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2017 MLB Offseason Preview: Milwaukee Brewers

A look at what Milwaukee could do this winter.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Milwaukee Brewers (86-76), 2nd in the NL Central

Free Agents: RP Wily Peralta, SP Matt Garza, RP Anthony Swarzak, 2B Neil Walker, RP Carlos Torres

Before the 2017 season started, most critics believed the Brewers were a young team with some nice pieces, but did not have enough to really contend for a playoff spot, especially in a loaded NL Central. But, the Brew Crew proved most of them wrong, as they put together a campaign in which they were in contention until game No. 161.

Which makes this offseason one of high expectations for the Brewers. They have some nice pieces in place already with players such as Jimmy Nelson, Chase Anderson, Eric Thames, Ryan Braun, Domingo Santana and Josh Hader, but the question is, “What will they do to help the team become a playoff club?”

The Brewers need to bolster their starting pitching, even if it was their strength in 2017. That’s because their anchor to their staff, Nelson, is expected to miss “a chunk” of time in 2018 after undergoing labrum surgery on Sept. 20. As Adam McCalvy of MLB.com points out, the Brewers will not know exactly how long Nelson will sidelined until he starts throwing again and Nelson’s status could impact the Brewers’ “aggressiveness” in free agency. In a separate story, McCalvy does list Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn under potential free-agent targets, but will the Brewers spend a ton of money to land one of these four?

The Brewers also have to figure out what Hader’s role will be. Last season, Hader was effective out of the bullpen, as he posted a 2.08 ERA with 68 strikeouts in 47 23 innings pitched in 35 appearances after being called up to the majors in June. Milwaukee general manager David Stearns and company have said Hader’s long-term future will be as a starter, but will they want to move the 23-year-old lefty into the rotation now or have him spend another season in the pen? This move could also determine how the Brewers go about looking for starting pitching.

The Brewers also have to look into second base, their bullpen and their outfield.

In regards to second base, Neil Walker, who they acquired from the Mets in August, is a free agent. That leaves Jonathan Villar and Eric Sogard (who the team re-signed to a 1-year deal last month) as main options slotted at the position, but he is coming off a down season. The Brewers could try to bring back Walker on a short-term deal or find one on the free agent or trade markets.

As far as the bullpen, the Brewers would like to have an arm or two to complement closer Corey Knebel. McCalvy lists Wade Davis, Greg Holland, Brandon Morrow, Pat Neshek and Joe Smith as possible names the Brewers could spend money on in free agency, but it the latter three may not command as much money as the first two.

The outfield situation is interesting because they have five players — Braun, Santana, Keon Broxton, Brett Phillips and Hernan Perez — fighting for three spots. The Brewers could try to trade one of these players, or even their top prospect Lewis Brinson, to help fill their needs. However, a trade with involving Braun is unlikely because he has a full no-trade clause and is on record saying the only trade he would approve of doing is one to the Dodgers, who do not need any outfielders.