After the Brewers returned to the post-season for the first time after 26 years in 2008, they fell back below .500 last year as the losses of Ben Sheets and CC Sabathia were too much to overcome, although the payroll remained above $80 million. Pitching was the Achilles heel of the team last year and the front office showed determination to address that, but despite spending many millions on arms, the rotation remains a big question mark.
2009 Regular Season Record: 80-82
Rank: 3rd in NL Central, 11 games behind the Cardinals
Home Park: Miller Park
SP Doug Davis (Free agent, from Diamondbacks)
Yovani Gallardo will need to be the ace of the Brewers rotation.
SP Randy Wolf (Free agent, from Dodgers)
SP John Halama* (Free agent, no team in 2009)
SP Chris Capuano* (Free agent, no team in 2009)
RP Scott Schoeneweis* (Free agent, from Diamondbacks)
RP Marco Estrada (Claimed off waivers from Nationals)
RP LaTroy Hawkins (Free agent, from Astros)
C Matt Treanor* (Free Agent, from Tigers)
C Gregg Zaun (Free Agent, from Orioles)
C George Kottaras (Claimed off waivers from Red Sox)
2B Joe Inglett (Claimed off waivers from Rangers)
SS Luis Cruz (Claimed off waivers from Pirates)
RF Trent Oeltjen* (Free agent, from Diamondbacks)
CF Jim Edmonds* (Free agent, no team in 2009)
CF Carlos Gomez (Traded from Twins)
SP Braden Looper (Free Agent, unsigned)
RP Seth McClung (Non-tendered)
C Mike Rivera (Non-tendered)
C Jason Kendall (Free Agent, signed with Royals)
2B Felipe Lopez (Free Agent, signed with Cardinals)
RF Frank Catalanotto (Free Agent, unsigned)
CF Corey Patterson (Free Agent, unsigned)
CF Chris Duffy (Free Agent, unsigned)
CF Mike Cameron (Free Agent, signed with Red Sox)
SP Carlos Villanueva (Signed one-year-contract to avoid arbitration)
SP Dave Bush (Signed one-year-contract to avoid arbitration)
RP Todd Coffey (Signed one-year-contract to avoid arbitration)
RP Claudio Vargas (Signed one-year-contract to avoid arbitration)
RP Mark DiFelice (Signed minor league contract)
RP Trevor Hoffman (Signed one-year-contract)
2B Rickie Weeks (Signed one-year-contract to avoid arbitration)
2B Craig Counsell (Signed one-year-contract to avoid arbitration)
RF Corey Hart (Won arbitration)
CF Jody Gerut (Signed one-year-contract to avoid arbitration)
Strengths: Offense (?), bullpen
In Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, the Brewers have a formidable heart of the order that does not have to shy away from comparisons with tag teams like Pujols / Holliday or Howard / Utley. While the patient and powerful bat of Mike Cameron and the underrated Felipe Lopez certainly will be missed, the Brewers are counting on second baseman Rickie Weeks and right fielder Corey Hart to finally come around. Third baseman Casey McGehee had a very promising first full season, but his minor league numbers do not suggest that he can keep it up. On the plus side, exchanging catcher Jason Kendall with anybody who can hold a bat should help, too. It is not the Yankees lineup, but this is not the AL East either.
The bullpen is led by ageless wonder Trevor Hoffman, who is still able to get the job done and pile on the all-time saves record. Still, you have to wonder at what point Hoffman's changeup won't be enough to get hitters out. To set up their closer, the Brewers signed LaTroy Hawkins, who is coming off a good season in Houston. Todd Coffey is the workhorse in the pen and behind him, there is a group of solid arms to give manager Ken Macha plenty options to mix and match.
Weaknesses: Starting Pitching
Yovani Gallardo is already a fine pitcher and if he could cut down on his free passes, he may one day become a Cy Young caliber ace. To complement him, the Brewers signed free agents Randy Wolf and Doug Davis. While neither will excite you, they should be able to keep their team in the game most of the time. After those three though, it is anyone's guess. Jeff Suppan (who will receive $12.7 mill. in 2010 by the way) is the leading candidate, but other options include Matt Bush, Manny Parra, Chris Narveson and a bunch of old or unproven arms trying to win a roster spot in spring training. Whoever gets the ball, the Brewers will probably be very, very happy if their ERA starts with a 4, no matter what comes after that.
2B Rickie Weeks
SS Alcides Escobar
LF Ryan Braun
1B Prince Fielder
RF Corey Hart
3B Casey McGehee
CF Carlos Gomez
C Gregg Zaun
One Questions which Needs Answering:
Assuming the Brewers fall out of contention before too long, will they trade Prince Fielder? He is a lock for 40+ homeruns and can hit around .300, but he is getting expensive and an $85 million payroll is high for a small market team. And if he is on the market, how much will he bring in? First base is usually easier to fill than other positions, so teams may not want to break the bank for him.
In 2009, the Brewers starters had a 5.37 ERA, dead last in the NL and they pitched the second to last innings. Still, they managed to win 80 games. While the new rotation won't be great, it should be better than in 2009. It just has to. The offense is probably a bit worse, so overall, I see the Brewers settle around 84 wins, probably not enough for the division and not for the Wild Card either.