Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Milwaukee Brewers offseason moves and outlook

The Brewers continued their slide in the standings in 2013.  After winning the division in 2011, they fell to 3rd in 2012 before finishing 4th in 2011.  The only thing keeping them out of the NL Central basement was the woeful Cubs.

Here's a look at what they did this offseason to try to prevent further slippage:

Key Losses

Norichika Aoki, Corey Hart

Key Acquisitions

Matt Garza, Will Smith, Mark Reynolds, Zach Duke

The Brewers recent addition of Matt Garza helps improve a starting rotation that finished 11th among NL starters.  Holdovers Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse, Marco Estrada and Wily Peralta will round out the rotation.  The keys for the Brewers are the health of Garza and Estrada and improvement from Gallardo and Peralta.

In the pen, journeyman Jim Henderson returns as closer with Brandon Kintzler as the likely setup man.  Beyond that, its anybody's guess who will round out the pen, which is in a state of flux after the departures of former closer John Axford and middle reliever Burke Badenhop.

On the offensive side, the team will get a boost from the return of Ryan Braun from his PED suspension.  However, they will need more than that to bolster an offense that finished 8th in the NL in runs scored.

The biggest hole from last season was first base, where the Brewers finished last in the NL in OPS (.629).  Mark Reynolds was brought aboard on a minor league deal to battle Juan Francisco for the starting job, but neither one is a long-term answer.

Also unsettled is the second base job, which has been held by Rickie Weeks for the last 9 years (when healthy).  However, after a disappointing 2013 season, in which he posted the lowest average (.209) and OPS (.663) of his career, he will be pushed by youngster Scooter Gennett, who hit a robust .324/.356/.479 in 2013 (in 213 at bats).

In the outfield, Kris Davis will take over for the departed Norchika Aoki and provides a more typical power profile befitting of a corner outfielder.  The rest of the lineup is set with Jonathan Lucroy catching, Jean Segura at short, Aramis Ramirez at third and Carlos Gomes in center.

Overall, the hitting should improve and the pitching will likely improve as well, but I don't think its enough to push the Brewers into the upper division.  They should be a .500 team and could push the Reds for third place, but are unlikely to battle for the division crown.

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