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David Stearns, Brewers open Winter Meetings

LAS VEGAS — Perhaps we didn’t listen closely enough, but David Stearns said it before the grounds crew had time to put away the postseason bunting at Miller Park. It would be a “different” kind of offseason for the Brewers, the general manager said, meaning a much quieter one compared to his frenetic overhaul of the roster in his first months on the job, or his double-barrel blockbuster that brought Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich to Milwaukee last winter.

Now, with the Winter Meetings upon us and four non-roster invitees representing the extent of Milwaukee’s offseason acquisitions, that premonition is reality. The Brewers are not completely idle, but with 12 of their 14 most valuable players by wins above replacement returning next year, only one big hole on the roster (second base) and significantly less payroll flexibility than Stearns’ other offseasons, it is fair to say that they are on the low end of teams’ aggressiveness at the moment.

LAS VEGAS — Perhaps we didn’t listen closely enough, but David Stearns said it before the grounds crew had time to put away the postseason bunting at Miller Park. It would be a “different” kind of offseason for the Brewers, the general manager said, meaning a much quieter one compared to his frenetic overhaul of the roster in his first months on the job, or his double-barrel blockbuster that brought Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich to Milwaukee last winter.

Now, with the Winter Meetings upon us and four non-roster invitees representing the extent of Milwaukee’s offseason acquisitions, that premonition is reality. The Brewers are not completely idle, but with 12 of their 14 most valuable players by wins above replacement returning next year, only one big hole on the roster (second base) and significantly less payroll flexibility than Stearns’ other offseasons, it is fair to say that they are on the low end of teams’ aggressiveness at the moment.

“I wouldn’t say that anything is particularly imminent for us, but we do understand that things can move quickly at this time of year,” Stearns said. “This was a sort of standard ‘Day 1 of the Winter Meetings’ kind of day. You have a lot of conversations, you have some meetings, and then you try to move things forward over the week the best you can.

“We came into this week understanding that with our approach to this offseason, things could be a little bit different than they have in the past for us. We’ve been a team that at times has been aggressive at the Winter Meetings, and while I wouldn’t say we’re not going to make a deal, I don’t see us with quite as many discussions progressing to a certain point as maybe we’ve had in years past.”

MVP meetup among Winter Meetings auction items

Other takeaways from Day 1:

• The Brewers are “keeping in touch” with agent Tom O’Connell regarding Wade Miley, their most notable free agent on the pitching front, and are open to bringing Miley back, Stearns said. First, Miley will gauge his value on the open market after bouncing back from early-season injuries to post a 2.57 ERA in 80 2/3 innings and emerge as Milwaukee’s second-most valuable starter.

“He deserves to see, and then we’ll have a discussion and determine if there’s a right fit,” Stearns said.

• Second base is the Brewers’ clearest need, manager Craig Counsell acknowledged during an appearance on MLB Network. But the team still plans to be patient in that search because it is a buyer’s market at that well-stocked position in terms of free agency and trades. Among the free agents who have drawn interest from the Brewers, according to a report from The Athletic, is left-handed-hitting Daniel Murphy.

“My general thought is patience is always a good way to go about things, especially in a setting like the Winter Meetings where impatience can yield some unfortunate results,” Stearns said. “So yes, we’re going to be patient. Patience doesn’t mean that if there’s a deal we like, we aren’t going to act. But we are in no hurry to force anything.”

Video: Counsell on adding infielder before offseason ends

• Two players emerged who will not be the Brewers’ Opening Day second baseman: Whit Merrifield, who is likely to remain with the Royals, said Kansas City GM Dayton Moore; and Brewers prospect Mauricio Dubon, who will begin 2019 at Triple-A San Antonio coming off left ACL surgery, said Stearns, who had previously ruled out top prospect Keston Hiura for the big leagues on Opening Day in favor of more Minor League experience.

“Mauricio, we’re going to want him to begin the year at Triple-A,” Stearns said. “There’s not a timeframe for him to stay at Triple-A. We’ll let his performance and development dictate that. But coming off a knee injury, we are going to allow him to get his legs back under him.”

Asked whether a monster Spring Training could change that plan, Stearns said, “No. That’s set.”

• While he acknowledged contact with Miley’s representative, Stearns again declined to say the same about free-agent third baseman Mike Moustakas, a Scott Boras client. The Brewers plan to move Travis Shaw back to third base, Stearns reiterated Monday. But the team remains open to asking Shaw to return to second base in the event Moustakas or another third baseman becomes available.

• The Brewers have “an extensive history” in terms of scouting Japanese free-agent left-hander Yusei Kikuchi, Stearns said, without revealing whether the Brewers would make a bid for the Boras client.

“Clearly he’s had a very impressive career in Japan,” Stearns said. “He’s being posted at a relatively young age. Generally those types of players command a large amount of money and can pretty much dictate where they want to go based on not only finances but market, proximity to home, community and those types of things.”

Video: Possible landing spots for Yusei Kikuchi

• MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi included the Brewers among three potential landing spots for Indians ace Corey Kluber if he’s traded. The Indians are believed to covet a young stud outfielder in a deal, and the Milwaukee has one in No. 2 prospect and 2018 Brewers Minor League Player of the Year Corey Ray. The Indians’ suite happens to be just down the hall from the Brewers’.

“I enjoy seeing those guys every year. I worked with a lot of them,” said a similing Stearns, who once worked in Cleveland’s front office.

Deolis Guerra, who signed a non-roster deal with the Brewers a few days ago, will get a legitimate shot to win a bullpen spot. Guerra was in the big leagues with the Pirates and Angels from 2015-17.

• New hitting coach Andy Haines is on hand for the Winter Meetings, an opportunity to get to better know not only Stearns and Counsell, but the rest of the Brewers’ front office, including scouts and members of the research and development groups.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.



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