Just a few days after the Chicago Cubs stunned the baseball world by unexpectedly signing longtime Brewers manager Craig Counsell, a new report (Subscription Required) from The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal suggests that the Brewers may be closer to a rebuild than even they realize.
Although Brewers General Manager Matt Arnold hasn't publicly suggested a rebuild, Rosenthal wrote that anonymous industry sources familiar with the team's plans say that Arnold is willing to trade any player in the wake of Counsell's departure. And a glance at the team's roster points in that direction as well.
The only prominent offensive players under contract in the long term are outfielder Christian Yelich (UFA 2030) and catcher William Contreras (UFA 2028). Similarly, the Brewers will be losing their co-aces Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes very soon. Both men are only under control for one more season and their respective futures with the team are very murky.
Burnes was penny-pinched for $740,000 by the Brewers in an arbitration hearing last winter, causing an unneccessary strain on his relationship with the team. Given his prowess and track record, the team would be wise to trade him this winter or at this year's trade deadline to get something back for him. As for Woodruff, a recent shoulder surgery will have him sidelined for most if not all of the 2024 season. Since the Brewers spend money like a small market team and consistently float in the bottom half of the league in terms of payroll, a contract extension for both men or even one of them looks highly unlikely given the dollar amount needed.
Other trade candidates include star shortstop Willy Adames and All-Star closer Devin Williams, who have one and two years of team control respectively. With a top-five farm system in place and a lot of talented players hitting free agency soon, the Brewers would be smart to start dealing with them sooner rather than later to bolster their system even further for the future.
The main reason for this probable rebuild strategy though is the departure of Craig Counsell. If the Brewers were able to extend their manager, the outlook for next season would be drastically different. In each of his nine seasons in the position, Counsell was able to take a low-payroll team of unsuspecting players and turn them into overachievers who consistently contended for division championships. He was seemingly the secret ingredient to the Brewers' surprising success and now he's gone.
Does that mean the Brewers will be unable to capture the same success with an inferior roster? That remains to be seen but we will certainly have a better answer to that question a year from now.