This offseason has been slow to start for the Milwaukee Brewers. Aside from a few inconsequential minor-league moves, which only have implications for the bottom rungs of the team’s 40-man roster, David Stearns and company have been eerily quiet. The rest of Major League Baseball, for that matter, has been quiet as well, at least as far as making a major move goes.
Despite this uncharacteristic inactivity from teams across the league, the rumor mill is spinning. The destinations of the two biggest game changers presumed to be moved, Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton, has yet to be determined.
The uncertainty surrounding Ohtani and Stanton has created a gridlock throughout the league. Even though the Brewers are not rumored to be on the forefront for either player, the ripples that these two huge pieces create leaves the team stuck playing the waiting game.
All 30 teams are pitching themselves to Ohtani. No team can offer him more than $3.6 million, and Ohtani’s camp has all but ruled out the importance of money in his decision. In other words, every team has hope. Not only are the Brewers preparing their pitch for the Japanese superstar, in hopes he will pick the beautiful city of Milwaukee, but so are the 29 other clubs. Rather than focusing their attention on what, in a normal offseason, would be free agency and the trade market, teams are left dreaming on Ohtani.
Ohtani’s unique skill set can also completely transform the roster of whichever team he chooses. Teams are going to be reluctant to make a move before Ohtani’s decision due to simple roster dynamics. If Ohtani can be your ace reliever/starting left fielder three or four days a week, then there is no reason to fill those holes before Ohtani makes his much-anticipated decision.
Even if the Brewers were told they had no shot at Ohtani, which they haven’t been told, the gridlock would continue. Free agent pitchers such as Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish would be foolish to sign before the Ohtani decision. Whichever teams lose out will likely immediately turn their attention to frontline free agents such as Arrieta and Darvish. We can assume the Brewers are in serious talks with both Arrieta and Darvish, and yet the gridlock would continue due to the Ohtani factor.
On top of Ohtani’s presence, is what seems to be an inevitable Giancarlo Stanton trade. The four teams rumored to be in on Stanton, the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Boston Red Sox, and St. Louis Cardinals, are some of the largest markets in the league. All four figure to be a big part of the free agent market if they lose out on Stanton.
Stanton’s monstrous contract would deem whichever team acquires him all but finished as far as the free agent market goes. Because these four teams are dreaming on Stanton, they are staying out of free agency until the Miami Marlins finally make a move. By essentially taking these four big-market teams out of free agency until Stanton is moved, free agents are left waiting to see who the losers are so they can join the market.
The Brewers are not exactly in the market for Stanton either. But players that they are in the market for, possibly Darvish or Arrieta, are going to wait to see if big-market teams, such as the Dodgers or Giants, join the hunt for big-name pitchers in lieu of losing out on Stanton.
The Brewers are stuck in the middle. They are no longer rebuilding. They figure to be a major player in this offseasons activity. Despite their position, they are essentially uninvolved with Ohtani and Stanton, which in turn leaves them out of any early activity.
Once these two important dominos fall, the logjam should clear for teams like the Brewers to step in. Free agents don’t normally prefer to go into January, and definitely not February, without a home. Moves are going to be made quickly. Hopefully, a month or two from now, we’ll be looking back on this offseason as one of the most active offseasons in recent Brewer history.
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