After being shunned by the St. Louis Cardinals in last month’s NLCS, Ron Roenicke and the Milwaukee Brewers enter the 2011-2012 offseason on a somber note. However, that shouldn’t deter them from rectifying their past woes as next season comes into focus.
With last winter’s acquisitions Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum set to return to Milwaukee for at least one more season, the Brewers know well and full that they are still one of the top clubs heading into 2012, despite Prince Fielder’s potential departure. Nonetheless, there are still plenty of other question marks concerning the Brewers moving forward.
How will GM Doug Melvin retool his defending NL Central champions this offseason? Is there still a possibility that Fielder will be back in 2012? How about Tony Plush?
Let’s take a look at the eight biggest question marks facing the Brewers this offseason.
Will Dale Sveum Be Back with the Club in 2012 and Beyond?
While the entire coaching staff will be welcomed back with open arms next season, bench coach Dale Sveum could be on the move much sooner than later. According to sources, Milwaukee’s bench-coach of the past six seasons has already interviewed with the Red Sox and Cubs in regards for the two clubs’ coaching vacancies.
Sveum knows the insides and outs of the game of baseball and has proven it thoroughly during his tenure in Milwaukee. Will he leave or will he return for 2012 and beyond?
For a last-minute roster addition prior to the regular season, Nyjer Morgan proved to be a sumptuous left-handed bat in Ron Roenicke’s lineup. Still, is he worth bringing back in 2012?
Last season, the candid center-fielder produced at an alarming rate. In a mere 378 at-bats, Morgan registered 115 hits (enough for a .304 BA), notched four home runs and 37 RBI. He also garnered 13 stolen bases on his way to a 4.0 WAR.
This winter, Morgan is arbitration eligible after making $450,000 last season. Will Melvin decide to bring Tony Plush back next year?
What Does Casey McGehee’s Future Hold in Store?
It’s difficult to put into words how awful Casey McGehee was in 2011.
Coming off a sensational 2010 campaign in which he beat out Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder for the team-lead in RBI (104), McGehee won over the hearts of Brewers fans to no end, and seemingly won over the starting role at the hot-corner for the prospective future. Nowadays, there’s speculation over whether or not Milwaukee should even retain the 29-year-old journeyman.
Last season, McGehee collectively batted .223 and maintained a gruesome .280 OBP on his way to just 67 RBI and 13 HR. Consequently, his poor execution resulted in just a .249 BABIP and a lousy .346 SLG. McGehee is arbitration eligible this offseason for the first time. Will he return to the Brewers in 2012 or be dealt away? You’re guess is as good as mine.
The Brewers kicked off their offseason by declining Yuniesky Betancourt’s mutual 2012 option late last month, marking the end of the shortstop’s forgettable one-year tenure with the club. Unfortunately, there isn’t much prominent free-agent talent to be had this winter, making Melvin’s job of replacing Betancourt only that much more hard.
Rumors have surfaced about Milwaukee’s strong interest in pursuing former Mets shortstop Jose Reyes, however it seems less than probably that they actually sign the superstar. This leaves room for more practical additions such as Clint Barmes, Alex Gonzalez and Rafael Furcal. Lord knows replacing Betancourt shouldn’t prove to be too problematic.
Who Will Become Milwaukee’s New Set-Up Man?
Finding their setup-man in Francisco Rodriguez following the All-Star break proved beneficial in Milwaukee’s regular season and postseason achievements.
In 29.0 IP with the Brewers, the veteran hoarded 17 HLD and 33 SO, walked just 10 and maintained a 1.86 ERA. Melvin wisely declined Francisco’s monstrous $17.5 Million vesting option late last month.
The question Milwaukee must now ask itself is who will fill K-Rod’s shoes next season. There are several noteworthy names available for signing this winter, of which include Frank Francisco, David Aardsma, Matt Capps and Octavio Dotel. None are nor have strikingly brilliant repertoires, however, the Brewers cannot afford to be too picky with such a arid free-agent market.
Is Mat Gamel Ready for the Big Stage?
With Prince Fielder likely to have played his last game in a Brewer uniform, big changes are imminent.
Incumbent 26-year-old prospect Mat Gamel now appears to be the most-likely replacement for Fielder next season. But is he ready for the big stage?
Experts and pundits have been skeptical about his future in the big leagues for a while now. Many point to his feeble .222 BA in 171 career at-bats with Milwaukee as a cause for concern, along with his 36.5 K% in 2009. Even so, a sample size of 171 at-bats is hardly a testimonial to what he could be in a full-time starting role with the Brewers. In his last two seasons in triple-A, Gamel averaged a .310 BA, 21 HR, 82 RBI, .337 BABIP and a .526 SLG.
At this juncture, its hard to determine what management will decide to do regarding the youngster’s future. His 2012 season will ultimately come down to his sheer production in spring training.
While there’s no escaping the fact that Milwaukee’s farm-system is drained at best, that doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t prospects ready to make the leap.
As we pointed out last week, the Brewers are interested in promoting RHP Wily Peralta and CF Logan Shafer from triple-A by opening day next season. Third baseman Taylor Green also made an impression on the club last September, and it remains to be seen whether management feels he can be the everyday starter by 2012.
Given the number of uncertainties pertaining to the bullpen, it looks as though Peralta should make the 25-man roster next April. Nevertheless, all three have a legitimate shot at being on the opening-day roster. Who will get the nod in 2012?
Can Management Actually Bring Back Prince Fielder?
There are many question marks surrounding this Milwaukee club, but none are more prominent than what Fielder’s future holds in store.
Popular belief has said that the young 27-year-old isn’t likely to return to the Brewers in 2012 and beyond. After yet another MVP-type season (.299 BA, 38 HR, 120 RBI, .415 OBP), its easy to see why. Clubs with money to spend like the Rangers, Nationals, Mariners and Cubs are at the top of the totem pole at this juncture, but the Brewers are still very much contenders for Fielder’s services.
Owner Mark Attanasio claims he will make a valiant effort at retaining the Fielder’s bat this winter. Is it a realistic possibility or simply a publicity stunt?
Follow Alec Dopp on Twitter: @alecdopp.