It wasn't that long ago the Milwaukee Brewers won 96 games, and the NL Central. The 2011 team featured one of the most dangerous one-two punches in baseball in Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, and a former Cy Young winner in his prime in Zack Greinke. After putting all their eggs in the 2011 basket, only to see them scrambled by the stupid Cardinals, the last two seasons have been pretty rough for the Beermakers and their fans. The face of the franchise was suspended, then acquitted, then suspended again for PED usage, their all-star second baseman has tumbled below replacement level and lost his job to a guy named Scooter, and perhaps worst of all, they brought Yuniesky Betancourt back for a second time, only to see him put up the worst season in his comically terrible career.
The Brewers really only made three moves of note this offseason; signing Matt Garza to a 4-year/$50 million contract, trading Norichika Aoki to the Royals for relief pitcher Will Smith, and finding an adorable dog. The Matt Garza signing seemed a little strange at first glance. But the Brewers have to spend money on something, $12.5 million AAV isn't terrible in this market for a pitcher of Garza's caliber, and at least he didn't cost a draft pick. As an added bonus, every once in a while he does this:
Outfielder Khris Davis had a breakout season in 2013, slugging .596 with 11 home runs in 56 games, allowing the Brewers to move Aoki to Kansas City. In return they received the 24 year-old southpaw, Smith, who looked mighty impressive (11.6 K/9, 6.14 K/BB) after moving to the pen in KC. He'll join Jim Henderson and Brandon Kintzler at the back end of a pretty underrated Milwaukee bullpen. Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds were signed to form one of the saddest first base platoons in history.
As was previously mentioned, Aoki is in Kansas City, and Yunieski Betancourt is taking his talents to Japan. The Brewers lost Corey Hart, who spent 9 years with the team, and El Niño Destructor was recently cut, to make room for the aforementioned 1B platoon. Also gone are veteran bullpenner Mike Gonzalez, and poor poor Mat Gamel.
It's going to be the Ryan Braun circus any time the Brewers hit the road next season. There will be booing, dumb signs, and all the faux outrage you can handle at a baseball game. ZIPS projects Braun to return to his MVP caliber self, slashing .300/.367/.540 with 33 HR and 22 SB. If the 30-year old Braun can put up those kind of numbers, the Brewers will probably be competitive. But it's tough to predict how much of an effect, if at all, PEDs had on Braun's performance.
The other big storyline for the Brewers will be the youngsters from last season trying to avoid the sophomore slump. Jean Segura finished 4th out of qualified MLB shortstops in wRC+ last season, while stealing 44 bases and playing pretty solid defense. Khris Davis, though never being a top prospect, had a .506 career SLG in the minors, so the power he showed last year isn't too hard to believe.
Carlos Gomez CF
Jean Segura SS
Ryan Braun RF
Khris Davis LF
Lyle Overbay 1B
Jim Henderson (CL)
My guess is the Brewers hover around .500 this season, but this is a team that if everything breaks right could compete for a Wild Card spot. There is enough talent on offense with Carlos Gomez, Aramis Ramirez, and Jonathan Lucroy in addition to Braun, Davis, and Segura that the team should score some runs. And if you squint a little bit, the rotation looks serviceable enough, while the bullpen has four potentially above average arms in Hederson, Smith, Kintzler and Francisco Rodriguez.