The Milwaukee Brewers' 2012 season is shaping up to be another unsuccessful one. Their record is at a half-decent 69-71, but good only for fourth-best in the tough National League Central. Some roster moves will certainly be needed to jump over the Pirates and Cardinals to get to the top of the division.
No area of the team is safe this offseason; the pitching ranked 13th in the NL in ERA while the team's batters could use a tweak or two. Let's get into what moves Milwaukee has to make to be a playoff team next season.
Nyjer Morgan's game has been based on speed and scrappiness for his entire career. At the age of 31, you wonder just how much he has left in the tank.
He currently has the least amount of stolen bases he's had in a season since 2008, to go with a new career-low in OBP. His offensive numbers are down all across the board, and to make matters worse, he's taking his offensive struggles into the field. According to FanGraphs, his UZR is down to 3.1 this year, a new career-worst aside from 2010.
Tony Plush has been the heart of the Brewers two seasons now, but his run appears to be over. Milwaukee will need to kick Morgan to the curb in order to have any shot at the postseason in 2013.
Who better to fill Morgan's role than a younger, better version of the outfielder? Michael Bourn will be a free agent this winter and seems to fit the bill.
Bourn—currently an Atlanta Brave—is leading the league in stolen bases with 39. He's currently batting about 10 points higher than his career average of .274, and the top-of-the-order bat has already has set a new career-high in RBI with 56.
Contrary to Morgan, Bourn's UZR is at a career-best 21. His WAR is also the highest it's been in the speedy center fielder's seven year career, at 6.3.
Bourn will likely have many suitors this offseason—and likely won't come cheap—but he is a piece to the puzzle that Milwaukee will be best off adding if they hope to return to the playoffs next year.
The Brewers just couldn't find the right option to close out games in 2012.
John Axford started the season in the role, but through mid-July sported a bloated ERA of 5.35. He saved 16 games during that time but also blew six opportunities.
Former All-Star Francisco Rodriguez was then called upon to close games for the Brew Crew, but with horrid results. Axford returned into the closer role by August, only to show minimal improvement.
During his most recent stretch as the team's closer, he's pitched to an ERA of 3.52. His walk total has already exceeded his number from 2011, and club is facing its first chance to dump the 29-year-old Canadian reliever this winter. Expect Milwaukee to cut both Axford and K-Rod from the fold, and go to war with a revamped bullpen in 2013.
Jonathan Broxton should be the man closing out victories at Miller Park in 2013.
In 35 games as a Kansas City Royal before this year's trade deadline, Broxton saved 25 games for the lowly Royals before being dealt to Cincinnati as Aroldis Chapman's new set-up man.
Broxton is currently playing on a one-year deal, and will hit the open market again this offseason. His ERA with KC was a clean 2.27 and he walked only 14 in 35.2 innings.
With the Reds, Broxton has taken on a different role, but with similar success. He's tacked two wins onto his record, and has struck out 10 in 12.2 innings pitched. His ERA is a bit high at 3.55, but his WHIP is down from 1.402 with Kansas City to 1.184 with the Reds. Go figure.
Broxton didn't see many attractive offers thrown his way last winter, but on the heels of his 2012 performance, this offseason will likely turn out to be much different for the hefty 28-year-old hurler. The Brewers cannot miss out on this golden opportunity to add a gem to the back of their rotation before next year.
After 2012, Carlos Gomez is arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career. Expect the Milwaukee Brewers to ship Gomez elsewhere if Scott Boras gets greedy after his client's improved 2012 season.
Gomez displays extraordinary speed; there's no question about that. He's one off his career-mark of the 33 stolen bases he amassed as a Minnesota Twin in 2008. He's also batting as well as he has since that '08 campaign at .251. He's already slugged eight more home runs than he has in any of his prior seasons.
The fact remains, however, that Gomez does not get on base enough to be a factor in a lineup.
In 2012, Gomez's OBP is at a disappointing .298. What's more disappointing though, is that mark is the highest of his six-year career. Gomez possesses more than enough speed to be a top-of-the-order mainstay, but his lackluster ability to get on first base destroys his value.
He may be putting up his best numbers since becoming a Brewer, but that doesn't necessarily mean Milwaukee should bring him back.
What's also disappointing about Gomez's 2012 is that his blazing speed isn't translating into stellar defense. His UZR is at an all-time low 1.0. It's tough to defend that sort of mediocrity in the field at such an important position with such quick feet.
There was a time when Chicago White Sox pitcher Francisco Liriano was supposed to be the next Johan Santana. Those expectations were clearly well over Liriano's head, but the 28-year-old southpaw has grown to be a dependable starter in his own right.
Liriano will be a free agent for the first time come November, and there will be a few teams calling for his services after a 2012 season that's shown some bright spots.
The numbers aren't pretty—he's gone 5-11 this year (partly a result of pitching for the cellar-dwellar Twins) with an ERA over five—but Liriano has struck out 151 in 140.2 innings this season.
He looked decent enough with Minnesota to draw interest at the trade deadline, and ultimately ending up with the division-leading White Sox as they gear up for a pennant race. With a no-hitter already to his name, he's shown that he can be the dominant pitcher a playoff team needs.
Liriano—at the right price—would be an excellent name to throw into the Brewers rotation for 2013 and beyond.
Rickie Weeks is about to finish up his ninth season with the Milwaukee Brewers, and if the club knows what's best for it, they'll do their best to cut Weeks loose this winter.
It won't be easy, as he's due to make $21 million over the next two years—a steep price to pay for a .227 hitter with 52 RBIs and 152 strikeouts.
Weeks has shown a flash or two of decent ball—he even made an All-Star team in 2011—but most of his nine Milwaukee seasons just haven't been acceptable.
He's never been a slick-fielding second baseman by any means, but this season has been the last straw as far as defense goes. His UZR is an atrocious minus-17.4, by far the worst of his career.
It will be difficult to find any takers due to Weeks' inflated salary, but we've learned time and time again that nobody is ever untradeable.
2013 will be the last year of David Wright's deal with the New York Mets, and if they're not in contention with the Braves and Nationals for first in the East by mid-season, expect New York General Manager Sandy Alderson to find a winning home for Flushing's golden boy.
Aramis Ramirez currently mans the hot corner in Milwaukee, but if the "For Sale" sign is hung around Wright's neck next season, it's no-holds-barred for Doug Melvin and the Brewers.
Brewers fans must be watering at the mouth at the thought of a lineup that includes Ryan Braun and David Wright—and their nearly 400 combined home runs, 1,400 RBI, and 280 stolen bases.
Wright picked a good year to put up his best-ever numbers in 2012. League-wide interest will undoubtedly be booming through the next calendar year if Wright isn't locked up long-term in New York, especially after a first half that had him in the MVP race, hitting up over .340 for months.
Melvin will need to break open the checkbook for Wright (CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman has speculated that Wright will be looking for around eight years and $160 million in his new deal), but a Wright-Braun duo would be the closest Milwaukee may get to recreating their Braun-Prince Fielder combo of the late 2000s—and their highest-profile pick-up since they acquired CC Sabathia in 2008 from Cleveland.
Making David Wright a Milwaukee Brewer for the rest of his career would likely be just the beginning of a World Series tradition in Milwaukee.