What have the Milwaukee Brewers done this offseason?
To an outsider looking in, it's easy to say, "not much." The Brewers went into the offseason knowing they weren't going to be big spenders in free agency, and after some ill-informed rumors regarding big-name players like Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke passed, many began to wonder if the Brewers were going to add anyone.
Slowly but steadily, however, Milwaukee has acquired several new pitchers that are going to help bring this team back into contention.
The Brewers didn't need Josh Hamilton. Many believed (myself included) that the addition of Hamilton would have been great, but with the Brew Crew's offense already one of the best in baseball, the addition of another outfielder (an area of great depth for Milwaukee) seemed unnecessary.
Reacquiring Greinke would have made sense, but in the end, he ended up being far out of the Brewers' price range.
And quite thankfully, the Brewers didn't let themselves get sucked into any overly expensive mid-tier pitchers like Ryan Dempster or Kyle Lohse.
Instead, they added a few proven pitchers that are going to reverse the league's worst bullpen from last season.
Ostensibly, John Axford, Jim Henderson and Brandon Kintzler are the only Brewers returning to the bullpen this season. All three are high-power pitchers with a ton of potential, and Axford will be looking to carry his second-half momentum from last season into another complete season like he had in 2011.
The Brewers cut ties with Kameron Loe, Jose Veras, Manny Parra and Francisco Rodriguez, all of whom were poor performers with Milwaukee last season. They had work to do.
Some names they've added this offseason? Most notably, Burke Badenhop, Tom Gorzelanny, Michael Gonzalez, Michael Olmsted and Kelvim Escobar. They'll also benefit from the maturation of young arms in the system like Wily Peralta, Tyler Thornburg and Mark Rogers, as well as the return of lefty starter/long-reliever Chris Narveson.
Lots of names. All of them under the radar, and all of them an improvement in some way.
Gorzelanny is perhaps the biggest name on that list. Converted from a starter to a reliever last season with the Washington Nationals, Gorzy shined in a big way, pitching in 72.0 innings, raking up a fantastic 2.88 ERA, 62 strikeouts and a K/BB ratio of 3.8, proving the lefty has strong command. He may compete for a spot on the starting rotation, but will likely hold the job as a long reliever, much like last season with Washington.
Badenhop is a sinker-baller and essentially a carbon copy of Loe, though much more effective. He'll be good for 60 to 70 innings of low-3.00 ERA pitching. Like Gorzelanny, Badenhop had one of the best seasons of his career last season as well. He had a 3.03 ERA in 62.1 innings to go along with 42 strikeouts and a K/BB ratio of 3.50.
Michael Gonzalez is the lefty specialist that the Brewers haven't had in years, posting outstanding numbers across the board, but especially against left-handers. A pitcher with a strong scouting report, highlighted by a good mid-90s fastball with great tailing action and the ability to strikeout batters. Gonzalez pitched in 35.2 innings last season, struck out 39 and posted a 3.03 ERA, most of his finest work coming against lefties.
The other two names—Olmsted and Escobar—will likely not make the opening-day roster, but could prove to be high-impact signings that came at a bargain.
Olmsted had a positively outstanding season with the Boston Red Sox organization last season. Between High-A and Double-A, Olmsted pitched to a 1.52 ERA in 59.1 innings while striking out 92, resulting in a ridiculous K/9 of 14.0. He has a career minor league ERA of 1.96 and an 11.9 K/9. Olmsted can reach triple digits with his fastball and was an absolute steal for the Brewers organization.
The very recent addition of Escobar is an interesting one—prior to being derailed by injuries, Escobar was a very good pitcher in the majors, proving to be a capable starter and reliever. His career numbers are very intriguing...in the major leagues, Escobar has a career ERA of 4.15, has appeared in 411 games, 202 of which have been starts, has a career K/9 of 7.8 and a record of 101-91.
He hasn't pitched in the majors since 2009, but he's had strong recent outings in various other leagues, and major league scouts have clocked his fastball in the mid-90s. Several other teams were looking into Escobar, but the Brewers got him to sign to a minor league deal, and it could pay off big time in the long run.
Guys like Escobar and Olmsted are going to be fun to watch in spring training. If they bring their best cards to the table, they could be looking at spots on Milwaukee's roster.
All of these moves have been relatively overlooked by the baseball community. But when you add them up, as well as the farm talent and the already-potent offense, the Brewers are in for a fun season.
Dead weight in the pen has been cut, and the Brewers now have two new lefties to lean on in Gorzelanny and Gonzalez. They have a ton of options, and several low-risk, high-reward contracts to experiment with.
In short, the Brewers' quiet offseason may prove to be one of the best in the majors by the time the playoffs roll around.