While they did finish 10 games over .500 last season (86-76), failing to make the playoffs for the first time since 2017 constitutes a disappointing season for the Milwaukee Brewers. Once mired in a 26-year postseason drought, this franchise has done a lot with a limited payroll and will look to continue its winning ways for the 2023 MLB season.
Led by hometown manager Craig Counsell, the Brewers produced their fifth above-.500 season over the past six seasons, and pitching has been a big part of every successful season. Led by starting pitchers Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff, and reliever Devin Williams, Milwaukee relied on a solid group of arms to overcome their offensive woes.
Looking ahead into 2023, all eyes will be on Counsell to see if he can keep their playoff drought at just one season – with the National League Central division not looking all that strong, the chances of them returning to the postseason look optimistic. But a lot of things that may have gone the wrong way last season need to go right this year if they want any shot at earning a spot in the postseason bracket.
Christian Yelich returns to form – just not MVP form
It has felt like ages since MLB fans were treated to top-form Christian Yelich, as injuries and inconsistencies have troubled the 2018 NL MVP for far too long. Can the 2023 season be his time to return to form?
The offense has long been the biggest area of improvement for the Brewers, and a big part of their struggles can be tied to Yelich looking like a completely different ball player. Having barely cracked a .250 batting average in 2022, Yelich was forming back into the player that the Brewers traded for, so this next year could be one where he takes another huge step back to being what he was.
Granted, expecting Yelich to return to MVP form may be a bit of a stretch at this point, but if he can get back to being the .275 average, 20+ home run, and 80+ RBI option in the lineup, then the Brewers will feel less bad about the massive extension they handed Yelich a few years back.
Freddy Peralta outpitches Burnes & Woodruff
Over the past few seasons, both Burnes and Brandon Woodruff have filled the part as co-aces for the starting pitching staff for Milwaukee. With Burnes coming off a lights-out performance last season and both options seeing free agency on the horizon, let’s spice it up a bit with the team’s best SP this upcoming season.
While only having appeared in 18 games last year (17 starts) due to a shoulder injury, Freddy Peralta looked pretty solid, putting up a 4-4 record with a 3.58 ERA. His 2021 campaign (10-5, 2.81, 27 starts) was the best of his career, and he certainly has the tools to replicate that in 2023.
Pitchers regularly deal with arm fatigue and lose both velocity and movement on their pitches, so here’s to optimistically thinking that Peralta’s 2022 campaign was a year of build-up for a stellar 2023 campaign, one the Brewers desperately need.
Big-money extensions handed out
Money is a very hot topic when talking about the Brewers, and it certainly is a topic that angers a good chunk of the fan base. With owner Mark Attanasio playing the role of a tight-pocketed team owner, the front office has had limited funding to work with.
With GM David Stearns now in an advisory role and Matt Arnold stepping into his seat, it will be interesting to see just how many characteristics Arnold carries over and how many ways he puts his unique stamp on this team. A good first step to making a great impression on this team is by building for the future, which means handing out some well-deserved contract extensions.
With Willy Adames, Burnes, Woodruff, and Peralta all hitting free agency in 2025, the time to hand out contract extensions is now – and Arnold will do just that. Of these four core players, Adames and Burnes are likely up first, seeing as how they are most important to the future success of the Brewers.
Adames probably gets his deal done first, as he should command less annually than what Burnes deserves, but Adames likely would earn a longer deal (5+ years) on his long-term deal. For Burnes, a front-loaded deal could very well be the interesting pathway Arnold takes in negotiations, keeping long-term money open either for a backloaded Woodruff/Peralta deal or even for the first big-money extension for uber-prospect Jackson Chourio.
Whatever path the Brewers and their front office decide to take regarding extending their stars, they need to start that process this year. With these four franchise pillars needing new deals soon, this is a perfect opportunity to rewrite the script of a team that typically lets production head elsewhere because they don’t want to open their pocketbooks.