“How much harder will it be for the Brewers to revisit the postseason now that the Pirates have shaken off years of futility?” – @bobwait
It’s impossible to quantify exactly how much more difficult it will be for the Brewers to make the postseason, but a successful Pittsburgh Pirates organization certainly isn’t positive news. This shouldn’t be surprising, though. The Pirates have been building a contender for the past half decade, and the patience is finally paying dividends. The brutal 21-year postseason drought ended this month, and it appears the organization is poised for a run of success.
Add a successful Pittsburgh Pirates to an NL Central that already includes the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds, and the Brewers have quite the uphill climb. Their window for contention is closing (or perhaps has already closed) while their rivals are concurrently hitting their stride. I include the Chicago Cubs in that mix, too. Theo Epstein and his people have that franchise moving in the right direction, even without a quality major-league product — though I’d argue that’s going to improve more quickly than people assume. They’re massively upgrading the farm system and simultaneously shedding long-term contracts. That’s a dangerous combination for an intelligent front office.
To put it succinctly: when your team ranks 30th out of 30 in the ESPN Future Rankings and your division rivals (including the Pirates) occupy three of the top seven spots, you don’t possess a legitimate recipe for success, even if we take the specific rankings with a massive grain of salt.
“Beyond Braun and Gomez, how do you think the outfield will play out and how do you think it should play out?” – @Jcollins205
Although we’re talking about a mere 153 plate appearances in the big leagues, Khris Davis deserves frequent at-bats in 2014. He hit .279/.353/.596 with 11 home runs and a ridiculous .406 wOBA. Unfortunately, he’s realistically limited to left field, which would necessitate a move to right field for Ryan Braun. According to Doug Melvin, though, the organization is heavily considering such a move.
That would make Norichika Aoki expendable and a logical trade chip. He wouldn’t be worth a team’s top prospect, but he’s a solid two-win player with a team-friendly contract. He will have a market. The Texas Rangers reportedly inquired on his availability over the summer, and the offseason will presumably bring more potential partners to the table.
Trading Aoki and giving the everyday job to Khris Davis is absolutely something with which I would wholeheartedly support. The worst-case scenario is probably a Davis/Gindl platoon in left field, which is essentially what the Brewers did throughout the second half, and it proved productive. This is absolutely a scenario I see the Brewers pursuing this winter.
“Obviously anything can happen, but will Doug Melvin be actively pursuing a free agent starter?” – @wesomerest
As you stated, anything can (and usually does) happen, but it currently appears unlikely the organization will shop for a free agent starter this winter. The top-four spots in the rotation are set: Lohse, Gallardo, Peralta and Estrada. That leaves the fifth starter, and the organization has numerous options with Tyler Thornburg, Jimmy Nelson, Mike Fiers, Hiram Burgos and even Johnny Hellweg. I cannot believe the organization foregoes those options for a more-expensive free agent.
However, if the organization opts to move Kyle Lohse or Yovani Gallardo, they will almost certainly be in the market for a starter.
“Any roster moves you personally would like to see the team make this offseason?” – @GregSchueller
This is something that will be addressed much further in my upcoming offseason preview article, but Mark Attanasio, Doug Melvin and the Milwaukee Brewers have to get creative. By that, I’m trying to drive at a concept that’s deeper than “rebuild” or “win now”. The same can be said of “buy” and “sell” at the trade deadline. I’m tired of that binary framework. It’s too simplistic and isn’t how elite organizations are operated.
Look at the Tampa Bay Rays. They willfully traded away a four-win player last winter, yet they’re still playing baseball in October. The Rays could have retained right-hander James Shields and put themselves in better position to make a deep run in the postseason. Instead, the organization restocked their system with elite young talent (Wil Meyers, Jake Odorizzi, etc.) for future seasons and stayed active in free agency (Kelly Johnson, James Loney, etc.) to compete this season.
Baseball is a delicate balancing act. Organizations must keep one eye firmly placed on the future — three to five years out — while optimizing their current roster for the upcoming season. Occasionally, that scale can be slightly tipped in either direction, but the truly elite organizations in baseball attempt to keep the scale even at all times. That’s how to build a perennial contender.
As far as specific moves, I’ll delve into concrete examples in my aforementioned offseason preview article.