When Francisco Rodriguez accepted the Brewer’s arbitration offer, the hope of retaining their All-Star first baseman Prince Fielder went from small to practically gone. While losing Fielder obviously hurts, fans should still be optimistic about the Brewer’s chances to repeat as division champions in 2012.
The defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals took an even bigger hit when Albert Pujols signed with the Angels. The Cincinnati Reds have an inconsistent pitching staff and the Pirates and Cubs are probably a few years away from truly competing. Then there is also the Houston Astros who were the only team to lose 100 games in 2011.
So as much as it stings losing Fielder, the NL Central is still Milwaukee’s for the taking.
The following reasons are why the Brewers should be the favorites to win the NL Central.
Now that Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder will be out of the NL Central, the best player in the division is by far reigning MVP Ryan Braun. The Reds' Joey Votto is the only other player that can even make a case, but there is no doubt that Braun is the guy.
The 28-year-old Braun is coming off an MVP season in which he hit .332 with 33 home runs and 111 RBI. Next year Braun will be the clear-cut leader of his team, so expect the slugger to be in position for another MVP.
Not only do the Brewers have the best player in their division, but they also have arguably the best closer in John Axford. Axford had 46 saves in 48 chances for the Brew Crew in 2011, and posted a tremendous 1.95 ERA.
If the team also hangs on to Francisco Rodriguez then their bullpen will be even that much stronger. Rodriguez previously complained about his new role as a setup man, but at least it did not affect his numbers. K-Rod had a 1.86 ERA in 31 appearances with the Brewers, including 16 straight scoreless outings to end the regular season.
While $13 million is way too much to give Rodriguez, if he ends up remaining with the team then Milwaukee might have the best one-two punch at the back of the bullpen in all of baseball.
When a team loses a star like Prince Fielder it usually means that their offense is going to suffer big time.
However, the Milwaukee Brewers are one of those rare cases where they won't suffer a tremendous loss after losing a key player. Ryan Braun and Fielder were not the only ones to have monster seasons for Milwaukee.
Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks had career years in 2011 as they both hit 20 home runs or more. Nyjer Morgan is a guy that a lot of teams would love to have at the top of their lineup. The addition of Alex Gonzalez will also provide the Brewers with nice pop at the shortstop position, and who knows, maybe they will land Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez.
Even if they don’t sign Ramirez, look for Casey McGehee to have a bounce-back season with the Brew Crew.
For years the Brewers have been in need of a strong pitching staff to complement their great lineup.
Now that they have a dynamic rotation with Zach Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, Shaun Marcum and even Randy Wolf, means that the Brewers will consistently be in the playoff hunt for years to come.
Gallardo went 17-10 with an ERA of 3.52, while Greinke was a terrific 16-6. The St. Louis Cardinals might have a better one-two punch at the front of their rotation in Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, but there are not many staffs as consistent and well-rounded as the Brewers.
Ron Roenicke was a hire that Brewers general manager Doug Melvin got some grief for, but it could not have worked out any better.
If it was not for Kirk Gibson and the even more-surprising Arizona Diamondbacks then the National League Manager of the Year would have gone to Roenicke by a landslide.
In just his first season as the Brewers manager Roenicke notched a franchise-high 96 regular-season wins, and not only made it to the playoffs, but won a postseason series for the first time in 29 years. Fans should feel very confident with Roenicke at the Brewers helm.