Less than 24 hours from the Game 7 loss, it's likely too early for Brewers fans to admit it, but they just witnessed a special season.
There weren't many, outside some Brewers fans, who thought the team had a real chance to beat the Cubs out for the NL Central title, but they did so. It wasn't just that, but it was how it happened. They were down five games in early September. They were down 2 1/2 games going into the last week. It's not like the Cubs handed it to them. The Brewers stole it by winning their final eight games, including winning the tiebreaker and getting to celebrate in Wrigley Field.
The Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain additions on the same day in late January couldn't have gone any better and Yelich is likely going to win NL MVP. Jesus Aguilar took a giant step forward and was an All-Star. Lefty Josh Hader had an incredible stat line for most of the year and is surely a household name among baseball fans thanks to his October. He was also an All-Star. So was Jeremy Jeffress, who pitched like an elite closer in the regular season.
There were so many other things to remember about this team and the run it made. As I said, it was a special season in many ways for the Brewers.
It is now, however, over, which means it's already time for general manager David Stearns to start looking ahead at how to get this team to the next level. Let's hop around the roster to see where they could go to improve.
They're probably set here unless they see a way to trade for J.T. Realmuto or something (and with the Yelich deal looking like a huge Brewers' coup, maybe the Marlins don't wanna go back down this road). Manny Pina and Erik Kratz seem to work well with the pitching staff and are an adequate team. They have depth in the minors with Jett Bandy and Christian Bethancourt.
At second, Jonathan Schoop still has one more arbitration year and he's only one year removed from being an All-Star. Travis Shaw is around, but remember, Mike Moustakas is probably headed to free agency and Shaw can then kick back to third. Hernan Perez is a fine option as a backup, too.
At shortstop, Orlando Arcia was great offensively in the last month of the regular season and in the playoffs. With his defensive upside, there's star potential here.
At third, it's probably Shaw.
From the minors, Nick Franklin could make an impact, I guess. He was good with the Rays in 2016. Prospects like Keston Hiura (2B) and Lucas Erceg (3B) could be the type to play really well in Triple-A in the early months and join the club midseason, too.
Simply, I'm not sure we should expect the Brewers to make any infield moves, either.
Yelich, Cain and Braun. Perez can play in the outfield if need be. So can Thames and there's Keon Broxton for a defensive replacement type. Domingo Santana was outstanding as a starter in 2017 and as a pinch hitter in 2018. They are loaded out here.
Here's an area of need, but it might not be as great as many think. Jhoulys Chacin will be back at the top of the rotation. Zach Davies is coming off a rough year, but he was good in 2016-17 and he's only entering his age-26 season. He'll be in the opening day rotation. Chase Anderson fell out of favor after an awful August, but he's shown he can be a rotation piece himself. Junior Guerra could be an acceptable back-end guy. Brandon Woodruff has probably shown enough to get a look, no? Lefty Brent Suter is back and he made 32 starts the past two seasons.
How about Corbin Burnes? He was a starter through most of his minor-league career. The former fourth-round pick will be 24 next season and flashed lots of glimpses of upside.
Top pitching prospect Zack Brown had a 2.44 ERA and 116 strikeouts in 125 2/3 Double-A innings. Perhaps he makes an impact at some point.
There's also Jimmy Nelson. He was the ace before injuring his pitching shoulder on a slide in September of 2017. He missed all of 2018. Shoulder injuries can ruin a career (just ask Dodgers bullpen coach Mark Prior).
This certainly is a lot of names. How many sure things, though? I don't think many check that box. The Brewers will head to next season with good pitching depth, but they need more than that. The bullpen is great, but they would probably be in the World Series if they had four starters who could routinely get through five or six innings in the playoffs before the bullpen death march, which would keep those bullpen guys more fresh and limit the times they need to go multiple innings.
Wade Miley was great for the Brewers this year. He'll have more suitors, but familiarity is a bonus. Maybe they bring him back.
The Brewers could dip into their prospect cache and/or deal from strength (outfield). Perhaps a Zack Greinke reunion (the money is probably a big issue, but it could happen)? He worked 207 2/3 innings with a 3.21 ERA this season.
I don't think Stearns addresses the bullpen at all.
In fact, I only think the rotation needs addressing and it needs pitchers who look like a sure thing (Greinke, Corbin, etc.).
Every team should always have its ear to the ground in case there are available upgrades at any position. Most people didn't think the Brewers would look for outfield help last offseason and they wouldn't have made the playoffs without Cain and Yelich. That is to say: I only expect to see big-ticket additions to the rotation this coming offseason -- with a trickle down effect from possible starters filling out the bullpen -- but nothing would surprise.