“Melvin said Will Smith is coming in as a starter, but RR said Thornburg is penciled in as the 5th starter. What gives?” -@acmccabe
I wrote in last week’s mailbag that I foresaw Tyler Thornburg as the fifth starter when the season opens up. I then also went on to say I didn’t expect the Brewers to trade Norichika Aoki, but, if they did, we could expect a lefty bullpen arm. The next morning, everything I had written about was thrown for a loop when the Brewers traded Aoki to the Royals for Will Smith.
Aoki was the team’s most openly available and valuable trade chip this off-season. Melvin getting assertive and looking to trade him was a good sign, showing the Brewers aren’t going to be (completely) complacent this winter. But if it turns out they traded a 4.2-win player over the last two seasons for a middle reliever, it would cause a lot of head scratching. Remember how the Seattle Seahawks almost felt like they “had” to start Matt Flynn last season after giving up a lot for him, and it took an incredible preseason from Russell Wilson to take away his job? That’s how I’m seeing this Smith-Thornburg deal to play out.
In the end, Thornburg is probably more fit for the bullpen, though the organization seems intent on seeing what he can do as a starter. Unless Smith just gets lit up as a starter in Spring Training, I think he’ll open up the season as the fifth starter.
“Over/under 85 combined HR’s for the starting OF (Davis, Gomez and Braun)?” -@IgnitorKid
You’d be hard-pressed to find an outfield with more all-around power than the one the Brewers plan to roll out on Opening Day. Khris Davis hit 11 homers in 153 plate appearances last season, Carlos Gomez had his first 20-homer season and posted a .222 ISO, and Ryan Braun led the National League in homers in 2012 with 41. But look a little deeper and you’ll see that a 85-homer year from three outfielder is no easy task.
Last season, no team’s outfield (that is, not just their three main outfielders, but the entire outfield as a collective) hit 85 longballs. It’s been achieved in the past, but last year showed a downward trend of outfield power hitters. I would put Braun on for somewhere between 30-35 (FanGraphs projects him for only 27), which leaves 50-55 from Gomez and Davis. While it makes sense to put both guys on for 20–past track records wouldn’t indicate anything else–the group as a whole accumulating 85 homers is a number I’m taking the under on. I’ll go with 79.
“If the Crew doesn’t end up w/ Loney, what percent chance do you give Fat Juan starting at 1st base come opening day?” -@nolanolanolan
Jeez, you guys love predictions.
I don’t particularly like relying too strongly on the Brewers–or any team, really–signing an individual free agent, but Doug Melvin saying, “I’d like to find a first baseman that can play first base” doesn’t look too hot for Francisco. If they don’t get James Loney, we’re looking at a list with Yuniesky Betancourt and a bunch of guys that aren’t any better than FJJ. I can’t actually believe I’m saying this, but it’s probably around 50 percent chance that Francisco is the Brewers starting first baseman on Opening Day. ‘The other 50 percent stemming from a trade for a player to fill that void. (Disclaimer: If Atlanta throws lefty Mike Minor, Francisco won’t get the start, but you get the point)
Oh boy. We’re going to have rely on Loney, aren’t we?
“Who are your favorite FA bullpen arms available (in the Brewers’ price range)?” -@JTabaska
Please, everyone, put down your pitchforks. I wouldn’t mind the Brewers signing Carlos Marmol to a cheap, one-year deal after his price continues to spiral down.
I’m a proponent of the idea that you can build an elite bullpen with cheap, disposable arms and a solid core of young talent. With Brandon Kintzler and Jim Henderson, there’s already a good start. The Nationals are eyeing him for the time being, but JP Howell is one option. Some of my favorite targets as righties are Chad Gaudin, Luis Ayala, Joe Smith, Matt Guerrier, maybe even taking a leap to bring back Grant Balfour.