That kind of investment combined with finalizing deals for their arbitration-eligible players figured to push the Brewers up to (or past) their publicly-stated budget of about $110 million. But it turns out David Stearns may not be done slinging just yet.
In Ken Rosenthal’s latest for The Athletic (subscription required), he says the Brewers’ next move could be trying to clear some salary to make a push for a familiar face — left-handed starter Wade Miley.
It comes off as mostly speculation, albeit possibly an educated guess. The Brewers have said since the start of the offseason that they would be open to a reunion for Miley, who surprisingly became their staff ace in the second half of 2018 and was one of the few starting pitchers the team actually trusted in the playoffs (the one batter switcheroo in LA notwithstanding). The assumption was just always that Miley would be able to land a nice multi-year contract out of that performance.
But that market has never really materialized, and now that we’re a month from pitchers and catchers reporting to camp, the opportunity might be there for Stearns to swoop in with yet another short-term prove-it deal for a free agent who’s been disappointed with his offers. Last week, Rosenthal tweeted that Miley looks as sharp as ever:
From a scout who recently saw free-agent LHP Wade Miley throw a bullpen: “He hasn’t changed since the post season. Every pitch was down with plus command of FB, CH, CB and cutter. He’s in great shape and clearly on a mission.”
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 10, 2019
In order for Stearns to do that, though, he would still likely be asked to cut salary elsewhere. Rosenthal mentions Eric Thames (due $6 million this year and a $1 million buyout next year) and Matt Albers (due $2.5 million after a disappointing 2018) as the likely trade targets, which makes sense considering they’re two of the higher-paid players left on the roster who don’t have clear roles for 2019.
The return for either likely wouldn’t be great considering their limitations and the slew of similar players possibly available for less on the free agent market, but moving them would likely free up the money in the budget to sign Miley, or, as Rosenthal also speculates, another infielder.
The search for a second baseman isn’t quite over, even with Cory Spangenberg in the team’s back pocket as an insurance policy. Rosenthal mentions San Francisco’s Joe Panik as a possible trade candidate, and again brings up the possibility of a reunion with Mike Moustakas if his free agent market doesn’t materialize. However, it’s possible Moustakas gets more offers once Manny Machado and/or Bryce Harper signs, as teams try to improve their lineups with secondary (and lower-cost) pieces.
While the Brewers have plenty of young arms to compete for a rotation spot even without Miley in the mix, there’s no doubt bringing him back would help add some certainty to an otherwise unproven mix. Even if his numbers don’t end up being as good as they were last season — he’s a pretty clear regression candidate, even if he has truly found something this late in his career — it would be easier to know what to expect from the Brewers’ group of initial out-getters if the team could pair him with Jhoulys Chacin.