The Dawn of a New Brewers Season


Josh Meyer and James Frankowiak

The 2021 baseball season has already arrived, and with it comes an exciting new season of Milwaukee Brewers baseball. Of course, the usual questions remain: will the Brewers surprise everyone? Will they win the division and make the playoffs? Can they make it to the World Series? To answer those questions, we must take a look at what the Brewers have done over the last year.

The Brewers had a weird 2020 season, and that’s putting it mildly. First, the season was canceled for 4 months due to COVID; then, star outfielder Lorenzo Cain opted out not long after the season started, and, probably the biggest surprise of all, 2018 MVP and 2019 runner-up MVP Christian Yelich had a huge regression from what he was the last two seasons. These things and more led the Brewers to a 29-31 season. However, thanks to some teams tanking the last few games, and the expanded playoff structure, the Brewers snuck into the postseason only to get defeated by the eventual World Series champions Los Angeles Dodgers in two games in the Wild Card round. 

After returning to Milwaukee, the team had several moves they needed to make and holes that needed to be filled. Did they do either of those things? Let’s take a look:

On October 30th, 2020, the Brewers released outfielders Ryan Braun and Ben Gamel, and infielders Jedd Gyorko and Eric Sogard. Sogard was a no-brainer; even though he had a memorable walk-off homer in the middle of the season, he wasn’t like his 2019 self at all, putting up a lackluster .209 average with 10 RBIs. Gamel wasn’t much of an asset either, as the Brewers had their outfield set and he put up numbers only slightly better than Sogard. 

However, the other two were a little unexpected. Even though he only put up an average of .248, Gyorko was one of the Brewers’ best hitters. Braun, meanwhile, had been with the team since 2007 and had become a fan favorite. Seeing him go was a tough pill to swallow for many fans. 

On Nov. 2nd, the Brewers saw Ryon Healy, another infielder, elect free agency. While he was the Brewers cleanup (or fourth hitter) in Game 2 of the Wild Card, he only had a .143 average during the regular season and didn’t see much playing time at all.

The next day, the Brewers activated Cain from the restricted list – which is a list of players who either fail to report in 10 days or fail to come in contact with the team prior to that time. This was a huge step forward for the team, as it meant one of their better fielders would be coming back.

On Nov. 4th, the tender deadline arrived. The Brewers kept their two best pitchers in starter Brandon Woodruff and reliever Josh Hader; catchers Omar Narváez and Manny Piña, and infielders Orlando Arcia and Daniel Vogelbach. Outfielder Ben Gamel, reliever Alex Claudio, and utility man Jace Peterson were non-tendered and officially became free agents. Peterson, however, later resigned with the Brewers to a minor league deal. 

On January 21st, 2021, the Brewers then signed infielder Daniel Robertson to a 1-year deal. He is mostly a second baseman, but has said that he prefers playing third, which is good for the Brewers since they don’t have a starter over there yet. He was coming off a pretty good year with the San Francisco Giants with a .333 average; but, overall he is a below-average hitter with a .234 average over 6 years, with 16 homers and 74 RBIs. 

On February 5th, the Brewers had their biggest splash of the offseason, when they signed second baseman Kolten Wong from the St. Louis Cardinals to a 2-year, $18 million contract. After typically killing them as a Cardinal, the Brew Crew hope he can do the same for them. Coming off a streak of pretty good seasons, and having two gold gloves under his belt, he will likely be a big help in all aspects of the game.

Jaclyn Jecha, a Social Studies teacher at New Berlin West, said that she’s liking the moves that the Brewers made; “Kolten Wong is a good addition to the team and will add some much-needed support in the infield…” she said. “And, it’s nice to see some familiar faces like Travis Shaw back in a Brewers uniform.”

Finally, soon after spring training began, the Brewers made a surprising signing of free agent outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. for a 2-year, $24 million contract. This move would help an already excellent outfield for the Brewers. Bradley Jr. is coming off a great 2020 season with the Boston Red Sox with a .283 average with 7 homers and 22 RBIs. For his career, he has a .239 average with 98 home runs (averaging 18 per season). Plus, he won a gold glove with Boston in 2018 (the same year the Red Sox won the World Series); so, with a combination of a pretty decent bat and stellar defense, the Brewers couldn’t ask for much more.

Steven Altstadt, an English teacher at West, believes that “Jackie Bradley Jr. is a great defensive outfielder,” he said. However, he does wish the Brewers “had a stronger option at third base.”

But with the last two signings, new questions have arisen: The first is related to Keston Hiura. He is one of the Brewers’ better hitters, with a career .266 average with 32 homers and 81 RBIs over two seasons, but he’s also a second baseman along with newly-acquired Kolten Wong. It’s likely the Brewers will simply move Hiura to 1st base, but then that raises questions about Daniel Vogelbach and what his role will be this season. He’s their likely first baseman for the 2021 season. They might platoon him with Hiura or use him as a bench bat, but could just as easily cut him as well.

Along with the Bradley Jr. signing comes an outfield predicament. Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain are pretty much locked up, but Avisail Garcia’s spot might be in jeopardy; while JBJ is mostly a center fielder, he has played in every outfield position throughout his career. Does this mean Garcia will be benched, even though he also has a $10 million contract to fulfill?  Will the Brewers possibly get rid of him? Will Bradley platoon with all the other outfielders? Needless to say, Brewers fans will have to keep an eye on both the infield and outfield to see what’s going to happen.

Even though fans have many concerning questions, they are still very excited for this season. Ty Deckert, a 12th grader at New Berlin West, said, “I think the Brewers have an opportunity to be a playoff team. I definitely don’t think that they have enough to get past teams like the Dodgers or Padres, but I would be content if we placed in the top two of the division and made it into the playoffs.”

These excited fans will also have the opportunity to attend games this season, as the now renamed ‘American Family Field’ is being opened up to fans for the first time in nearly two years. Ashley Schwiner, a 10th grader at West, said that “I’m personally happy that they are starting to open back up to the fans, knowing that the players play better with crowds and we get to go back to the stadium.” 

The 2021 Milwaukee Brewers season will certainly be an interesting one to watch with all the variables that have been put into the system. What will all this lead up to by the season’s end? Only time will tell.