomez, and now Luis Sardinas (from the Gallardo trade). I understand that some Brewers fans are upset about the prospect of Sardinas’s bat, but the young prospect’s glove absolutely strengthens the Brewers’ depth to the point that marginal, all-field utility players (like Herrera) are no longer needed for the active roster. This may seem like a small trade off, but it’s the type of depth move that improves the team at the margins.

Corey Knebel and Neal Cotts, taken together, might be the type of middle relief members that fail to excite the casual fan. However, even given some of Knebel’s injury question marks (which are also dismissed by others), the ceiling of the righty largely improves the Brewers’ pitching potential (compared to Pena). The same can be said for Cotts, who adds another depth option to what is becoming an extremely deep Brewers bullpen:

November Fringe Fielders (2014) 2015 Fringe Fielders November Non-Starting Pitchers (2014 Role) 2015 Non-Starting Pitchers
M. Maldonado (Maldonado) M. Maldonado J. Broxton (Rodriguez) J. Broxton
J. Centeno (Pagnozzi) J. Centeno J. Jeffress (Duke) J. Jeffress
M. Clark (Clark) M. Clark T. Thornburg (Thornburg) T. Thornburg
H. Gomez (Gomez) H. Gomez B. Kintzler (Kintzler) B. Kintzler
L. Jimenez (Falu) L. Jimenez J. Henderson (Henderson) J. Henderson
H. Morris (Gindl) Y. Rivera W. Smith (Smith) W. Smith
Y. Rivera (Bianchi) J. Rogers R. Wooten (Wooten) R. Wooten
J. Rogers (Rogers) L. Sardinas J. Hellweg (Figaro) J. Hellweg
E. Herrera (Herrera) G. Parra T. Jungmann (Jeffress) T. Jungmann
G. Parra (Parra) S. Peterson A. Pena (Gorzelanny C. Knebel 
L. Schafer (Schafer) L. Schafer M. Blazek (Wang) M. Blazek
D. Goforth (minors) D. Goforth
B. Hall (minors) B. Hall
M. Strong (minors) M. Strong
W-C. Wang (minors) W-C. Wang
N. Cotts 

In bold, you will find the depth positions that changed since my last “Depth” feature.

  • On the infield, Jason Rogers and Rivera are bumped up, in order to make room for Sardinas. Therefore, Morris / Rivera / Rogers is now basically Rogers / Rivera / Sardinas.
  • In the outfield, Peterson basically takes the place of Herrera, making an outfield trio of Parra / Schafer / Peterson instead of Parra / Schafer / Herrera.
  • With Fastballer Mike Fiers and Jimmy Nelson both slotted for the rotation, one might arguably place Taylor Jungmann, Will Smith, and Tyler Thornburg as potential starting pitching depth, which arguably hurts the bullpen depth to some extent. (However, Cotts and Knebel should be able to cushion this type of roster swap).

Given the Brewers’ current roster and payroll situation, one can expect Melvin to acquire additional starting pitching reserves before (or during) spring training. The last remaining depth issue for the Brewers is the lack of solid (or clear) replacements for any of the main starters. However, even if this is an issue that hurts the roster, the depth in the bullpen, and around the infield and outfield, is more specialized than the players that were kicked off of the roster to accommodate the most recent transactions. For a club that saw -1.5 bWAR from 21 fringe / marginal depth players in 2014, the additions of Sardinas, Peterson, Cotts, and Knebel can arguably help the Brewers boost their win total. This is not the type of obvious roster move that will add wins in clear situations or at clear positions, but rather the type of depth that can help the club weather the grind of the season, and lower their chance of losing due to inadequate replacements. It’s a subtle calculus, but one that could help turn a club that could be a winning team into a potential contender.

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