Year 1 of the rebuild is almost complete. We have seen the best catcher that the Brewers ever developed get traded, along with the 2 pitchers that were supposed to split the closer’s role. The shortstop that was supposed to be a placeholder for the top prospect played his way into the long term plans. And that prospect has come up and shown a little bit of what he can do.
So where are we? Have David Stearns and the front office had a successful first season? Should Craig Counsell be on the hot seat? What is the roster going to look like on Opening Day 2017?
I think it’s safe to say that Stearns and company have done a fantastic job. The Brewer farms system went from one of the worst just a few years ago to one of the top 2 systems in all of baseball. They have 8 prospects in the top 100, the most of any team. Between trades and the last couple of drafts, the Brewers are stocked in the minor leagues.
Evaluating Counsell is a little more difficult. Overall, he has taken inferior talent and fielded a competitive team. The Brewers have had their losing streaks, but they have been in most games. They have lost 21 games by 5 or more runs, but they have also been in 40 1-run games, going 17-23. Sure, Counsell has made some mistakes, but he has done a good job putting the best team on the field every day.
Now, about what the roster will look like in 2017, there are 2 extremes. One is we could trade even more veterans and become even younger, and the other is to stand pat in the off season.
If Stearns wanted to trade, and he could find suitable trade partners, who would go? Ryan Braun would make the biggest splash. Braun has 4 more years and $73 million on his contract with a mutual option that would pay $15 million. That may seem like a lot, but for somebody putting up the numbers that Braun is putting up is pretty reasonable.
Another player that could command a good price on the trade market is Chris Carter. Carter is under team control for another 2 years, which should draw quite a bit of interest. Carter can put up 30 home run seasons and drive in 90-100 runs consistently. He would be valued by many teams.
The Brewers may be willing to part with Junior Guerra, who has filled in admirably in the starting rotation when other pitchers faltered. He is 31, so he does not figure to be in the long-term plans for the Brewers, but the Brewers could get a decent prospect or 2 for a team looking for a middle of the rotation starter.
Here is how I see the roster shaping up if the Brewers make those trades:
Now, if the Brewers don’t make those trades, I think things could get interesting. Perez has made a case to be a starter somewhere, and it is clear that he could do that at multiple positions. However, if Braun, Carter, and Gennett are all with the team on Opening Day, there is not a clear spot open for Perez.
There are several prospects that Brewer fans will be eager to see in addition to the ones on this list. Lewis Brinson, who came over in the Jonathan Lucroy trade, has been tearing it up in AAA since the trade. Brett Phillips, the centerpiece in the Carlos Gomez trade, has struggled a bit in AA, but he is expected to make a statement when he arrives in Milwaukee. Josh Hader has also been tearing it up in AA and AAA this season with the second most strikeouts in all of minor league baseball.
In short, the Brewers have a lot of depth in the minor leagues. They should field a competitive team next season and possibly enter the Wild Card race. Brewer fans are excited for the future of this team and it is easy to see why.