The 2017 Milwaukee Brewers were surprising contenders for much of the season, but in the end, they fell out of post season competition, ending the year in second place, six games behind division leading Chicago. Their disappointing finish was not due to lack of offense. In fact, the Brewers led the National League in home runs, hitting 224 for the season. However, their 4.00 team ERA ranked 11th worst in the league. Producing much of the Brewers’ power were the guys playing first base and the outfield. Among the players heathy enough to play and who did play the bulk of games at first, in right, center and left, Eric Thames, Domingo Santana, Ryan Braun, Hernan Perez and Keon Broxton, and those four positions produced 112 of the team’s homers and drove in 300 runs. Conversely, the team’s only three reliable starting pitchers for much of the season, Zack Davies, Jimmy
Nelson, whose late season serious injury puts his 2018 season in jeopardy, and Chase Anderson. The rest of the starting staff, who started 75 of the team’s games, compiled a 19-22 won-lost record for a team that won a season’s total of 86.
So, just what have the Brewers done this offseason? Why of course they went out and signed one everyday outfield free agent in Lorenzo Cain and traded for another everyday outfielder in Christian Yelich, giving the team far too many everyday outfielder/first basemen for the available playing time. With five outfielders use to and deserving of playing every game, day in and day out, they have talked of moving Ryan Braun to first base, but then what of Eric Thames, who hit 31 homer runs while playing first base last season? How do you rationalize two great defensive center fielders in Cain and Broxton, Cain a lifetime .290 hitter coming off a .300 season, and Broxton, finally geting close to his offensive potential with 20 homers in 2017? And with the young star Yelich now in left, and realistically Braun remaining in right, what of the 25-year-old Domingo Santana, getting better with virtually each at bat, and his 30 homers and 85 RBI?
The team clearly made major additions to the outfield, but what of their starting staff, especially facing the beginning of 2018 with Nelson a major question mark? Well, they did add to the staff, signing journeymen former Brewer’s starter Yovani Gallardo, coming off a 5-10, 5.72 season in Seattle, and Jhoulys Chacin, who granted is coming off his best season ever, 13-10 for the Padres, but whose prior 46-57 lifetime won-lost record is more indicative of what they are getting.
It just seems that if the Brewers were trying to improve overall, that the emphasis would have been on pitching, not in adding to an already solid outfield, now overstocked with too
many everyday players who will not be happy languishing on the bench.
The same can also be said for the vastly improved Philadelphia Phillies, who during the 2017 season brought major excitement and hope for the near future to the team with young stars Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams, adding to the development of other young talents such as Odubel Herrera and Aaron Alther.
In addition, first baseman Tommy Joseph hit 22 homers, giving him over 20 in each of his first two major league seasons, and young shortstop J.P. Crawford came up to take over that spot for the foreseeable future.
But, back to the outfield, and the Phillies’ thought processes. With the emergence of Hoskins and Williams, that already gives the team four solid, young, super-talented outfielders, reports have circulated that Hoskins could be moved to first base, despite the fact that the developing, power-hitting Joseph has earned the position. So what did the team do this off-season? Why they signed another power-hitting everyday first baseman, in Carlos Santana. So the team has either four everyday outfielders and two everyday first baseman, or, get this, three everyday first basemen.
In 2017, the Phillies employed a mishmash of veteran starters and young guys, with, as the season progressed, the journeymen falling by the wayside, giving opportunity to the new crop, that includes such guys as Aaron Nola, Jake Thompson, Nick Pivetta, Jerad Eickhoff, Ben Lively and ace-in-waiting Vince Velasquez. Now gone are the likes of Jeremy Hellickson and such short-term failures as Clay Buchholz and Henderson Alvarez. But with a starting staff that averages 25 years of age and about a season of experience, would the Phillies have been much better off in spending the $60 Million they are paying Santana on pitching, on a veteran, established starter to build around on upon whom would take the pressure off the 24 and 25 year-old first and second year starters?
Finding and signing solid free agent pitchers or trading for established pitchers is a tough order, and few teams have succeed in doing so in recent seasons. Just see the Whirling
Darvish double-fiasco of the 2017 Dodgers and now 2018-2024 Cubs, not to mention the money pit the Red Sox bought in the over rated abd oft-injured David Price or the absurd signings of bottom-rung talents like ian kennedy and Ubaldo Jimenez. But then again, teams have done it right with signings and trades involving the likes of Justin Verlander, Ervin Santana and Rich Hill.
It’s anybody’s guess who will play where at first and in the outfield in both Milwaukee and Philadelphia, but one thing is certain, neither team will make the post season in 2018 with their current starting staff.