The Milwaukee Brewers are remaining ‘in’ on free agent right-handed pitcher Jake Arrieta, per The Athletic’s Jim Bowden. Bowden also states that the Brewers are interested in free agent third baseman Mike Moustakas.
If Milwaukee were to sign Moustakas, that would open the door for them to trade third baseman Travis Shaw, who had a breakout season in 2017 with a .273/.349/.513 batting line and 31 homers and 101 RBIs in 606 plate appearances. Bowden’s report mentions the New York Yankees, New York Mets, and Atlanta Braves as possible destinations for Shaw.
This is the second time this off-season that the Brewers have been linked to a free agent position player at a position they already have depth at. Recently, it was reported that the Brewers and Texas Rangers were maintaining interest in free agent center fielder Lorenzo Cain. Depth in the outfield is probably Milwaukee’s biggest overall organizational strength, with Ryan Braun in left field, Domingo Santana in right field, and Keon Broxton, Brett Phillips, and Lewis Brinson all being options in center field. A signing of Cain would prompt the Brewers to likely trade an outfielder, with Braun being the most unlikely trade candidate due to Braun having full no-trade protection and over $50 million still guaranteed to former National League MVP.
While it is still very unlikely the Brewers would sign Moustakas, Milwaukee would likely trade Shaw in the event they sign Moustakas for pitching. The Brewers have great depth in their pitching corps, but they are missing an elite, front-line starter that could carry them over the top. Their best pitcher in 2017 was right-hander Jimmy Nelson, and Nelson is set to miss an undetermined portion of the 2017 season with a partial anterior labrum tear and rotator cuff strain in his right shoulder. This makes the need for a front-line starter even greater, hence the interest in Arrieta.
Milwaukee’s starting rotation right now projects to feature Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, Jhoulys Chacin, Brent Suter, and Yovani Gallardo, per MLB.com. Gallardo, who was signed to a non-guaranteed contract earlier this off-season, will most likely not find himself in the starting rotation come opening day. It seems more likely that the Brewers will hope Gallardo has a strong spring training, which would make him a candidate for a long-reliever role in the bullpen.
That leaves the 5th rotation spot up to current internal candidates Brandon Woodruff, Aaron Wilkerson, Junior Guerra, Freddy Peralta, and Jorge Lopez. Josh Hader, who was a starter in the minor leagues and impressed with 2.08 earned run average at the MLB level last season, could one day be a candidate for the starting rotation, but he seems more destined to be a set-up reliever for dynamic closer Corey Knebel once again in 2018.
On January 10, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago-Sun Times reported that the Brewers are one of 6 teams to make an offer to Arrieta, per a source close to the hurler. The other teams mentioned by name that have submitted an offer to Arrieta are the Chicago Cubs, and the St. Louis Cardinals, the Brewers two primary rivals in the National League Central. All of the offers to Arrieta are expected to be 3-4 year offers, with a ‘overpay’ of money loaded onto the annual salaries. Wittenmyer also stated that one of the six teams could up their offer to 5 years soon, and from a pure speculative standpoint, the Brewers would seem very unlikely to go to 5 years.
When you look at Arrieta’s 2017 season, there is no question that it was a bit more average compared to what he showed in previous years. Still, it is undeniable how much improvement Arrieta has made since being traded from the Baltimore Orioles to the Cubs in 2013. The 31-year-old Arrieta has posted a 2.73 ERA over the last 5 seasons, which has included a Cy Young Award in 2015.
Arrieta is the best remaining free-agent starting pitcher on an open market that still features a lot of elite free agents. Many believe that the slow moving MLB off-season can be linked towards team’s having buyer’s remorse about prior free agent contracts and a reluctance to pay the luxury tax, but perhaps Arrieta signing somewhere could spring a frenzy of transactions around Major League Baseball.
I mean, hopefully, right?
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