For the second consecutive offseason the biggest news about the Milwaukee Brewers centered around Ryan Braunand his connection to PED use.
The BioGenesis story again raised suspicion that Braun has been muscling up on more than just pierogies and cheddar. Further dampening the Milwaukee Brewer offseason was news that 1B Corey Hart may miss considerable time due to knee surgery.
Hart is a lynchpin of Milwaukee’s offense, he has slugged over .500 and had a plus .800 OPS each of the last three seasons. The latest reports from the Brewers team doctors point to a late May return.
Center fielder Carlos Gomez seems poised to realize the potential that made him one of baseball’s top prospects. The speedster swiped 37 bags and hit 19 homers in 2012 and had an OBP of over .300 for the first time in his career last year. He avoided arbitration by signing a one year $4.3 million contract.His emergence made Nyjer Morgan expendable. Morgan signed with Yokohama of the Nippon Professional Baseball League in the offseason.
Longtime Brewer shortstop Alex Gonzalez signed a one year $1.5 million contract following an injury shortened 2012. He has been playing first base in the spring, which is opening the door for Jean Segura to begin the season as the starting shortstop. Segura, the centerpiece of last seasons Zack Greinke, was the Angels second rated prospect behind Mike Trout entering 2012.
Marco Estrada signed a one year deal avoiding arbitration. Estrada is penciled in as one of the Brewers top three pitchers entering 2013. He went 5-7 in 23 starts with a 3.64 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP in 2012.
John Axford blew nine saves and lost the closers role for a time in 2012. After saving 70 games and pitching to a 2.20 ERA and 1.19 WHIP between 2010-2011, he slumped to an ERA of 4.67 and a 1.44 WHIP. Axford signed a one year $5 million deal avoiding arbitration.
Right handed reliever Burke Badenhop was signed away from the Tampa Bay Rays for one year $1.5 million. Over 62.1 IP he had a 1.20 WHIP and a 3.03 ERA. He will serve the top setup man for Axford.
Tom Gorzelanny pitched to a 2.88 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP almost exclusively out of the bullpen in 2012 with the Washington Nationals. Between 2010 and 2011, Gorzelanny started 38 games with an ERA of 4.06 and a WHIP of 1.40. He signed for $6 million over 2 years and can be used out of the bullpen or as a starter if needed.
There are many question marks surrounding the Brewers entering 2013. If, for whatever reason, Ryan Braun has a poor year, the Brewers will be in for a long season. They also need Corey Hart to heal quickly from a knee injury. Aramis Ramirez is a superbly productive player, but he cannot shoulder the burden of the entire offense.
Besides Yovani Gallardo the rotation is thin. Mike Fiers and Marco Estrada did well in auditions and starting pitcher Wily Peralta is the Brewers highest rated prospect. But with the exception of Gallardo and Gorzelanny, no Brewer has pitched more than 200 innings in a major league season. The bullpen is no deeper. Axford led the National League in saves in 2011 but slumped in 2012. Behind him are Badenhop and mostly young arms.
For a middle market team the Milwaukee Brewers and GM Doug Melvin have fielded a competitive team for the past six years, making the postseason in 2008 and 2011. Unfortunately for the Brewers, divisional rivals Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals have strong teams entering 2013. Bernie Brewer may be crying in his beer if he expects an improvement on last years 83-79 record.