This Brewers season is not like any other in the past few decades. Sure, there have been many truly bad Milwaukee teams in the past 15 years. But that kind of “bad” was never part of a rebuild.
While the Brewers are most certainly not the only team in the majors rebuilding, they are certainly the most upfront about it. At the end of last year, the Brewers’ owner Mark Attanasio wrote an open letter addressing the fans: “To move toward accomplishing this lofty goal, I believe we need to take a step back and build more intensively from within.”
And this year, the Brewers have begun a complete rebuilding process, hiring new General Manager David Stearns to man the helm and take control of baseball operations. And Stearns came to work, quickly earning himself the nickname “Slingin’ Stearns.”
This past offseason has been arguably the most active in the franchise’s history, with Stearns making 38 transactions, bringing 45 new players into the organization – 20 pitchers and 25 position players. Stearns has turned the roster over at least 50 percent. Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy, and Matt Garza are the remaining players on the roster still signed to multi-year deals. This rebuilding process seems to be making strides forward for the Brewers, as their farm program now ranks in the top 10 in the league.
With these things in mind, it seems like the team has a clear plan moving forward into the 2016 season and beyond. With his offseason moves, it seems as if Stearns is getting rid of the team’s superfluous players first. While, in the long run, this is not a bad strategy, it only gets the team a lot of low-level players in the short run. A large amount of prospects to choose from is one thing, and it can sometimes pay off, but it seems that acquiring a couple of high-end prospects would greatly benefit the Brewers line-up.
All the while, there are a few bright spots on this young team. Jeremy Jeffress, one of the new closers Stearns has added to the bullpen, has done an efficient job pulling in wins when the Brewers have maintained a lead into the later innings of the game. He’s successfully closed all four of his saves and pitched a little over 5 scoreless innings so far this season.
Additionally, looking at the method that Stearns has been employing in this rebuild, maybe a few of these low-level prospects will pan out and become something positive for the team. This would mean that they would have less reason to get rid of players such as Lucroy or Braun.
But if trading is the way the team wants to go, in all likelihood Stearns is not finished, and a trade of someone like Lucroy could bring in something substantial for the team. Lucroy in the past has said that he want to win, and would most likely welcome a trade to a higher-market team.
With all this said and done, the Brewers are going to have a tough time of it trying to chase that .500 record. Fangraphs, a sports statistic website, predicts them to finish the season with a 72-90 record, and, honestly, it’s hard to dispute that prognosis. However, it’s hard not to like what the crystal ball holds for this team. They are in overhaul mode, and the moves being made in the organization right now are done with the future in mind, looking a few years down the road. The year will most likely be a struggle for the ball club, but it will be interesting to see how the manager Craig Counsell does his job managing when the Brewers have a late lead in the game this season.
However, the truth is that there won’t be a lot of games for the Brewers to save this season. It will likely be a rough one, and last week is a potential example of what this season holds, as they lost two of three to the Pittsburgh Pirates on the road. But unless the past few weeks have been a fluke, it’s hard to not see that there is genuine progress being made in Milwaukee. And this is all starting under a promising new executive named David Stearns, who was not yet alive the last time the Brewers won a pennant.
Overall, this is a team under construction. And that’s a good thing for the Brewers. For Brewers fans, it’s fun to be optimistic about a squad that is trying to make substantial changes. Additionally, the team is making well thought out moves. On top of all that, the organization knows that it needs to do better, as evidenced by Attanasio’s open letter to Brewers fans. All these things together show a promising move towards a brighter future. And yet the toughest choices still remain to be made. Unless something truly magical happens in Milwaukee, 2016 will really be about 2017 and beyond.