I wrote a few weeks ago about how the Brewers don’t need a second baseman. Yet here we are in January, and all of the players I discussed are still sitting on the market. Milwaukee finds themselves in a unique situation with second base: they have an opening at the position, but the vacancy is likely short-term with Keston Hiura waiting in the wings.
Let’s take a look at the remaining second basemen:
Lowrie is the best remaining player at the position, but that of course means he’ll garner a multi-year deal. MLB Trade Rumors projects 3 years/$30 million.
Cabrera had a strong year last season and has a real shot at a multi-year deal. If he was open to a one-year deal, I think the Brewers should have some interest. The added value with Cabrera is his ability to play throughout the infield, although he’s not someone you want at shortstop for long periods of time anymore.
LeMahieu put up eye-popping batting averages the last few seasons, but they were almost entirely Coors Field-inflated. He’s still a good player, but he’ll get a two or three year deal. MLBTR projects 2 years/$18 million. LeMahieu has only played second base, so he’s not a great option for Milwaukee.
This is the one potentially impactful player who might be had for a one-year deal. A great player for the four previous years, Dozier picked a terrible time to have a terrible year (seriously: 4.5 WAR in 2014, 3.1 in 2015, 6.2 in 2016, 5.0 in 2017, and… 0.8 in 2018. Ouch). Dozier’s best option may be a one-year “prove it” deal, so on the surface he could make sense for Milwaukee. There are some problems, though. One, you’d be paying a decent chunk of change (MLBTR projects one year/$10 million) for someone who might be on a steep decline. Two, and probably more likely, is that if Dozier is willing to take a one-year deal, he’s going to do it somewhere where he as a clear hold on the starting job. Why would he sign in Milwaukee where there will be calls for Hiura if he struggles for any length of time?
This is a similar case to Dozier but without the track record of being a star. Harrison was a solid player for a few seasons before struggling mightily last year. Again, he’d likely come pretty cheap on a one-year deal, but there is a decent chance he’d be no better of an option than Hernan Perez, Cory Spangenberg, or even Eric Sogard.
As you can see, there’s a bit of a catch-22 with the Brewers and second basemen. The ones who are good enough to make a likely impact will probably garner a multi-year deal, but the ones available for a one-year deal may not even help the team at all.
This is why I’d strongly consider going a different route. What about retaining the Brewers’ biggest mid-season acquisition, third baseman Mike Moustakas?
Old Reliable, 2-3 WAR Moustakas is sitting out there late into free agency once again. After last year’s debacle where he signed for a small fraction of what everyone predicted, Moose decided to test the free agent waters yet again. It doesn’t seem like he’s going to find a big deal this time either. He does seem open to returning, though. By all accounts he enjoyed the playoff run here (shocking, I know), and he seems to have become friends with Ryan Braun and Christian Yelich. MLBTR projects two years/$16 million, which is strange because he turned down a player option for $15 million. Two years, $20-25 million should get it done though, and that makes a lot of sense for the Brewers.
On the surface, it doesn’t seem to solve the second base problem. However, I’ve already been over why the Brewers don’t actually have a second base problem. It would work similarly to how it worked last season (which was just fine, by the way). Moustakas would be the primary third baseman, while Travis Shaw would split time between first, second and third. Shaw would likely play the majority of time at second base until the team decides Hiura is ready. Shaw could also play first against tough right-handers, giving Jesus Aguilar an occasional break. Also, to protect a late lead, they could sub Perez at second and slide Shaw over to first, resulting in two defensive upgrades.
Moustakas gives the Brewers flexibility, dependability, and a powerful left-handed bat–something David Stearns highlighted as an area of need. A fallout to this signing would likely be dealing Eric Thames, a fan favorite who would simply not have a path to playing time after a bit of a down year at the plate. An AL team makes more sense for Thames anyway.
It’s not a conventional solution, but considering the Brewers’ unique situation at second base, a multi-year deal to Moustakas makes more sense than a multi-year deal to a second baseman. It also makes more sense than a one-year deal to a second baseman, as he’s likely to be more valuable than any second baseman who’d sign for one year. The Brewers have routinely thought outside the box under Stearns; doing so again makes a lot of sense.