Following a 2015 campaign that saw the Milwaukee Brewers go 68-94 and finish 32 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central Division, change was inevitable.
The team added a new General Manager with the hiring of David Stearns in late September and in just a little over three months on the job, Stearns has made his mark, wheeling and dealing to add ten new players from outside the organization to the 40-man roster since the end of the season.
“I don’t think it’s really a secret” said Stearns in his introductory press conference. “You need to acquire, develop and keep controllable young talent.”
The team has aimed to do that on multiple fronts over the past few months, using trades, waiver claims and MLB’s annual Rule 5 Draft to bring an infusion of new blood to the organization.
On the pitching side, the Brewers claimed veteran Junior Guerra off waivers from the White Sox a few days after the season ended and picked up righty Zack Jones from the Minnesota Twins in the Rule 5 in December. They also added a couple of other bullpen options by signing former Indian Nick Hagadone and ex-Angel Daniel Tillman to minor league deals.
With only Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado on the 40-man the Brewers also have made some moves to shore up the catching position, claiming 26-year-old Josmil Pinto off waivers from the San Diego Padres and adding Rene Garcia on a minor league deal.
The Brewers saved the majority of their activity for their infield, bringing in Jonathan Villar from Houston in exchange for pitcher Cy Sneed and acquiring third baseman Garin Cecchini from the Boston Red Sox for cash. Villar and Cecchini are seen as perhaps the top two candidates for Milwaukee’s open third base job this season and should get plenty of at bats this spring to show what they can do. Slugger Andy Wilkins was another waiver claim while former Red Sox and Padres prospect Will Middlebrooks was added on a minor league deal and second baseman Colin Walsh was selected in the Rule 5 Draft.
Looking to add depth and possibly find a more traditional centerfielder than Domingo Santana, Milwaukee also made some moves in the outfield. They acquired Keon Broxton and Ramon Flores via trades with the Pirates and Mariners and used the waiver wire once again to add Kirk Nieuwenhuis, formerly of the New York Mets. Broxton and Nieuwenhuis should both fight for playing time in centerfield this upcoming season while Flores provides some good bench depth and the ability to slot in to any of the three outfield spots.
2016 will be, in all likelihood, a year of rebuilding for the Brewers, and the doors to Miller Park are probably not done revolving just yet, but the new faces are sure to bring an increased level of competition this spring and will certainly be worth keeping an eye on in the desert once Cactus League play gets underway.