Ryan Braun is a constant in Milwaukee.
That being said, TPR is still very bullish on the Brewers even if they do nothing to address the hole they have at first base. Naturally, that is not the only hole the Brewers have on the team.
They had more free agents than just about any team and they haven't retained a single one to date. That's because they quietly have built a solid farm system that will fill some of those holes. Still, they would like to address some needs this week.
If Fielder does in fact leave, they will have some wiggle room in free agency.
Jonathan Lucroy has become a solid backstop, so most of the issues reside on the actual infield. Rickie Weeks will be back and stands as the last regular left. He had a very good campaign last season if you take away the several weeks he missed. The rest of the infield is unsettled to say the least.
Mat Gamel is penciled in at first for the moment. He has a solid hitting pedigree in the minors, but has virtually no experience at the big league level.
Meanwhile, the club has the shortstop situation to address. Yuniesky Betancourt came on late last season, but if you chart his performance over the last several seasons, you'll agree that he should be allowed to go.
Casey McGehee was brutal last year at the plate, but he did produce solid numbers in 2010. Many believe they will try to replace him from within the organization. Youngster Taylor Green would be that guy, but he is also unproven. So, the entire infield is something worth watching this week.
The outfield is the strength of the club in more ways than one. For one, all three positions are manned by positive impact defenders. More importantly, all three were positions of strength on the offensive end. Doug Melvin extended Ryan Braun through the apocalypse, and it worked in the short term. Braun deserved to be second in the MVP voting, but he won the award on the strength of a 30/30 campaign.
Nyjer Morgan and Carlos Gomez shared time in center field. Both were Gold Glove quality defenders, but neither won the award because they shared the time. Morgan won the job last season because he hit above his head. Having both is a luxury given that neither has ever given anyone extended solid offense.
Corey Hart struggled at the beginning of the season, but picked things up when he was moved to the leadoff spot. If Fielder is gone, he will almost certainly be moved down in the order. Hopefully, he will continue to hit for their sake.
The combination of Zack Greinke and Yovani Gallardo will keep the Brewers in contention. Randy Wolf and Shaun Marcum were also very good last year. Marcum and Greinke were added in the offseason last year, and they both could be said to have given the Brewers the push they needed for the division title.
Chris Narveson is the fifth starter. While he was slightly below average, that is typically better than what most teams get from their fifth starter. Therefore, the Brewers will not be looking for help in their rotation.
John Axford is back, and he was one of the best closers in the game. The rest of the bullpen is headed out the door. In all seriousness, Kameron Loe and Marco Estrada are back from solid campaigns, but the rest of the bullpen is inexperienced. At least the rest of the returning bullpen is inexperienced.
The Brewers are set to lose Francisco Rodriguez, Latroy Hawkins and Takayashi Saito to free agency. KRod is as good as gone, but they may be able to coax the other two to return. If that happens, they will have one of the better bullpens in the National League. It also might be enough to eclipse the Cardinals for the Central division crown.
Winter Meetings Win
The Brewers fans are reeling from the likely loss of Prince Fielder, but it isn't as big a loss as they think. Offensively, they will still be okay as long as they get better offense out of the third base and shortstop position. With money in hand, it is possible they could plug a notable free agent in one or two of those holes. If they do that they will be right back where they were last season.