The question I hear the most from Brewers fans is “Who is going to play third base this season?”. I don’t have much of a concrete answer as there remains a number of different possibilities of who we will see most often at the “hot corner” for the Crew.
If you take a poll of Brewers fans on Twitter, I think the majority of fans would like to see the team sign free-agent Justin Turner. While that is still a possibility, I don’t think it is overly likely. That being said, every day that goes by without Turner signing somewhere else lifts the percentage chance that he could end up as a Brewer.
As pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Maryvale in the near future, here are the possibilities at third base:
Luis Urias: The Brewers gave up a fair amount to acquire Urias. At the time of acquisition, it felt like he was being brought in to either replace or share time with Orlando Arcia at shortstop. After a solid season from Arcia, it’s tougher to project Urias getting a ton of time at shortstop. He played 30 games at 3rd last season after only playing there one time in his first two Major League seasons. Defense is not an issue but he does not bring the hitting profile you tend to expect from a third baseman. The Brewers don’t necessarily view things that way where they expect a certain type of production based off the position one plays. If Urias is going to be the guy at third, the hope would be that he could improve upon his .239 batting average and .602 OPS from last season.
Daniel Robertson: Robertson signed with the Brewers last month. The Brewers love players who can play a bunch of different positions and that certainly describes Robertson but his natural position is third base. Originally drafted 34th overall by Oakland, he came up as a top prospect in baseball but he has yet to fulfill that potential at the big league level. Since signing with the club, he has spoken about “late bloomers” like Ben Zobrist, Josh Donaldson and Josh Turner who were around the same age as him (26) when they broke out and he feels like he could do the same. He told me on Brewers Weekly recently that he is looking forward to the opportunity to compete for the job during Spring Training.
Justin Turner: Even with the Dodgers payroll ballooning even further with the recent signing of pitcher Trevor Bauer, many expect Turner to be back with the Dodgers this season. Ken Rosenthal recently tweeted as much but also said “Brewers owner Mark Attanasio intrigued by Turner as well”. To me, it is interesting that Rosenthal specifically mentioned Attanasio. While money is tight this year, Attanasio has regularly given the OK to expand payroll if a move clearly makes the team better. Between Attanasio being “intrigued” by Turner and the deal for Kolten Wong including a lot of deferred money, the possibility of Turner being a Brewer seems more likely now but also seems improbable at the same time.
Jedd Gyorko: Gyorko was productive for the Brewers last season and some were surprised the team declined his option. He remains a free agent and a reunion could make sense. He also provides a stronger track record than Urias or Robertson allowing the team to not be banking on breakthrough seasons from either of those players. Gyorko could still slide into a utility role if someone else clearly wins the third base job.
Marwin Gonzalez: Other than Turner, Gonzalez is considered the best free agent available who can play third but he is viewed more as a utility player. There has been no indication that the Brewers have any interest in Gonzalez.
Update: Marwin Gonzalez has reportedly signed with the Red Sox.
Mid-season acquisition: If the Brewers go into the season without acquiring anyone, they could still make a move mid-season. Most teams in baseball are trying to shred payroll and that is not going to change just because the season gets started. The Brewers would be able to see if Urias or Robertson can take that step forward. If they don’t, there will still be opportunities to add to the club via trade or waiver claims.
The biggest question at this point remains the willingness to expand payroll. No one really knows how much more payroll the team is willing to add and how much that might change depending on the number of fans who are allowed to attend games this season.