Well, we’re 44 games into the season and the Milwaukee Brewers are in first place in the NL Central at 25-19. They’re a game and a half ahead of the second-place Cardinals and two and a half games ahead of the Chicago Cubs.
This has truly been a surprising start to the season after the Brewers finished second to last in the division last year.
Since general manager, David Stearns, came to Milwaukee in 2015, he’s been busy trading away veterans in order to acquire younger talent. However, Stearns has also signed plenty of new faces in free-agency this offseason. It appears that Stearns might’ve done too good of a job this offseason.
Nobody was expecting this offense to play as well as they have been so far. The Brewers are tied with the Yankees for the most home runs in the league (66) thanks to players like Eric Thames, Travis Shaw (Tyler Thornburg trade) and Jett Bandy (Martin Maldonado trade). They also have the third-best OPS at .792.
2017 was supposed to be another step towards his plan to rebuild, but the performance of the team this season has proven otherwise. It’s a nice problem to have when you’re unexpectedly contending for the top spot in the division. The Brewers will have to decide whether they think they’ll be able to reach the playoffs with this team, or if they should sell and continue to keep building before the July 31 trade deadline. Let’s take a look at both sides of the coin.
It’s safe to say that the Brewers shouldn’t be going after any more offensive firepower. They have plenty of depth at each position.
Eric Thames has been given another shot in the MLB after he spent the past three years playing in Korea. The first baseman had a historic start to the season, cranking home runs out the park on a daily basis at one point. Thames currently has 13 home runs, which is tied for the fourth-most in the league. The team also has Jesus Aguilar at first base, who has been another offensive machine for the Brewers (.292 batting average). Aguilar hasn’t been able to get the proper playing time because of how hot Eric Thames has been playing.
There’s also the unexpected duo of catchers. Manny Pina and Jett Bandy have been tearing it up at the plate. Pina is batting .300 with two home runs and 12 RBI. Bandy is batting .287 with five home runs and 14 RBI.
The recent addition of Eric Sogard has also proved to be effective on offense. Yes, nerd power is back in baseball and is looking good at the plate. In the eight games that Sogard has played in so far, he’s batting .500 with two home runs and seven RBI. Sogard has been asked to play multiple positions like Hernan Perez. Perez has been the ultimate utility player for the Brewers since he was acquired in 2015. His ability to play any position in the infield and outfield has been very valuable for the Brewers. Not to mention, he’s also been performing well at the plate with five home runs and 18 RBI this season. The combination of Sogard and Perez gives the Brewers depth in the infield and outfield as well.
So, what does the team need? Pitching! The Brewers pitching staff has allowed the second most hits in the league (411). They’re also third to last in WHIP at 1.45. Even though Junior Guerra will be returning to the team in the next couple of weeks after injuring his calf on opening day, they still have holes in the pitching staff.
Corey Knebel was recently announced as the new closer for the Brewers after Neftali Feliz’s rough start to the season. The Brewers are still pretty thin in the bullpen though. As a result, they also moved the former starting pitcher, Wily Peralta, to the bullpen. Guerra will be able to fill in for Peralta once he returns, but it’ll be tough to contend with the Cardinals and Cubs all season long with the current rotation. Yes, Zach Davies, Jimmy Nelson, Chase Anderson and Matt Garza have done a pretty good job so far this season, but they will need to add someone who’s proven that they get the job done all season long. It would be nice to go after a pitcher who has playoff experience too.
The Brewers have made moves like this before Stearns was brought in. In 2008, the Brewers traded a haul of prospects to the Indians for CC Sabathia. Once he was acquired, he went 11-2 in 17 games with a 1.65 ERA. He also led the league with seven complete games. Sabathia racked up three of his five league-leading shutouts with the Brewers that season. To say that Sabathia was dominant with the Brewers would be an understatement as he carried the Brewers all the way to the playoffs. The Brewers eventually lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in the N.L. Divisional Series. The Phillies would go on to win the championship that year.
Their next postseason run would come in 2011. The Brewers once again acquired a big name pitcher to lead their staff. Before the season began, the Brewers traded Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and a handful of other players to the Kansas City Royals for Zack Greinke. The 2009 Cy Young winner would go 16-6 in 28 games with a 3.83 ERA in his first season in Milwaukee. The Brewers made a deep playoff run reaching the NL Championship Series that year. It looked like the Brewers were going to reach the World Series for the first time since 1982. However, they would end up losing the series to the St. Louis Cardinals, who won the championship that year.
Regardless, a move to trade for an elite pitcher would certainly help out the current pitching staff and match the offensive power on the team. If the Brewers are able to get a big name pitcher, not only could they make it to the playoffs, but they might be able to make a run.
Well, the Milwaukee Brewers are certainly no strangers to selling at the trade deadline. As mentioned before, the team has a rich history of giving up prospects to acquire talent. However, they also have had to give up big names in order to gain young talent.
Once David Stearns was brought in, Brewers fans had to say their goodbyes to some of their most beloved players. These players include the likes of Jonathan Lucroy, Jean Segura and Khris Davis to name a few. As a result, the Brewers have acquired multiple top prospects in those deals.
There’s one fan favorite still on the team though. Ryan Braun is still an offensive machine at age 33. He’s batting .273 with seven home runs and 19 RBI this season. The combination of Braun, Thames and Shaw is one of the reasons that the Brewers are doing so well at the plate this year. However, the Brewers top prospect, Lewis Brinson (Jonathan Lucroy trade), has continued to tear up the minors and is patiently waiting to play in the outfield at Miller Park. Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana have just begun their young careers in Milwaukee. If someone in the outfield is going to be moved at the deadline, it’s more than likely going to be Braun.
This isn’t anything new though. Braun’s name has been brought up multiple times since the Brewers began trading everyone away. Unfortunately, Braun’s contract isn’t very friendly to move. He’s still owed around $56 million until 2021. Braun had the ability to block any trade unless it’s the to the Angels, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Giants, Marlins or Padres. However, his ten and five rights kicked in earlier this month, and he now has full veto power on all trades. Yes, Braun comes at a price for some of these teams, but if they’re a player away from reaching the playoffs, Braun could certainly help any lineup.
The Brewers now have one of the top farm systems in the league after all of these trades. Before this season, MLB Pipeline rated the Brewers farm system #5 in all of baseball.
Domingo Santana was one of the players acquired in the Carlos Gomez trade, but the club also got a lot more than just that. Outfielder, Brett Phillips, and pitcher, Josh Hader, are both top ten prospects in the Brewers’ organization. Others, like Luis Oritz (Jonathan Lucroy trade), and Isan Diaz (Jean Segura trade) are also looking very promising for the future.
The Brewers can either use the prospects to acquire a big name at the deadline or trade some of the current players on the roster. Their values are up since they’ve been performing so well this year. This would make way for some of these top prospects.
The Brewers will have to keep proving that they’re a legit threat this season. They’ll be going up against some of the top teams in baseball over the next couple of months before the deadline arrives.
They will face the Cardinals and Cubs one more time before the July 31.
This week is the beginning of a handful of NL West matchups too. They will face the red-hot Diamondbacks twice before the deadline. They’ll also be playing the Dodgers and Giants next month too.