The completely frozen “Hot Stove” began to thaw Thursday, and it was the Milwaukee Brewers who brought the heat.
First they announced they had acquired outfielder Christian Yelich from the Marlins for a package of prospects…a really strong package of prospects that included Lewis Brinson, the No. 7 outfielder in minor league baseball according to MLB.com and No. 13 prospect in all of baseball in 2017. Also included were middle infielder Isan Diaz (No. 4 at second base according to MLB.com), outfielder Monte Harrison who hit 21 HR in Single-A last year and right-handed pitcher Jordan Yamamoto.
Then the Brewers signed outfielder Lorenzo Cain to a 5-year, $80 million contract.
Here’s my read: Yelich will replace the talented-yet-erratic Keon Broxton in center field, Cain will take over in right field and Domingo Santana (30 HR, 85 RBI and .875 OPS in his age 24 season last year) will be traded as part of a package for a top of the rotation starter.
So not only do the Brewers lock up two proven outfielders in separate deals, they will absolutely be trading outfield surplus for top-tier pitching. Santana is an elite trade chip. He’s young, he’s cheap, he’s got long-term control and he just put up a really strong season. Broxton will likely have some trade value too, though they could keep him as the fourth outfielder. Keep in mind they also have two other elite outfield prospects, Brett Phillips and Corey Ray, plus some young pitching they could include to land a proven starting pitcher.
I wrote two weeks ago that we should not forget about Milwaukee in the Central. Guess they agree.
They’re now a better defensive team, a more consistent offensive team and they’re poised to add significant starting pitching. All of that is what they’re adding to a team that won 86 games last year. As I said in the piece linked above, we should all be as focused on the Brewers as we are the Cubs. They’re loading up…and when their owner, Mark Attanasio, thinks they have a chance to win something he goes for it.
Of course, he doesn’t spend much at all when they’re not “close.” Regardless, they’re close now and he’s authorizing GM David Stearns to get aggressive.
If Milwaukee lands a top starter via trade – think Chris Archer from Tampa Bay, Danny Salazar from Cleveland, Zack Greinke from Arizona or Michael Fulmer from Detroit – or if they decide to hit the free agent market for Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta, and then trade for a cheaper, less proven starter, they’ll have to be favored over the Cardinals coming into the season.
Given their outfield surplus and aggressive posture there’s no way the Brewers are done.
The Cubs are still laying in the weeds too. They haven’t done much, mostly just adding a back of the rotation starter in Tyler Chatwood and reliever Brandon Morrow, and there are reports they’re in the Darvish-Arrieta mix as well. If they add more pitching they’re going to look dangerous again too.
To counter all of this the Cardinals current stance is that the additions of Marcell Ozuna (who I love), Luke Gregerson and Miles Mikolas – along with an eventual return by Alex Reyes – will be enough to set them on a path to the playoffs.
I’m betting that a whole lot of Cardinals fans disagree with that position. I know I do.
With the landscape changing in the NL Central do the Cardinals need to respond? Maybe…but they won’t. They’ll want to play things out and see what they have with their current group before altering the plan.
I’d still like another starter or a higher-end bullpen arm but don’t expect either to be in the picture when the Cardinals arrive in Jupiter in just less than three weeks.
I just hope it’s not too late to do something come June or July. If they’re able to do what they did last year and hang close then maybe someone like Josh Donaldson shakes loose. Maybe a reliever is out there to lock down the bullpen. Maybe a starter is available who can make an impact. Or maybe they get positive internal answers on all of those fronts…as unlikely as that seems right now.
The Cubs have been serious for a few years now and the Brewers have joined in on the fun. This division is no joke and neither is the Wild Card race with the Cubs, Brewers, Mets, Diamondbacks, Rockies and Giants all expecting to be in the mix.
Boy, the Cardinals better be right about their player evaluations otherwise it might be time for a new…algorithm.