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Milwaukee Brewers headed for free agency

Now that the Milwaukee Brewers have been eliminated from the playoffs, it is time to turn the page from the wonderful season that was in 2018 on to the upcoming offseason. Five days after the conclusion of this year’s World Series between the Red Sox and Dodgers (which Boston currently leads 1-0), the major and minor league players that are eligible will be able to file for free agency. The Brewers have three players on the big league roster who are scheduled to hit the open market this coming winter:

LHP Wade Miley

Miley inked a minor league deal with Milwaukee in February, and the deal worked out better than anyone could have reasonably hoped for. The southpaw missed some time with groin and oblique injuries, but when he was on the mound he delivered 16 starts and 80.2 innings of 2.57 ERA baseball. Leaning predominantly on the cutter for the first in his career, Miley didn’t miss many bats (5.58 K/9) but he kept the ball on the ground at a 52.8% rate and slaved two free passes per nine off his walk rate (down to 3.01 BB/9). Wade’s results no doubt played up in part because of Milwaukee’s run prevention system, but estimators like FIP- (87) and DRA- (92) agree that he turned in above-average work in 2018.

Miley was also terrific in the playoffs, allowing only two earned runs across 10.0 innings against the Rockies and Dodgers. Miley turns 32 this winter and after the season he turned in, this may be the best chance he’ll ever have to score a multiyear deal in free agency. His name has already been mentioned as a possibility for the Yankees, probably due to his newfound ability to suppress home runs (0.33 HR/9). The Brewer don’t seem likely to be interested in offering multiple years to Miley given their other pitching depth, but if his price falls a reunion may be possible.

LHP Gio Gonzalez

Gio struggled his way through most of the season with Washington, posting a 4.57 ERA in 27 starts and 145.2 innings through the end of August. But the Brewers, desperate for pitching depth, made a trade for him when he was the last option left on the waiver market and the lefty was revitalized upon getting injected into the pennant race. Gonzalez delivered five starts with a 2.13 ERA across 25.1 innings, striking out 22 and walking 10. Milwaukee won all five of the games he appeared in.

Gio allowed two runs in 3.0 innings during two playoff appearances before going down with a high ankle sprain in the NLCS. The injury shouldn’t impact his availability for next season, though, and he’ll now get his first ever crack at free agency at age 33. Gonzalez was one of the top left-handers in the game for close to a decade, and though his walk rate has crept in recent years, he’s still skilled at suppressing hard contact (31.7% in 2018) and limiting home runs (0.89 HR/9). His market will probably be limited to short-term deals, and ERA- (103), FIP- (102), and DRA- (93) thought his overall work in 2018 was pretty solid. Gonalez probably won’t be Milwaukee’s first choice this offseason, but a return to the Menomonee Valley for 2019 on a cheap, one-year deal could be a possibility if he’s still sitting out there later in the winter.

OF Curtis Granderson

The Brewers picked up Granderson in late August to serve as a left-handed bat off the bench for their pennant chase, and he served in the role quite well. He hit .220/.407/.439 with a pair of homers in 54 plate appearances for Milwaukee, and Grandy posted a season-long .242/.351/.431 slash (116 wRC+) with 13 dingers in 403 total PA with the Blue Jays and Brewers.

Curtis will turn 38 next spring and while his bat has remained productive, he’s become a liability in the outfield and isn’t a great fit for the Brewerrs going forward. It took until late in the winter for Granderson to find a job last offseason and it doesn’t sound as though he’s expecting his market to be much stronger this winter. Granderson is best suited for DH duty at this point, and if he doesn’t receive any big league contract offers in the coming months, he may well be ready to close the curtains on an impressive fifteen-year career.

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus

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