Who Should the Brewers Target in Free Agency? Part I – Commentary

The baseball season is officially over and as of Tuesday free agency has begun. The question now is: who will the Brewers go after in free agency?

The Brewers are an interesting team when it comes to free agency this year. They already have $80 million tied up in current contracts, but they could be only a couple of solid players away from competing for a playoff spot.

If the Brewers look to improve through free agency, they should addres first base.

The list of players below shows free agents that make sense for the Brewers to try and sign for a possible playoff push next season.

Corey Hart: The best option for the Brewers would be to retain Hart. He wants to stay and is willing to take a discounted contract. Hart missed the 2013 season dealing with knee injuries, but looks healthy and ready for 2014. While he is not a sure thing, even if Hart returns to be even 80 percent of the player he was before injuries you can mark him down for 20 home runs and 70 runs batted in. Hart would provide protection for Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez in the heart of the Brewers batting​order. If the Brewers want to go in a different direction there are plenty of other options at first base.

James Loney: After a career resurgence with the Tampa Bay Rays, Loney is a free agent once again. In 2013, Loney posted a .299 batting average, with 164 hits and 75 RBI’s. It’s hard to believe that Loney can replicate those numbers again, but he is only 29, and will come at a cheaper price than many other first base options. Loney will also be seeking a one-year deal, leaving little risk if the Brewers do decide to pursue him. While he may not fit the typical Brewers format of offense, hitting home runs and stealing bases, Loney will bring his solid defense and ability to get on base wherever he ends up.

Justin Morneau: The former Twin’s first basemen and 2006 MVP would be a great signing by the Brewers. Morneau has never been the same since concussions in the 2010 and 2011 seasons that derailed his career. He isn’t the hitter he was in 2006, but he still provides plenty of pop and advanced fielding for the team that signs him. In comparison to Hart, Morneau is a better fielder and is far better at getting on base than Hart. In terms of salary, Morneau would command a very similar contract to Hart, which would be a one to two year deal with salary being around six to eight million for the year.

Mike Morse: Another cheaper, riskier, option for the Brewers to fill their need at first base would be Morse. Morse started off 2013 hot for the Seattle Mariners, hitting eight home runs in the first month of the season, but finished with only 13 on the year, while only driving in 27 runs. Morse was traded to the Baltimore Orioles at the end of the season, but the O’s don’t appear to be interested in retaining him. While his offensive numbers will be a wild card, Morse is only two years removed from hitting .303 with 31 home runs and 95 RBI’s. In my opinion, Morse is worth a flier.

Mark Reynolds: Definitely the most unpredictable of the five options listed, Reynolds is a player that could either push the Brewers over the edge and into the playoffs, or back to fourth place in the National League Central Division. Two things are certain about Reynolds: he hits home runs and he strikes out a lot. He led the league in strikeouts from 2008 to 2011. You may ask what’s the upside to signing Reynolds? Well, he has 30 homerun potential every year. That certainly would be helpful in the middle of the Brewers lineup. Reynolds will also be relatively inexpensive to sign, and would probably only need a one year contract. Reynolds could also fill in at third base in a pinch, giving the Brewers more flexibility. While it’s unlikely, Reynolds seems like a possible fit in Milwaukee.

Check back in next week’s issue for a preview of some of the relief or starting pitchers the Brewers could target to bolster their pitching staff for the 2014 season.

Will Rossmiller

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