Bullpen Depth, Catcher Top Brewers’ Wish List As MLB Winter Meetings Get Underway

Major League Baseball’s annual winter meetings are officially underway in sunny San Diego and there’s already been two big blockbusters with Justin Verlander signing a two-year, $86 million deal with the New York Mets and the Phillies working out an 11-year, $300 million deal with shortstop Trea Turner.

The biggest prize on the free-agent market, outfielder Aaron Judge, has yet to work out a new deal and while the chances of him landing in Milwaukee are about as slim as a rainout at American Family Field, Brewers president of baseball operations Matt Arnold will still be pretty busy over the next couple days as he looks to shore up a roster that missed the playoffs for the first time in four seasons in 2022.

Help Wanted

With a core largely in place, Arnold doesn’t have too much on his to-do list but the items he does need to check off before now and the start of spring training are pretty important.

  • Bullpen: After declining Brad Boxberger’s team option, placing Brent Suter on waivers, choosing to non-tender Trevor Gott, Handel Gustave and Luis Perdomo and Taylor Rogers hitting free agency, the Brewers lost a combined 251 innings from its bullpen group last season. Arnold took steps to cover those frames when he traded outfielder Hunter Renfroe to the Angels for three young pitchers last month and also has signed free agent right-hander Tobias Myers but more help will be needed.
  • catchers: The Brewers currently have three catchers on their 30-man roster but only one of them, Victor Caratini, has any kind of significant big-league experience. Acquired on the eve of Opening Day after Pedro Severino was suspended for violating MLB’s substance abuse policy, the veteran Caratini was a reliable backup behind Omar Narvaez but slashed just .199/.300/.342 with 9 home runs and a .642 OPS in 314 plate appearances. Feliciano is 24 and a talented prospect who is Milwaukee’s catcher of the future but has only three big league appearances under his belt and would be best-served getting either regular action in the minors while Henry, 25, is back with the organization that drafted him and developed into a top prospect but dealt him to Miami at the deadline in 2021 for John Curtiss thanks to a December trade with the Marlins. Milwaukee’s catchers combined for a paltry 2.4 WAR last season, with nearly half of that coming from Narvaez who could return as a feee agent if other options fail.
  • Depth: Offense has been an issue for the last several seasons and Arnold took a big step toward addressing that need when he traded second baseman Kolten Wong to the Mariners last week for left-handed slugger Jesse Winker. Winker figures to slot in to the DH role but could also provide some outfield relief but depth has been the Brewers’ strength of late and with Jace Peterson currently a free agent, finding a jack-of-all-trades kind of utility player is probably high on Arnold’s wish list.

Money Matters

According to Spotrac.com’s payroll numbersthe Brewers have committed just over $46 million to seven players for 2023 with 11 players in line to receive somewhere in the neighborhood of $60 million following arbitration and approximately another $8 million due to a handful of pre-arbitration players.

Put it together and Milwaukee’s payroll stands at about $115 million, more than $22 million below the franchise record $137 million the Brewers spent last season. That should leave plenty of room for Arnold to bolster his roster.

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