The MLB free agent market has been extremely slow. Several top free agents remain unsigned, and that’s quite crazy considering we approaching February. Pitchers and catchers are set to report in roughly three weeks, and names such as Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, and J.D. Martinez do not have a team yet.
In that context, the Milwaukee Brewers grabbed headlines over the past few days. They acquired Christian Yelich in a trade with the Miami Marlins, and also signed free agent Lorenzo Cain to a five-year $80 million deal. Talk about upgrading the team fast, huh? But that has been everything for the Brewers of late. They have achieved more than expected in a short period of team.
Let’s take a look at their 2017 season, for instance. 2017 was expected to be the second year of their rebuilding process. The franchise had undergone a full-scale rebuild, but things panned out better than expected. The final result? Milwaukee won 86 games and finished one game out of the National League Wild Card. No one expected them to be this good in 2017. And while there might be some regression, the Brewers are here to stay. They look like the biggest threat to the Chicago Cubs on the NL Central, both on short- and long-term scenarios.
But can they contend right now?
That’s an entirely different question. Milwaukee will certainly fight for a playoff spot this season and beyond, but they remain a bit behind the Cubs on the race for the NL Central crown. In fact, Milwaukee won’t be a sustainable contender until they can upgrade their rotation. Right now, they have Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, and Jhoulys Chacin as locks. Another alternative is to include Jimmy Nelson when he returns from injury, but there is not much left aside from those four.
In fact, manager Craig Counsell said the current plan is to have a group of Brandon Woodruff, Brent Suter, Yovani Gallardo, Junior Guerra and Aaron Wilkerson compete for the remaining starts. Gallardo and Guerra have the inside track early on, but this is not a very promising group of arms if Milwaukee wants to put up a serious challenge for the NL Central title.
There is no question they have been doing things the right way. But they are still a bit far from contending. At least when it comes to 2018.