The Brewers suffered two major losses via trade in the offseason, the first move coming on November 18 when closer Francisco Rodriguez was dealt to Detroit. Rodriguez was quite good for Milwaukee in 2015, posting a 2.21 ERA against a 2.91 FIP, and a career-high 5.64 K/BB rate over 57.0 innings. The aforementioned Corey Knebel is slotted to take over the closer role in Milwaukee for 2016 after posting a 3.22 ERA in 50.1 innings in 2015. Next to leave was Luis Sardinas, who performed relatively poorly in a backup role for the 2015 Brewers. The last two trades involved first basemen, with the Brewers sending Adam Lind to the Seattle Mariners for a trio of teenaged pitching prospects, and backup Jason Rogers was sent to Pittsburgh. Both players were valuable offensive assets in 2015, with Lind hitting 20 homers and driving in 87 runs to the tune of a .277/.360/.460 slash line while playing above-average defense, saving five runs defensively at first base. Rogers batted .296/.367/.441 in 169 PA, but those numbers were propped up by an unsustainable .360 BABIP, so Pirates fans shouldn’t expect that kind of performance to be maintained.
The biggest free-agent departure of the offseason was outfielder Logan Schafer, who appeared in 69 games as a backup, hitting .221/.291/.311 in 143 PAs. Schaefer’s career slash line of .212/.286/.319 doesn’t inspire much confidence in his future offensive output, but his defense has been solid, accumulating 11 DRS in just over 1,250 innings in the outfield. In addition to Schaefer, catchers Nevin Ashley and Juan Centeno, utility man Elian Herrera and pitcher Johnny Hellweg signed deals elsewhere. However, none of these men contributed much to the team in 2015 and likely won’t be missed. Other minor losses include minor leaguers Cy Sneed, Michael Strong, and Daniel Fields. Strong accumulated a 3.82 ERA in Double-A and Triple-A in 2015, but posted a meager 1.97 K/BB rate in his 66.0 innings of work. Fields is a career .244/.329/.370 minor-league hitter, but racked up a concerning 27.8% strikeout rate at Triple-A Toledo in 2015. Sneed had an impressive 2.58 ERA in 139.1 innings between Single-A and A-Advanced in 2015, along with a solid 4,36 K/BB rate. However, at age 23, Sneed will have to show his abilities at a higher level very soon in order to make himself any time of legitimate prospect.
Worth noting is the potential trades of starts Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun in the remaining two months before the season begins. Should the Brewers part ways with either one of their remaining All-Star caliber offensive pieces, a fair return of prospects or young major-league talent should be demanded in order to fuel the current rebuilding process. If the return isn’t right, the Brewers might be better off hanging on to both players. Lucroy is under contract through 2017 with a 2018 team option, while Braun is signed through 2020. With any luck, the Brewers might be able to compete for a playoff spot before either player could leave in free agency. However, achieving that goal would require excellent scouting and development in the meantime.