Milwaukee Brewers: Identifying offseason solutions to their infield issues

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - AUGUST 19: Orlando Arcia #3 of the Milwaukee Brewers makes a play against the Minnesota Twins during the game at Target Field on August 19, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Brewers defeated the Twins 9-3. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - AUGUST 19: Orlando Arcia #3 of the Milwaukee Brewers makes a play against the Minnesota Twins during the game at Target Field on August 19, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Brewers defeated the Twins 9-3. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /
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After the Cleveland Indians declined the option on Carlos Santana, he became the best first baseman in free agency.
(Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /

Solution #1: Trade for a high-upside corner infielder

The Milwaukee Brewers have a premium trade chip at their disposal this offseason in all-star closer Josh Hader. Age 26, under club control, and arguably the best ninth-inning man in all the land – Hader is a dream acquisition for any contender. Thus, Milwaukee has the leverage to demand an emerging infield star to open trade negotiations.

Glass half full, the Brewers achieve a swap similar to Gleyber Torres for Aroldis Chapman between the New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs in 2016. Torres was the Cubs’ top prospect and #24 prospect in MLB; Chapman was the unquestioned top closer in MLB.

At the time of the trade, Chapman carried a 2.01 ERA and averaged 12.6 K/9. Hader concluded the 2020 season with a 3.79 ERA and 14.7 K/9. Take away two off-kilter outings against the Pirates (0.1 innings, 5 BBs, 2 ER) and Cubs (1.0 innings, 4 H, 4 ER), and Hader’s ERA becomes far more impressive.

An additional comparison point: Chapman became a free agent three months after being traded, while the team that acquires Hader will have him for at least three seasons.

The Brewers accomplishing their quest for a club’s top prospect is not out of the question. Hader is undoubtedly worth a player on MLB’s Top 100 list. There are a few up-and-comers that stand out, including Twins’ first base prospect Alex Kirilloff and White Sox’s first base prospect Andrew Vaughn. Ideally, Milwaukee acquires a player that’s big-league ready, or close to it.

Solution #2: Sign a proven shortstop or first baseman

The Milwaukee Brewers can look to free agency for both short-term and long-term fixes. A couple of available first basemen that could fill a void include Carlos Santana and C.J. Cron. Neither player would jump in and transcend the Brew Crew from average to championship-worthy, but they would tighten certain screws at an affordable cost.

Reaching base is Santana’s MO, and it’s something the Milwaukee Brewers did at the 21st lowest rate in MLB last season. The 34-year-old switch-hitter hasn’t recorded an OBP below .349 in his entire 11-year career. Cron, age 31, hit 55 home runs and 52 doubles between 2018 and 2019 before playing only 13 games with the Detroit Tigers in 2020. He could create a powerful first base platoon with left-handed-hitting Daniel Vogelbach – if Milwaukee retains Vogelbach.

The free agent shortstop market presents greater authority. Andrelton Simmons is a potential short-term option that would promote the Brewers’ infield defense from mediocre to formidable. Long-term options (four-five year contracts) include Marcus Semien and Didi Gregorius.

Semien, who turned 30 last September, finished third in AL MVP voting in 2019. He slashed .285/.369/.522 and hit 43 doubles and 33 home runs that season. Milwaukee would gain a top-of-the-order bat and a defender capable of playing either position on the left side of the infield.

Gregorius was quite quietly one of the top offensive shortstops in MLB last season. He started all 60 games for the Philadelphia Phillies and hit .284 with ten home runs and 40 RBI. The Brewers could use another left-handed bat to go with Christian Yelich‘s. They would have to determine where he best fits defensively, but there’s no doubt Gregorius would liven up the offense.

Solution #3: Add Orlando Arcia to Josh Hader trade negotiations

The Brewers have time to see what Keston Huira and Luis Urias blossom into, but has time run out on 26-year-old Orlando Arcia? If Milwaukee is in any way inclined to answer yes to this question, then perhaps they should move him.

Arcia could add fuel to a trade package centered around closer Josh Hader. Potential suitors might feel safer acquiring a young and under control shortstop, especially if the Brewers ask for a younger infielder with more club control in return.

With two years of arbitration remaining on his contract, now would be a fine time for the Brewers to deal Arcia. The once top prospect has not taken off like the organization had hoped. He’s regressed defensively and has yet to contribute a quality campaign offensively. Last season may have been his best, yet he still posted a below-league-average OPS.

Next. Three trade partners for Josh Hader. dark

Spotrac estimates Arcia to make $3.25 million in arbitration this offseason and Hader to earn $5.65 million. Estimatively speaking, the Brewers will relieve themselves of $9 million in payroll for the upcoming year if trading both players. Executing such a plan is their surest way to obtaining the prospect, or prospects, of their choice.