It’s time for David Stearns to get back to work.
The Milwaukee Brewers’ general manager admitted last week during the team’s annual end-of-season press conference that it hurt to be watching the World Series on television. Milwaukee pushed the Dodgers to Game 7 of the National League Championship Series only to fall short of its first World Series appearance since 1982.
Nearly all of the Brewers’ primary roster pieces will be back in 2019 but that doesn’t mean Stearns will be sitting idly by this winter, waiting for pitchers and catchers to report to a newly-renovated Maryvale Baseball Park next February.
For starters, he’ll need to figure out to do with the three players the Brewers have options on for next season. Teams have 72 hours from the end of the World Series to make decisions on those players and Stearns will have to evaluate four players during that window.
Third baseman Mike Moustakas and right-handed reliever Joakim Soria have mutual options, worth $15 million and $10 million, respectively, with Soria’s deal also coming with a $1 million buyout.
The club holds options on right-handed relievers Jeremy Jeffress ($3.175 million) and Jordan Lyles ($3.5 million with a $250,000 buyout).
Though he struggled in the postseason and especially during the NLCS, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that Jeffress, 31, will be back in 2019. He posted an 8-1 record and 1.29 ERA in 73 appearances last season, though his career-high 76 2/3 innings of work could be cause for concern. Still, his best work has come in a Milwaukee uniform and despite the hefty price tag, it’s hard to see the Brewers letting him go.
Lyles, meanwhile, posted a 3.31 ERA in 11 appearances after Milwaukee claimed him off waivers from the Padres in early August. He provided some much-needed depth down the stretch, but that was with expanded rosters. The Brewers already have plenty of options at their disposal heading into next season making it unlikely that Lyles’ option will be picked up.
Soria’s $10 million price tag is probably too steep a price for a 34-year-old. He, too, was a mid-season pickup, acquired from the White Sox ahead of the deadline.
The toughest call might come with Moustakas, who batted .256 with eight home runs and 33 RBI for the Brewers after he was dealt by Kansas City in a deadline deal. He proved to be a perfect fit for the club, both with his performance on the field and his leadership in the clubhouse, but the Brewers already have Travis Shaw to man third. He moved to second after Moustakas’ arrival and performed well at the position.
Keeping Shaw at second long-term would roadblock two of Milwaukee’s top prospects. Keston Huira, the team’s 2017 first-round pick, is tearing up the Arizona Fall League after posting an .821 OPS with 13 home runs and 43 RBI between Class A Carolina and Double-A Biloxi while Mauricio Dubon might have gotten his first taste of big league action last season were it not for a torn ACL in May.
No doubt, Stearns would love to have Moustakas back in 2019 but with the options, he has at his disposal — along with the slim chance that Moustakas, represented by super-agent Scott Boras, would accept another short-term deal in the Brewers’ price range — make a 2019 return look unlikely.