Milwaukee Brewers: Cleveland Indians Starters a Good Fit
The 2018 season was a surprise success for the Milwaukee Brewers. After playing 162 games, the Brew Crew were tied with the Chicago Cubs with a 95-67 record. This forced game 163, which the Brewers won in Wrigley Field to take the National League Central. They would then proceed to dispatch of the Colorado Rockies in three games. They were then knocked out during the NLCS by the Los Angeles Dodgers in game seven.
An MVP season from newcomer Christian Yelich helped pace an offense all season long. The long-ball was not an issue for the club. They finished fourth in homers in all of Major League Baseball. The bullpen was also a highlight for the club. The emergence of Josh Hader and his 2.43 ERA leading the way.
But there was one key element that the Brewers were missing all season long. That issue is the starting rotation. If you ask any casual baseball fan to name a single member of the Brewers’ starting five, you likely would get a handful of “uhh” and “I don’t know”‘s. The help drives this point home, the team turned to Gio Gonzalez in game one of the NLCS against Clayton Kershaw.
While the Brewers went on to win that game, you simply are not going to win three postseason series in Major League Baseball. Not when you are rolling out a 33-year-old rental player as your top option. No matter how good a team’s bullpen, any championship caliber team needs at least two guys. Two guys that can take the mound and dominate an entire game on any given night.
So now that the offseason is upon us, and the Winter Meetings are not too far off, it is time to start thinking of how each team can improve going into the 2019 season. For the Brew Crew, there are plenty of free agent options on the pitching side they could turn to. Names such as Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, Dallas Keuchel and Nathan Eovaldi will all likely be considered.
Even if the team does hand out a deal to one of those names, it should not stop them from picking up the phone and calling the Cleveland Indians. It is well known that the Indians have a surplus of starting pitchers, and several of those arms can be had in a deal this Winter.
The big name of the group is Corey Kluber, a two time AL Cy Young Award winner. Coming off a 20 win season in which he sported a 2.89 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 22 strikeouts over 215 innings, Kluber was once again in the thick of the Cy Young discussion. Going into his age 33 season, the Indians are open to moving his arm, along with his contract that includes one guaranteed season, plus two club options (worth $17.5 and $18 million respectively).
Then we have Carlos Carrasco, who also sports some mighty impressive numbers. While he has battled injuries throughout his career, there is no denying the talent in his right arm. In 2018, he won 17 games, pitched to a 3.38 ERA and struck out 231 batters in just 192 innings. Only a year younger than Kluber, Carrasco comes at a cheaper financial price point. His 2019 salary is roughly $7 million less than Kluber, followed by one club option year, which comes in at $9.5 million, compared to Kluber’s $17.5 million 2020 option.
Next up we have Trevor Bauer, who might be the most intriguing of all the options. While he missed some time in 2018 with a leg injury, Bauer was limited to just over 175 innings. In those innings, he had a dominant 2.21 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and stuck out 221 men. He will be entering his prime age 28 season and has two arbitration season’s of control remaining.
Those three men, along with Danny Salazar, will all see their names pop up in trade rumors this Winter as the Indians look to sure up other areas of their team. The team’s offense disappeared as they were swept out of the ALDS against the Houston Astros, scoring a combined six runs over the course of three games.
With outfielder Michael Brantley likely to depart via free agency this offseason, the outfield is especially light for the Tribe. As things stand right now, their starting outfield could consist of Tyler Naquin, Greg Allen, and Leonys Martin, while Jason Kipnis could be involved in some capacity.
That brings us back to the Milwaukee Brewers. We all know Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich are locked into two of the three spots. Long-time Brewer Ryan Braun is certainly past his prime, and clearly no longer the focal point of the offense. However, the 35-year-old still managed 20 homers in his 400+ at-bats in 2018, proving he can still contribute.
Add in Eric Thames and Hernan Perez, both of whom can play multiple positions, and the team has options to cover the outfield. They could still opt to add a veteran presence. Like they did with Curtis Granderson during the season, if they so choose.
All of this and we have yet to mention Domingo Santana.
Santana is a 26-year-old outfielder whose stock is down after he fell off the map in 2018. He played in 85 games for the Brewers this past season, batting .265 over the course of just 211 at-bats. In those ABs, he hit just five homers and drove in all of 20 runs.
Despite this, he is still the type of player that would fit perfectly. For starters, his age and contract. Santana is projected to make approximately $2 million in arbitration this season. He then has two more arbitration seasons after that before hitting free agency. That means he is under team control for his age 26, 27 and 28 seasons. In other words, his prime.
Now let’s look back to the 2017 season. Over the course of a season in which Milwaukee gave him 525 at-bats in 151 games, Santana launched 30 home runs, drove in 85 runs and batted .278. Oh, and he stole 15 bases too. In other words, he has proven himself at the Major League level before. And not as a one-dimensional player either. One that can hit for power, steal a base, and hit for a decent average.
The 2018 season is one that saw him mainly used as a bench player. He went from being used to playing every day and getting into a groove to being a sub who was put in when they needed a pinch hitter or someone needed a day off. So while many did expect some regression coming into 2018, the inconsistency in playing time certainly made the drop off way worse than it should have been. In other words, Domingo Santana is better than what his 2018 numbers show.
Given the down season, obviously, the Indians would need more than just Santana in a deal for any of their arms. But that does not mean Santana couldn’t be an integral piece to help net the Brewers an ace, who currently resides in Cleveland.
What do you think baseball fans? Do you think the Milwaukee Brewers and Cleveland Indians could match up nicely for a trade this Winter? Tell us what you think in the comments!