Brewers Going to Sell Off Major Pieces from Here?

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Brewers Going to Sell Off Major Pieces from Here?

Chicago Cubs

Theo Epstein had a year left on his contract with the Chicago Cubs went he decided to step back, allow the keys to be turned over early to Jed Hoyer, and head off to a role with MLB. That was partly about the pandemic’s costs and layoffs in the front office that might be avoided, but it was also partly about wanting Hoyer to be in charge for the big, organization-changing decisions that were coming.

I thought about that a bit when David Stearns this offseason stepped down from the presidency of the Milwaukee Brewers with a year left on his contract, allowing his lieutenant, Matt Arnold, to take over. I couldn’t help but wonder, given what the Brewers started when they traded away Josh Hader at the trade deadline, whether a similar thing was happening with the Brewers.

Having already moved outfielder Hunter Renfroe this offseason to save some scratch, and with others theoretically on the block, it isn’t hard to imagine the Brewers are in a transitional period – not a rebuild, because they still have tons of talent, but a time when they are trying to reduce costs and bring in new talent for the farm system. Maybe more hard decisions are coming, and Stearns wanted them to be Arnold’s to make.

Ken Rosenthal reports that multiple teams are interested in trading for Brewers second baseman Kolten Wong, who is set to make $10 million and could theoretically be replaced by top prospect Brice Turang for the 2023 season. Trading away Wong and Renfroe would hardly signal some monumental shift for the organization, but that might not be all that the Brewers do from here:

In addition to Wong, major-league sources say rival teams are asking the Brewers about trades for their top players — right-handers Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff, and shortstop Willy Adames. The subtraction of one or more from that group is perhaps more likely at the trade deadline, and only if the team falters. But the heightened interest is understandable, considering the Brewers’ cost-cutting tendencies thus far.

A trade of Burnes, Woodruff or Adames would be out of character for owner Mark Attanasio, who has avoided taking a step backward in the past. But the team’s newly promoted GM, Matt Arnold, is no stranger to the unconventional. Arnold worked for the Rays from 2006 to 2015, and was the Brewers’ assistant GM under David Stearns when the team traded Josh Hader last season.

The Brewers intended the Hader deal and their accompanying moves at the deadline to be a reshuffling, not a retrenching, but Stearns later acknowledged that the loss of Hader soured the clubhouse. An offseason move, with players scattered everywhere, would not create as much dissent. But if the Brewers are thinking about making hard decisions, might it be better for them to act sooner rather than later?

If they open the season with Burnes, Woodruff and Adames, they probably will be in some form of contention at the deadline, thanks to the expanded playoff format. And then they might be looking at a Hader scenario all over again.

As a Cubs fan, I’m not exactly sure what I’m rooting for here. On the one hand, it’s not like I want the Cubs to ever have to face Corbin Burnes on the Brewers again. On the other hand, I can see the Brewers floating around mediocre this year even if they keep all of Burnes, Woodruff, and Adames, and it wouldn’t be the worst thing – as an opposing fan base – to see them confronted again by tough decisions at the trade deadline (especially as those guys all get extremely expensive together at the same time in arbitration).

Given the front office transition, though, I’m wondering if there was already an expectation that big changes were coming as soon as this offseason.

AND if the Brewers do sell off another big piece or two, it makes competing in 2023 for them just a little harder, and could open up the NL Central even more for the Cubs if they, you know, actually improve the team from here. The Cardinals are still going to be very good, but if the Brewers drop back and give the Cubs a chance to make it more of a two-horse race? That’d be pretty darn notable.

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.