The Milwaukee Brewers had an interesting and intermittently exciting offseason.
After a relative breakout year for much of their young players, propelling them into playoff contention deep into September, the Brewers came into the offseason with some pretty clear needs if they were going to take that next step, and fend off the Cardinals while also toppling the Cubs in the NL Central. Most of those needs were in the rotation.
There, the Brewers … didn’t really do a lot. They signed quietly solid starter Jhoulys Chacin, who has yet to demonstrate he can be effective outside of Petco Park, and then rolled the dice on minor league signings like Wade Miley and Yovani Gallardo. Miley has since strained his groin, and Gallardo has moved into a bullpen competition.
Meanwhile, the Brewers added – significantly – to one of their areas of strength, trading for outfielder Christian Yelich and signing outfielder Lorenzo Cain. Good players. Good additions. Headscratchers, nevertheless, within the context of their entire offseason.
And all the while, we wondered: why aren’t the Brewers taking advantage of the collapsing free agent market for starting pitchers and going aggressively after guys like Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, and Lance Lynn? Are they really just hoping they can deal a young outfielder for a pitcher, and if they can’t pull that off, there is no back-up plan?
Well, Jon Heyman reports that the Brewers *did* try to land Arrieta and Cobb after Lynn signed a one-year deal with the Twins, but it sounds like they were never aggressive enough to land either one: “The Brewers made a try for Jake Arrieta, and there was thought to be some (non)buyer’s remorse, as Milwaukee’s rotation still looks short. Alex Cobb would have been a logical fit for Milwaukee, as has been noted here. The Brewers made a $12 million, one-year offer to Cobb, thinking he might end up having to accept a Lance Lynn deal.” Arrieta wound up getting $75 million guaranteed over three years from the Phillies, and Cobb got a four-year deal worth upwards of $50 million from the Orioles.
So, did the Brewers miss out on some obvious steals? Eh, probably not. Arrieta’s AAV was the highest of the offseason, and Cobb’s deal wound up pretty close to what he was predicted to get. They were right to be in on the two pitchers, but I can’t say they were wrong not to beat those deals.
But it could sting. Right now, that Brewers rotation looks mediocre, especially without Jimmy Nelson, who may not return from shoulder surgery until midseason, at which point, who knows what he’ll be? Sure, guys like Zach Davies and Brandon Woodruff could step up and be good, Chase Anderson and Jhoulys Chacin could continue their surprising success, and Nelson could return and pick up right where he left off last year. Having another sure-fire starting pitcher, however, would have made a lot of sense.
It didn’t happen for the Brewers, and they now enter the 2018 season with a good looking lineup, with some great pieces in the bullpen, and with a rotation full of questions.