The Milwaukee Brewers are in one of the most important times in franchise history. Prince Fielder is just two seasons away from hitting free agency, which has turned the organization into a "win now" mindset. With the team looking for immediate help, the one way to accomplish this goal is to improve the team. While it has been a busy offseason in Milwaukee, whether the team is any better is up for debate.
One of the most important stats to look at when determining the value of a players is WAR. WAR stands for Wins Above Replacement, which tracks a player's value to a team over a certain season to the production of a replacement level player. In a nut shell, replacement level is what an average AAA callup could produce if they are given everyday playing time in the major leagues.
Finish 80-82 last season was certainly not how the Milwaukee Brewers wanted to respond after their first playoff appearance in 26 years. Sure the departure of C.C. Sabathia and Ben Sheets hurt, but with one of the most potent offenses in baseball returning, the Brewers had a chance. The offense lived up to expectations all season. Combined in 2009, Milwaukee Brewers position players posted a 25.8 WAR (good for 2nd in the NL and 6th in MLB). Problem is, the pitching also lived up to what many feared. As a staff, Milwaukee Brewers' pitchers were just 3.0 WAR. For a reference point, that was good for last in all of baseball.
After the terrible pitching display shown all season in Milwaukee, it would only make sense the club labeled it their top priority this offseason. The Brewers went out and landed both Randy Wolf and Doug Davis to help limit the damage. With the Brewers being on a limited budget, to acquire these players, others had to go. Doug Melvin found his solution by trading J.J. Hardy to Minnesota in exchange for CF Carlos Gomez(saving the club around $4 million). With the addition of Gomez, the Brewers decided to not renew the contract of Mike Cameron (saving around $9 million). So basically, the starting pitching was address at the expense of two important positional players. Sure the pitching improved, but what about the team?
Looking at the additions/subtractions from this offseason, based on their 2009 season is alarming.
Additions- Randy Wolf (3.0), Gregg Zaun (1.8), Doug Davis (1.7), Carlos Gomez (0.7) and Latroy Hawkins (0.3)
TOTAL in 2009- 7.5 WAR
Subtractions- Felipe Lopez (4.6), Mike Cameron (4.3), J.J. Hardy (1.4), Jason Kendall (1.2), Mark DiFelice (0.4) and Braden Looper (-0.9)
TOTAL in 2009- 11 WAR
Based on their 2009 numbers, the Brewers team WAR has been reduced by 3.5 with these moves. Seeing as this was just one season, this doesn't give an accurate assessment of what the Brewers have lost/gained this offseason. Alcides Escobar will be playing everyday and is not considered an addition. While I am reluctant on how much Escobar can produce, he will provide value to the team next season. Also, after giving Carlos Gomez the everyday job in CF, he will likely outproduce his 2009 WAR. He is only 24 years old and playing everyday could develop him into a productive player.
One of the main question marks is Rickie Weeks. Weeks has always been a good player (many will tell you otherwise), but he is coming off an injury. After a hot start in 2009, Weeks racked up a 1.5 WAR after just 37 games. Expand that start into a full season and Weeks' WAR of around 6.0 easily helps cushion the blow of losing Felipe Lopez. Now I'm not saying that Weeks can produce that kind of 2010, but even more pressure will be put on him. Rather than being a good player in a potent lineup, Weeks will now need to be a major contributor.
After the Doug Davis signing, the Milwaukee Brewers 2010 club seems to be set. The pitching has certainly taken a step forward, but it came at the expense of some very productive position players. Sure the club is more balanced now, but are they actually better?