The Milwaukee Brewers were a surprise playoff contender in 2017. Could some free-agent acquisitions help put them over the top in 2018? With free agency opening Tuesday, FOX Sports Wisconsin runs down some possibilities for the Brewers this offseason.
USA TODAY Sports
SP Jake Arrieta
The 2015 Cy Young Award winner figures to be in demand this offseason despite coming off a season in which he averaged 5 2/3 innings per start and had a 3.53 ERA and 1.218 WHIP, his worst numbers in any of his four full seasons with the Cubs. Nevertheless, Arrieta has been great since arriving in Chicago, posting a 68-31 record with a 2.73 ERA, 1.034 WHIP and 8.9 K/9 plus winning that aforementioned Cy Young. The right-hander who turns 32 in March won't come cheap, and a long-term contract to a starter of his age comes with risks, of course, but he'd greatly strengthen Milwaukee's rotation and could slide right into a No. 1 or 2 role.
SP Tyler Chatwood
If the Brewers are looking to build rotation depth, Chatwood would be a sneaky-good signing after posting decent back-to-back seasons in Colorado. His numbers might not be eye-popping (20-24, 4.27 ERA, 1.407 WHIP over that span), but like many pitchers, Chatwood fared better away from Coors Field. In 2016, Chatwood was 8-1 with a 1.69 ERA and 1.113 WHIP on the road while last season it was 3.48 and 1.228. Chatwood is also in the prime of his career, turning 28 in December.
SP Alex Cobb
The 30-year-old Cobb has some history of injuries, but had a nice bounce-back year in 2017, posting career highs of 29 starts and 179 1/3 innings while recording 12 wins, a 3.66 ERA and 1.221 WHIP for Tampa Bay, which drafted him in the fourth round in 2006. There's definitely a risk-reward factor with Cobb, who is expected to land a multiyear contract, but the payoff could be a very solid starter.
USA TODAY SportsKim Klement
RP David Hernandez
Milwaukee could use a little boost to the bullpen, especially if Anthony Swarzak goes elsewhere, and Hernandez has been solid since becoming a full-time reliever in 2011. Over that span, he has a 3.54 ERA, 1.198 WHIP and 10.1 K/9 (although he did miss the 2014 season). Last year the right-hander split time between the Angels and Diamondbacks, with a 3.11 ERA and 1.036 WHIP in 55 innings. Hernandez could also fill in at closer in a pinch if Corey Knebel needs a day off, having 22 career saves and at least one in six of his last season seasons.
USA TODAY SportsKelley L Cox
IF/OF Howie Kendrick
This one might be a little out there and it also depends if Kendrick, who will be 35 in July, is ready to be a part-time player. But Milwaukee's second base job is a bit in flux and Kendrick could help out there as well as be a utility-type player as he also has experience in the outfield, third base and first base. A career .291/.334/.421 hitter who hit .315/.368/.475 in 91 games last season with Philadelphia and Washington, Kendrick also would be a valuable bat off the bench.
RP Jake McGee
Josh Hader's role in 2018 is sure to expand, but why not have two dominating left-handers in the bullpen? McGee was fairly dominant in the first six years of his career in Tampa Bay (2.77 ERA, 1.017 WHIP, 11.1 K/9) before spending the last two seasons with the Rockies, where he, like Chatwood, performed much better on the road. In 2017, outside of Coors Field he had a 2.64 ERA, 0.880 WHIP and 9.4 K/9. The 31-year-old could also finish out games when needed, as he owns 44 career saves.
RP Pat Neshek
The 37-year-old right-hander just keeps putting up big-time numbers. An All-Star in both 2014 and 2017, Neshek owns a 2.45 ERA, 0.916 WHIP and 9.0 K/9 over that span. Last season in 71 games for Philadelphia and Colorado he had a 1.59 ERA, 0.886 WHIP and 10.0 K/9 while walking just six batters in 62 1/3 innings. He'd be an asset to any bullpen in the majors. And, hey, it'd be kind of a coming-home party as Neshek was born in Madison (although he went to high school in Minnesota.)
USA TODAY SportsSteven Bisig
RP Bryan Shaw
Shaw has been a key component to Cleveland's bullpen the past few years, leading the American League in appearances in three of the last four seasons and pitching in at least 70 games in five consecutive years. Oh, and Shaw, who pitched for Arizona in his first two years in the bigs, has been consistently good. His career numbers: 3.13 ERA, 1.228 WHIP and 8.0 K/9. He also would bring playoff experience to a Brewers team wanting to become a consistent postseason fixture. Shaw has pitched in 22 innings over 19 playoff games with a 2.45 ERA, 1.136 WHIP and 9.0 K/9.
RP Joe Smith
If the Brewers deem other relievers too expensive, Smith, who turns 34 in March, could be a good, low-cost alternative. Since 2011, Smith has appeared in 472 games with a 2.72 ERA, 1.111 WHIP and 7.9 K/9. He doesn't have the extensive postseason experience of a Shaw, but has pitched in the postseason for three different teams (and also was on the 2016 Cubs, although did not participate in the playoffs), allowing one hit and no runs in five innings. And if for whatever reason Milwaukee is out of the pennant race, he's someone who has value and could be flipped at the trading deadline.
RP Anthony Swarzak
The 32-year-old Swarzak is coming off a career year, which might fuel some doubts, but he pitched very well after Milwaukee picked him up at the trade deadline from the White Sox. Overall last season, Swarzak, who only once in his previous six full seasons had an ERA under 4, posted a 2.33 ERA, 1.034 WHIP and 10.6 K/9. With the Brewers his numbers were 2.48, 1.034 and 12.1. Swarzak's market will be interesting. The team and player certainly know each other now, and perhaps that could be a factor (depending on what offers he gets, of course). Bringing Swarzak back would solidify the back-end of the bullpen; if he signs elsewhere, the Brewers would likely need to fill that void via another free agent.
Associated PressMorry Gash
2B Neil Walker
Certainly, a number of Brewers fans want to see Walker return to Milwaukee. The 32-year-old switch-hitter batted .267/.409/.433 in 38 games after being dealt by the Mets, playing second, first and third for the Crew. Walker made $17.2 million last season after the Mets made him a qualifying offer. It's doubtful he'd get that much this offseason, but a power-hitting second baseman will be worth a good chunk of change. Milwaukee still has Jonathan Villar on the roster and just gave Eric Sogard a big pay boost to over $2 million in 2018. How much would the Brewers want to spend on Walker?