Club could sign free agents to fill positions, or go with internal candidates
By Carrie Muskat and Adam McCalvy
BOCA RATON, Fla. -- The Brewers are open to external solutions for their two most unsettled positions, third base and center field, general manager David Stearns suggested Wednesday from the annual General Managers Meetings.
Since they are in the beginning stages of an organizational rebuild, the Brewers are not expected to be players for the top tier of free agents. But that does not completely rule them out of free agency at third base, where the top internal candidates are utility man Elian Herrera and shortstop prospect Yadiel Rivera, or center field, where the only internal candidate is a player more suited for a corner spot, Domingo Santana.
"We gave him a shot in center field last year and I think he proved that he can do it if we need him to do it," said Stearns of Santana. "He is probably best suited for a corner, but he does provide us an option if we chose to go that way."
Stearns knows Santana well, since both came to the Brewers from the Astros. Stearns, the former assistant GM with the Astros, was intimately involved in the six-player trade that sent Santana, center-field prospect Brett Phillips and pitchers Josh Hader and Adrian Houser from Houston to Milwaukee for Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers.
Will the Brewers consider any internal options besides Santana?
"At this point, probably not for a regular center-field perspective" Stearns said.
At third base, the Brewers face both a short-term and long-term need after ranking 26th of 30 Major League teams with a .682 OPS at the position in 2015. They traded Aramis Ramirez in July and removed Hernan Perez from the 40-man roster last week, making him a free agent. That leaves Herrera as the only in-house option who started more than four games at third base last season.
Herrera set a career high with seven home runs (he entered the season with one homer over parts of three Major League seasons) but finished with a .242/.290/.395 slash line. Rivera, a slick-fielding shortstop, owns a .244/.289/.349 slash line over six Minor League seasons.
"Obviously, it's a position that we probably need to get more production out of going forward," Stearns said. "There's a chance those guys could take a step up in production, and we're certainly also going to look for external options."