We have learned a lot about the Milwaukee Brewers as a baseball team this season. They are an organization that is rich in prospects and young talent. They are a team that relies heavily on the long ball at the cost of striking out at a huge rate. They have been able to bounce back from bad games with victories on a regular basis. The bullpen had a major turnaround after releasing Neftali Feliz and making Corey Knebel the closer. The major issue they have faced is coming back in 1-2 run games in the later innings of games. Something that is fairly normal for teams as young as the Brewers, but something that definitely needs to be learned. This season has been thought by many fans to be a “rebuilding year”. Starting the season with young and inexperienced guys, it didn’t look to be a very promising season.
Teams do not often get as good as quick as the Brewers did. The Cubs of 2015 were a surprise to some after going just 73-89 in 2014. They were a team much similar to the Brewers. They had five losing seasons up until 2015 when they made it back to the playoffs ending their rebuild. The Cubs have marched out essentially that same team from 2015 for the past three seasons of recent success. Even though Milwaukee may not be a playoff team this year, their rebuild is over.
Following the 2011 division title Milwaukee lost key pieces over the next couple seasons in Prince Fielder and Zack Grienke ending their competitive reign in the NL Central. Outside of the 2014 season that ended in a brutal collapse, the Brewers have remained irrelevant in the division.
The Milwaukee rebuild began in the winter following the 2014 season when Yovani Gallardo was traded to the Texas Rangers for Corey Knebel, Marcos Diplan, and Luis Sardinas (who was shipped to Seattle in 2016). Doug Melvin was still in charge at the time and was not fully committed to a rebuild yet. This would be the only major trade he would make during the offseason after a dreadful collapse. (This was also the season Marco Estrada was dealt to the Blue Jays for Adam Lind. Still don’t understand that trade).
Melvin finally committed to rebuilding after a terrible start to 2015 by firing Ron Roenicke and bringing in Craig Counsell. He then made very solid moves at the 2015 trade deadline. Gerrardo Parra was traded to Baltimore in exchange for Zach Davies. Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers were traded to Houston for Domingo Santana, Brett Phillips, Josh Hader, and Adrian Houser. On August 11th of that season, Melvin stepped aside as GM and took on a baseball operations role with the team.
David Sterns was hired on September 20th and committed to what Melvin had started with the rebuild process. He had a very busy offseason. He flipped Adam Lind to Seattle for three prospects. Khris Davis was dealt to Oakland for two prospects. Jean Segura was traded to the Diamondbacks for Chase Anderson, Aaron Hill, and top prospect Isan Diaz. Keon Broxton was acquired from the Pirates for Jason Rogers. Jonathan Villar was also acquired from Houston.
Surprisingly the Brewers we’re not as bad as people thought they would be in 2016 despite shipping out all of the assets that they did. They still sold at the deadline by shipping Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress to the Rangers for #1 prospect Luis Brinson and Ramon Ortiz. Will Smith was dealt to San Francisco for Andrew Susac, a young catching prospect. Aaron Hill was dealt to the Red Sox for Aaron Wilkerson and two other prospects. Milwaukee managed to finish with a 73-89 record despite all of the player movement.
Sterns still was not done yet. This winter Travis Shaw was brought in from the Red Sox for Tyler Thornburg. (Thornburg hasn’t pitched all season). Shaw is looking to be one of the faces of this franchise for a long time. Eric Thames was brought back over from Korea after becoming a star over there. He emerged as a solid power bat at first base for the Brewers this season. Even small pick ups like Eric Sogard, Many Pina, and Jared Hughes have paid big divedens for the team this season.
All of these moves have made Milwaukee an organization with a very deep farm system and a team that is built to compete for a long time. The farm system had been one of the worst in the league for such a long time. The system was gutted and totally revamped following the dreadful 2015 season. Since then the team has been on the rise.
They found a cornerstone third baseman in Travis Shaw. Orlando Arcia is one of the best young shortstops in the MLB. Ryan Braun is still a very good ballplayer regardless of his past actions and recent decline. Domingo Santana has emerged as a fantastic everyday right fielder. Having Eric Thames and Jesus Aguilar at first base is an excellent power tandem. Brett Phillips is looking to become a fantastic everyday center fielder as he has been having a strong finish to his campaign. Many Pina has been an amazing surprise behind the plate both defensively and offensively. The only real concern going forward is the inconsistency coming from second base. Sogard and Villar have both been up and down all season. (Sogard is a pending free agent). Hernan Perez has to be the most valuable bench player in the MLB with the ability to play every position. This team is built very well offensively and is only a piece or two away from becoming an offensive powerhouse.
The pitching has been fantastic as well. Jimmy Nelson has emerged as the ace he had the potential to come. Chase Anderson has become a solid guy in the rotation as well after a rough start to his Brewer career. Zach Davies continues to develop as a great control pitcher. Brent Suter and Brandon Woodruff have been nice surprises in their few starts with the team this season. The bullpen has been great anchored by Corey Knebel and Josh Hader. The team has been top 10 in the league in team ERA and 5th in the NL hovering just below 4.
Regardless of how the Brewers finish their season in the last 7 games, it has been an incredible season for the squad. This season has put the Brewers ahead of schedule in their competitive window which could extend over the next 10+ years with the prospects and talent they have. The official rebuild of the Milwaukee Brewers is complete. They are ready to head into this offseason with the ability to buy assets in free agency and any trades they may want to make. A division title should be in their sights for the 2018 season.