Why haven’t the Milwaukee Brewers traded Domingo Santana?

What are the Milwaukee Brewers waiting for?

Now that the Brewers’ logjam is thorough and complete, it has been expected by many that David Stearns would be motivated to move Domingo Santana as the centerpiece of a deal for a starting pitcher. Santana, coming off a very respectable 2017 in which he was just one double shy of joining the 30-30 club, is the most attractive and movable asset he has. It makes sense, because you’d better believe Stearns is name-dropping Ryan Braun at the outset of every conversation to see if anyone will take the bait and no one is.

Santana is young, controllable and emerging: the perfect player for this bleeding-edge post-Moneyball era Baseball seems to be entering. For all the reasons other teams are interested, those are the same reasons Stearns wants him in his organization. And then there’s this this little tidbit I happened upon Tuesday:

Age 23 to 24 improvements:

Player A: BA +16 / OBP +12 / SLG +28 / OPS +26

Player B: BA +22 / OBP +26 / SLG +58 / OPS +83

Player B is Santana. Player A was Dave Winfield, from his third to fourth year in the league. Santana’s leap from part-time to full-time over the same age span isn’t just the natural development of a prospect, it is punctuated equilibrium and a sign that Santana may be more than a solid role player, but a superstar in the making.

In fairness, it’s too soon to say Santana is going to be a Hall-caliber player; Winfield didn’t start really showing his quality until 1978 at age 26. They’re similarly built but different athletes; Winfield was all-everything in Minnesota and starred in baseball and basketball for the Golden Gophers, the latter lending itself well to his instincts in the outfield and prowess at the wall. Santana also has great instincts in the field, but doesn’t have that acrobatic ability or nearly the arm Winfield wielded with impunity. Santana’s swing is smoother and less-violent than Winfield’s looping, almost awkward line-drive craft, yet both have a knack for taking pitches the opposite way.

Similar, yet different, yet similar.

Santana’s 2017 development has him, at this nascent stage of his career, surpassing a Hall of Famer. I suggest this is why Stearns is loathe to move him, and why he’s still a part of the Brewers organization after two major moves for outfielders that have the baseball world still abuzz about what’s brewing in Milwaukee. Where Santana’s value is perceived to be diminished, it would seem that his value has only increased. Stearns is either content to have that kind of upside in his clubhouse, or is waiting for another team to agree to a stronger return for Santana’s services and controllable years.

There is one albatross to Santana, and one clear numerical distinction between him and his Hall of Fame counterpart: 100, as in Santana struck out 100 more times than Winfield in their age 24 seasons. Winfield knew how to work a pitcher and only struck out more than 100 times thrice in his career, taking roughly three walks for every four strikeouts. By way of underscoring the point, Santana struck out 91 times in 2016, playing in 77 games.

If there is any hope for Santana becoming a legend, it will be in his ability to learn plate discipline and work his strikeout figures down. A .371 OBP with 178 Ks in 2017 is less Dave Winfield and more Adam Dunn, but everything else is there: good power and average at the plate, respectable in the outfield, by all accounts a good guy to have on the team. In my estimation, the trajectory for Santana (of course given the benefit of a full, healthy career) is Joe Carter. The floor is Corey Hart, beleaguered by injuries and forced into an unnatural spot in the batting order, hindering his growth. The ceiling, an evolutionary Winfield.

No matter what, Stearns has a very good problem on his hands, and that problem could be great. The Brewers don’t have to move Santana, just as they don’t need to add a starting pitcher. Entering Spring Training with an embarrassment of riches and depth is quite the contrast to where this team was in January 2016, to say nothing of 2006 or 1996. If the injury bug strikes the outfield, there is a starter ready to come in, be it Braun, Brett Phillips, Keon Broxton or Hernan Perez, even Eric Thames or Jonathan Villar in a pinch. Despite the loss of Lewis Brinson and Monte Harrison in the Yelich trade, they rightly still have high hopes for Corey Ray and Trent Clark in the system.

Stearns and manager Craig Counsell are unafraid of the unorthodox, which is part of the reason why they’re right back in the middle of the scrum for the National League Central. Now that they’ve moved from rebuild to contention, it’s retaining players with significant value that will help keep them there. Anything less is a move for the sake of making a move, which is irresponsible to the medium-term viability of the club in the same measure that going in on Yelich and Lorenzo Cain was a bold play to win now.

When it comes to Domingo Santana‘s future with the Brewers, true love waits.

Brent Sirvio is a co-founder of Bronx to Bushville.

Christian Yelich is major boon to Brewers current, future outfield

While the rest of the league was sitting by the hearth, quietly contemplating the balance of expenditure and analytics, David Stearns was in the kitchen, his fingers on the dial of the burner, waiting for the temperature to be just right to make a splash. By the time he was through, he had cooked up one of the best outfields in the NL and served it to the rest of the league on a silver platter.

Continue reading “Christian Yelich is major boon to Brewers current, future outfield”

Milwaukee Brewers quiet offseason could pay big dividends in the long run

Despite the seemingly growing malcontent in the ranks of Milwaukee Brewers fans over the team’s lack of big offseason acquisitions, David Stearns and the rest of the front office have been quietly proving that need is not best filled by big names or big money but by good timing and tangible value.

Continue reading “Milwaukee Brewers quiet offseason could pay big dividends in the long run”

The rich get richer: Why we don’t like the New York Yankees getting Giancarlo Stanton

“The Yankees are talented, well-developed and returning to the form with which we’re all familiar. It’s a great team and, for the first time in a long time, for the outsider, they’re likeable. Give Cashman credit: he’s reinvented himself in real-time and built a next-generation Yankees team that, save for pitching, is reminiscent of those teams that started the last dynasty.”

That would be yours truly, on October 5, previewing the ALDS.

Yes, hell was freezing over. The New York Yankees–the Yankees!–weren’t the team everyone loves to hate. They had retooled the team the right way–no more massive free agent contracts, homegrown talent, had to play their way into the postseason and caught fire against the Minnesota Twins in the Wild Card Game. The 2017 Yankees were the good guys for once.

Fast forward two months, and most of us outside of the five boroughs feel a bit snookered. Cashman swooped in after Giancarlo Stanton rebuffed the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals, offered the Miami Marlins an offer that could be easily-enough refused, and the team–whose face is now Yankee legend Derek Jeter–was allowed by their superstar to make the deal. It will be formally announced Monday.

And I hate it.

I’m admittedly being a little melodramatic, but the optics on this deal just don’t *ahem* look good.

***

In 2011, the then-New Orleans Hornets, Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers agreed to a complex deal to send Chris Paul to the Southland. It was so lopsided, commissioner (and Dark Lord of the Sith) David Stern vetoed it.

In fairness, it’s to a significant extent apples and oranges: different sport, different CBA, different economics. Stanton flexed his muscle through a total no-trade clause freely agreed to between himself and Marlins management (then overseen by Jeff Loria) in a mammoth 13-year, $325M contract signed in 2014. In so doing, he nixed reported deals with the San Francisco Giants (which made sense, the Giants are currently a tire fire) and St. Louis Cardinals (which makes no sense, Stanton goes to a hitter-friendly division, a team that needs a single plus-bat to be instantly competitive and he would have been revered as a god in baseball-happy St. Louis and I’m freely conceding these points as a Milwaukee Brewers fan!)

So, no: the Yankees aren’t the culprits here. Doesn’t mean we have to like it.

Further, on paper, of course this makes the Yankees a better team: the team already had solid bats in Didi Gregorius and Gary Sanchez, speed and upside in Aaron Hicks, big upside in Greg Bird and a mutant beast in Aaron Judge. When news started circulating, Yankees Twitter started in on how this would be the new Murderer’s Row, how Jeter should get a ring for his part in the 2018 World Series pennant, etc.

Stanton is an all-world talent and the reigning National League MVP, but he struck out at a 2:1 ratio to taking walks, set a personal low for outs in a season (447, by far his highest to date), grounded into 13 double plays (after totaling 11 in 2015 and ’16 combined) and likely will not see the field in AL play.

The Yankees have also agreed to take on the overwhelming majority of Stanton’s remaining contract, which is straight out of the old spend-spend-spend playbook that turned the Yankees into full-on baseball heels. Further, if there are injuries (not out of the question) or he underperforms (see also: Giambi, Jason, Ellsbury, Jacoby, Johnson, Randy), Stanton has zero incentive to opt-out in 2020. The Yankees have tied a significant part of their future to a star who is showing signs of beginning to trend in the wrong direction and won’t help in the field.

I’m not in any way convinced that Stanton will absolutely make the Yankees better than they would be by staying the course. We’ll never know now; nevertheless, that’s a lot of money for a player who hasn’t played meaningful homestretch baseball, much less in October.

And let’s be real: Giancarlo Stanton is a great ballplayer, but he’s not Bryce Harper and he’s certainly not Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle or Babe Ruth. For the Yankees, this is a clearance rack bargain in the same way that your local Marshalls isn’t a Nordstrom Rack.

We can hate the Yankees, but we all can agree that this was the deal they really couldn’t not make. For that, we can hate Jeff Loria more than we already do: after all, Loria allegedly tanked the Montreal Expos (Hi, Jonah Keri!) and sold them to Major League baseball, only to pull a Bill Veeck and acquire the Florida Marlins, hold Miami and Dade County over a barrel and build an atrocity of a stadium with an eyesore they call artwork in left-center, and then sold the team for a reported $1.2 billion dollars to the current, Jeter-led regime.

No, it’s not the Yankees being the evil empire. But it’s not ideal for those of us genuinely enjoying the Yankees’ success playing the same fiscal game as (most of) the rest of Baseball.

Brent Sirvio is a co-founder of Bronx to Bushville.

The New York Yankees and Giancarlo Stanton: An Offer Cashman Couldn’t Refuse

When the New York Yankees were eliminated in Game 7 of the American League Championship series, it was quite clear the team didn’t necessarily need any major changes.

There was youth up and down the roster — whether that be in the lineup, starting rotation, bullpen or stashed away in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Trenton, Tampa, Charleston or Staten Island. The logical addition was Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani: not only is he considered the Babe Ruth of his homeland but the 23-year-old pitcher and outfielder figured to upgrade an already strong starting rotation while also serving as the Yankees’ primary designated hitter.

So when Ohtani surprisingly spurned the Bronx — and the entire East Coast, for that matter — many questioned where the front office would look next.

Despite the Yankees becoming a feel-good baseball story throughout the 2017 season due to properly rebuilding their farm system while also shedding a majority of their big contracts, Brian Cashman made a move that would have made the late George Steinbrenner proud.

He traded for the reigning National League Most Valuable Player: Giancarlo Stanton.

While this move screams mid-2000s pinstripes — similar to when they added reigning AL MVP Alex Rodriguez before the 2004 season — it’s not the “Evil Empire” of bygone days. It was just last week when it seemed as though Stanton was either St. Louis or San Francisco-bound,but when the outfielder exercised his blanket no-trade clause, refused a deal to neither the Cardinals nor the Giants, and selected the Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros as his preferred destinations, it was only right that Cashman made the call to former Yankee great and current Miami Marlins principal owner Derek Jeter.

But when the deal was struck in the early hours of December 9, it wasn’t necessarily a slam dunk.

Would you rather pay Stanton 10 years and nearly $300 million at age 28? Especially when Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will be available next winter? Sure, Stanton’s current contract will be a bargain compared to what that talented young duo would sign. But Harper’s swagger and violent left-handed swing would’ve played perfectly in the comfy confines of Yankee Stadium while Machado’s terrific defensive ability and balanced offensive skills would’ve been worth the payday. It could be compellingly argued that both would’ve been better fits in pinstripes.

At a time when the Yankees have generally avoided long-term deals that hardly work, possibly paying Stanton $25 million when he’s 39 could give fans PTSD about the days of Jason Giambi and Jacoby Ellsbury more than dreams of him crushing home runs over the Green Monster.

And that’s not all. Whether it’s due to freak accidents or not, Stanton falls into the injury prone category. He’s dealt with issues involving his face, knee, hamstring and wrist, amongst others, and has missed 310 games in his eight-year career. Over that same span, he’s hit above .265 just three times and has averaged 142 strikeouts per year.

There are obvious negatives about this deal. Stanton is far from the perfect fit.

But all things considered, there is no way Cashman and the rest of the front office could pass up on this opportunity.

When new ownership of the Marlins decided moving Stanton’s contract was their number one priority, a prospect package worthy of being relinquished for an MVP was out of the question. But even though names like Gleyber Torres, Justus Sheffield, Estevan Florial and Albert Abreu were off the table, cult favorites in Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar, Jordan Montgomery and Chance Adams were expected to have their talents shipped to South Beach.

When it was announced that the Yankees only had to relinquish All-Star second baseman Starlin Castro and prospects Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers, the transaction was even more of a positive.

Castro was a nice player for the Yankees in his two years in pinstripes but the 27-year-old never had a future in New York. Second base is now open for top prospect Gleyber Torres to become the latest Baby Bomber to shine under the bright lights in the Bronx. Guzman is the most valuable player joining the Marlins — he was the Yankees’ ninth-rated prospect overall according to MLB Pipeline — but he was widely considered the sixth-best pitching prospect in the system.

The Yankees aren’t hurting for marketing ideas but this story also writes itself in terms of promotion. Stanton and Aaron Judge were compared to one another all season long. Their body types, size and skillset mirror one another. Whether they go with Bash Bros Part Two, M&M Boys 2.0 or, most likely, something a lot more creative, it’ll be popular amongst younger fans, an audience all of Major League Baseball is trying to target.

But lost in this entire saga is simply what Stanton brings on the field. His .281 batting average, 1.007 OPS, 59 home runs and 132 RBI will be added to a lineup that is already considered one of the deepest and most powerful in all of baseball. While the duo of Stanton and Judge will steal most of the headlines, players like Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Didi Gregorius, Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks will largely fly under the radar — something that can be of their advantage.

In an ideal world, Stanton walks away in three years when his opt out clause kicks in: the Yankees won’t have to worry about a long-term commitment, and if Stanton helps them win one or multiple pennant(s), the return on investment will have been worth it.

Either way, expectations for the Yankees were already high heading into 2018. Many believe they’ll be one of the favorites to win number 28 next season — in the second year of a rebuild, no less. The addition of Stanton will only add fuel to that fire.

This trade clearly wasn’t one the Yankees had to make.

It became one they just couldn’t pass up.

Dan Federico is a co-founder of Bronx to Bushville.

Miles Mikolas, other international pitchers could be Milwaukee Brewers’ ticket to success

Miles Mikolas, Hyeon-Jong Yang and Hideaki Wakui are all potential international pitching options for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2018.

The Milwaukee Brewers are officially out of the race for Shohei Ohtani, but that doesn’t mean general manager David Stearns will be any less willing to test the international market.

While the likes of Jake Arrieta and Lance Lynn remain contract-heavy outside options the Brewers can most certainly afford stateside, Stearns has proven that big moves don’t always necessitate big names or big contracts. Even with his limited experience in Milwaukee, the young GM has already cemented his identity as an exceptionally-discerning deal maker, as evidenced by key additions like breakout third baseman Travis Shaw.

But Stearns’ greatest strength resonates far beyond his frugality. In truth, his taste for the unconventional may be the key to the team’s recent success and fans need to look no further than first base. Adding former MLB prospect and KBO phenom Eric Thames was about as under-the-radar as it gets, and bolstering the position by claiming Jesus Aguilar off waivers in February meant he was able to add a combined 47 home runs and 115 RBI — along with several years of security — to the stat sheet, all for an average of only $6 million a year.

With hot stove already in motion and the Winter Meetings less than a week away, there will be plenty of opportunities for Stearns to again prove his front office prowess. While Major League Baseball’s roster of free agents is already drawing speculation far and wide, it could again be unorthodox methodology that makes or breaks the Brewers’ playoff hopes in 2018.

One name that has surfaced that seems right in line with that type of thinking is Miles Mikolas, who, like Thames, was given limited MLB playing time before greatly improving his game overseas, as noted by Ken Rosenthal.

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Mikolas’ first foray in the majors was met with middling results at best, as he compiled a 4-6 record, 5.32 ERA and 1.423 WHIP with wholly-average strikeout and walk rates (6.1 K/9, 3.4 BB/9) over 37 games split between three seasons. But since joining the Yomiuri Giants in 2015, he’s vastly improved in nearly every statistical category. Over the last three years, he’s compiled a record of 31-13, posted a 2.18 ERA and 0.994 WHIP, all while trimming his walk rate to an impressive 1.5 BB/9 and buoyed his strikeout rate to 8.0 K/9. In 2017, he even pushed those rates to 1.1 and 9.0 respectively.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a comprehensive arsenal either, and Mikolas suits the need with a fastball that has topped out at 94-mph, a curve with exceptional movement, a hard slider and a change-up to boot. Given the fluidity that Stearns and manager Craig Counsell regularly employ, he would also make a good fit for a mid-season move to the bullpen should another starting option become available outside of Jimmy Nelson’s return from injury.

Contract estimates have ranged between $7 and $10 million for a two-year deal, potentially making him an absolute steal given what he’s been able to produce. But like any international free agent, success at the MLB level is a long road to proof. The 29-year-old will be facing much different hitters than he was in Japan and given the precarious nature of even tenured pitchers, it’s still a risk, even if small. Luckily for Milwaukee, if they do decide to make Mikolas a competitive offer, it will likely have little impact on the incredibly low payroll still on the books, even after arbitration, as the team has hovered at the bottom of league-wide spending for the last two years.

But Mikolas isn’t the only international pitcher Milwaukee could open their checkbook to. Hyeon-Jong Yang, a left-handed pitcher out of South Korea could also be a potential fit. Like Thames, who was also signed out of the Korean league, Yang’s end-of-year status was held in high regard — he was named the KBO MVP in 2017.

Outside of being an additional left-handed arm the Brewers’ rotation could undoubtedly utilize, his numbers over the last three years (3.20 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 3.1 BB/9, 7.2 K/9) prove that he could be serviceable in the back end of the rotation.

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In the past, Yang had expressed his interest in playing in the majors and was previously posted by the Kia Tigers in 2014, but the offers the team received were quickly rejected for being too low. As recently as mid-November, a few MLB teams have already completed status checks on the 29-year-old but nothing has come to fruition in any official capacity and Yang has also stated publicly that he would like to return to the Tigers in 2018, leaving his status cloudy at best — not to mention the team would again need to post him before talks begin. But then again, with the MVP notch on his belt, his potential value may have already reached its ceiling and could be the impetus to his entering the MLB pool.

Another option could be right-hander Hideaki Wakui. Despite having only a modest 2017 season (5-11, 3.99 ERA, 1.323 WHIP) in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball at 31 years old, the tenured pitcher has maintained an incredibly consistent 13-year career, compiling a 3.45 ERA and 1.259 WHIP while posting solid walk and strikeout rates (2.7 BB/9, 6.6 K/9). Wakui’s contract expired at the end of the 2017 season and he’s previously expressed an interest in joining the MLB ranks. Given his age, he easily meets international requirements in both age and experience to surpass being restricted to international bonus pools, leaving a vast amount of financial room for the Brewers, or any team for that matter, to make him a considerable offer.

While Mikolas may be the greatest potential asset of the three, there’s little doubt that Stearns will be looking to explore every potential option available to secure a competitive roster for 2018 and beyond. Based on his previous history, almost nothing seems out of reach.

Jonathan Powell is a co-founder and lead writer for Bronx to Bushville.

A case against the Milwaukee Brewers spending on rotation pitching

The Milwaukee Brewers, as we’ve been told time and time and time and time again, don’t have much obligation in the way of payroll. They can go get a big name starting pitcher. They’ve already been linked to Jake Arrieta by several national baseball pundits, but all indications closer to the organization seem to indicate that’s blowing smoke where there probably isn’t fire.

And, really, do the Brewers need to go get a big name starter? Jimmy Nelson is going to miss significant time in the next campaign recovering from shoulder surgery, Zach Davies is an enigma and there’s no guarantee Brent Suter can replicate his dark horse success in 2018. With Chase Anderson really in the only position to safely build upon 2017, it might make sense at 20,000 feet to open up Mark Attanasio’s checkbook and land a marquee free agent pitcher.

Closer to the organization and with more familiarity with the system, the view is different and rings as such: The Brewers don’t have to jump in to the free agent pool.

Nelson’s return to Milwaukee will be as good as a trade at midseason, or whenever he’s ready to get back to the bump. Davies is an enigma, streaky in both the best and worst sense, but he’s shown effectiveness enough to warrant another look (and serves as solid rich man’s Marco Estrada-esque tradebait. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is either the Brewers’ No. 2 or packaged in a deal at the Winter Meetings.) Suter’s unorthodox mechanics and approach and fast pace serve him well to keep hitters guessing. Let’s also bear in mind that Brandon Woodruff has yielded some dividends in a small sample size and has great movement on his pitches.

That leaves us with Anderson, Davies, Woodruff, Suter and an empty fifth spot. None of those four have been in a major league rotation together for a substantial period of time, but these four were in the trenches during the stretch run and were key in keeping the Brewers in the hunt. They could very well go to war with who they have without being obligated to substantial free agent money.

Then we ought to consider who else the Brewers have right now. Andrew Miller is a bit of a unicorn, and it’s not fair to hitch Josh Hader to that bandwagon. Hader was dominant in his relief role and could still profile into a strong lefty starter. He has earned the opportunity to get a look in Spring Training, as has Aaron Wilkerson who could also earn another extended look in March after posting his first 10 major league innings at the end of the regular season with some success. Jorge Lopez, Luis Ortiz or 2017 Brewers Minor League Pitcher of the Year Corbin Burnes could all be possibilities as well.

David Stearns has built an organization that has an embarrassment of riches at every level. They could have guys in the farm ranks on their radar as easily as they could package some of them for a starter who isn’t in the conversation right now. They’re [very] dark horses for Shohei Otani.

Jake Arrieta is trending in the wrong direction and he’ll be 32 before Opening Day. Alex Cobb is intriguing, but he’s a year removed from injury and would be high-risk/high-reward. Yu Darvish is radioactive after his October meltdown (and he didn’t look healthy in October, either.) Lance Lynn isn’t going to follow the trail Kyle Lohse blazed from St. Louis to Milwaukee, and the Brewers need a guy who can get strikeouts at will: Lynn has a reputation as a Brewer-killer.

So did Jeff Suppan. That’s as much as I’m going to say on this matter.

Any deal the Brewers make with one of those guys is a move for the sake of making a move. Those kinds of decisions kept the Brewers irrelevant at best under previous administrations. Stearns isn’t that type, and it would be out of character for him to start making it rain now.

Yes, the window of contention is officially open for the Brewers but there’s no need to tear the wall out.

The more likely scenario is that Stearns keeps kicking tires, keeps an eye on the market and makes a trade either in the winter or May. Let others spend their money on free agent pitchers who may or may not help, in all likelihood, they’re paying for past performance with other clubs.

The Brewers have stayed the course until now; there’s no need to change that strategy.

This much, though, is true: it’s fun to talk about pieces that could put the Brewers over the top in 2018.

Brent Sirvio is a co-founder of Bronx to Bushville.

Milwaukee Brewers primed for 2018 with or without free agent pitching

If there was an end-of-season award for best value based on individual players or team payroll, the Milwaukee Brewers would have easily been nominated, if not in prime position for taking it home with little competition.

Instead, manager Craig Counsell was stiffed by the writers for Manager of the Year nomination despite taking a young, generally inexperienced team within one game of the playoffs, ending their season at 86-76, around twenty games above what was almost universally predicted in the preseason, all on a $83 million total payroll. It merits mentioning that Counsell won the award from The Sporting News.

While money has largely been one of the most influential factors across the league as a whole, frugal front offices in recent years have made a statement that money isn’t everything, including the most recent World Series-winning Houston Astros, who hovered just below Major League Baseball’s league average salary at around $150 million. The four years prior have seen no shortage of the small-market, big-result narratives either. The Cleveland Indians made the World Series in 2016 with a total payroll of $115 million. The 2015 Kansas City Royals won it with $132 million while the 2014 version came up with an AL pennant spending only $105 million.

The story of winning has undoubtedly shifted in recent decades, primarily led by the evolution of advanced analytics. Few examples of such transformations have been so prevalent since the development of the forward pass in the NFL and the public eye is now beginning to focus more consistently on baseball’s ‘Moneyball’ revolution.

Brewers fans don’t have to look far, either. Before general manager David Stearns helmed the front office in Milwaukee, he did the lion’s share of the work assembling the talent of these 2017 World Series champion Astros. The major difference? As it stands, the Brewers have only just over $32 million on the books after jettisoning Matt Garza’s $12.5 million final contract year this offseason — and that includes re-upping with the team’s surprise front-of-the-rotation starter Chase Anderson for $11.25 million (two-year with a pair of club options covering ’20 and ’21).

Considering the comparison of wins to cost (86 wins for $83 million), the Brewers got considerable value that ended up just under $1 million per win, one of the best ratios in baseball. In 2018, they’re positioned even better with more payroll headroom and over half the roster still under team control.

The team does have numerous players entering arbitration including Jeremy Jeffress, Jonathan Villar, Hernan Perez, Jimmy Nelson, Corey Knebel and Stephen Vogt, but only Nelson and Knebel look to provide any significant jump in salary and given their talent, the team may try to settle before the deadline. Travis Shaw and Domingo Santana, another pair of 2017 standouts often seen as potential building blocks, may also be candidates for early settlement.

But there is still one looming question that could shift the entire paradigm: Will the Brewers jump into the starting pitching market during the hot stove?

Milwaukee has been linked to just about every starting pitcher on the market entering the offseason, including Jake Arrieta, who was predicted by MLB Trade Rumors to receive somewhere around $100 million on a four-year deal. Although there seem to be chances that the Brewers test the current market, one of the strongest starting pitching markets in recent years, Stearns has shown little consideration for anyone but generally young, controllable starters like Jose Quintana, that is, before he was scooped up by the Cubs just before the mid-season deadline.

But three important factors seem to have gone overlooked in this year’s early hot stove predictions for Milwaukee.

The first is that Stearns puts a premium on value, no matter the position. He did not overpay for either Eric Sogard (who was recently re-signed for $2.4 million) or Neil Walker, yet both produced far beyond their relative pay grades, as did reliever Anthony Swarzak and first baseman Eric Thames, despite the ups and downs of his first year back in the majors. It seems unlikely that the GM will overpay for only average or even tailing production like Arrieta unless his crew sees significant upside in one or more free agent candidates and of course, for the right price.

If he even pursues the position at all, it seems far more likely that Stearns will look for under-the-radar candidates like Andrew Bailey, Trevor Cahill or Tyler Chatwood, low-cost fill-ins with upside that could again extend far beyond their pay, players who could rise in value or identify those in the system that could become expendable and strengthen the team’s competitive longevity with return on investment, either in production or prospects.

The second, is that the team is already loaded with talented pitchers. Chase Anderson will likely be slotted in the number one spot at season’s start. Zach Davies also looks to be a shoo-in. Brent Suter, who held down Anderson’s spot admirably while the latter was on the disabled list for nearly two months and continued to roll once he returned, is another viable option considering the numbers he posted during that stretch (From July 3 onward: 13 GS, 3.24 ERA, 52 K, 16 BB, 66.2 IP). Brandon Woodruff was nearly lights out in his first foray in the majors, posting a 1.52 ERA with 20 strikeouts and nine walks over his first four starts before getting gassed as soon as the calendar turned to September, stretching him beyond the comforts of the shorter minor league season. Aaron Wilkerson is another option, as he carried his solid Double-A stats (11-4, 3.16 ERA, 1.075 WHIP, 143 K, 36 BB, 142.1 IP) into his MLB introduction (1-0, 3.48 ERA, 0.677 WHIP, 7 K, 1 BB, 10.1 IP).

And of course, that doesn’t even count Josh Hader’s potential transition back into a starting role, the return of Jimmy Nelson or the high upside of minor leaguers Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta, Luis Ortiz and Cody Ponce, who all could see their first Major League time in 2018.

The third is that Stearns is a man who loves to defy convention. His acquisition of Thames and Jesus Aguilar, who ended up being one of the best pinch hitters in the majors after being abandoned by the Cleveland Indians, largely solved the glaring issue at first base, all for under $6 million — and the duo went on to produce 47 home runs and 115 RBI in 2017.

While the pitching options are more limited than position players when reaching back into the minor league free agent pool or potentially overseas with any level of certainty, especially given the substantial escalation of talent in the majors, Stearns’ history has shown that his economic approach has been his greatest asset.

Whatever the case may be, the Milwaukee Brewers are now positioned with few gaping holes left to be filled and more than enough options to exercise in the coming months. And above all else, given the proven dexterity of their front office, the 2018 team will primed to prove that money isn’t everything.

Jonathan Powell is a co-founder and lead writer for Bronx to Bushville.