Milwaukee Brewers: 3 Options at First Base

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 01: Ryan Braun #8 of the Milwaukee Brewers reacts after closing out the second inning against the Washington Nationals in the National League Wild Card game at Nationals Park on October 01, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 01: Ryan Braun #8 of the Milwaukee Brewers reacts after closing out the second inning against the Washington Nationals in the National League Wild Card game at Nationals Park on October 01, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

The Milwaukee Brewers now have a hole to fill at first base this offseason and these are three options that they could utilize to fill the need.

At the beginning of the 2019 season the Milwaukee Brewers had more than enough options at first base, but now it is another hole that needs to be filled this offseason by GM David Stearns. Last week the Brewers made the decision to decline Eric Thames’ 2020 team option for $7.5 million and while I understand why the move was made, finding a first baseman is another item on their 2020 offseason to-do list.

So let’s dive in and take a look at a couple of external and even an internal option that the Milwaukee Brewers could use at first base next season.

An Internal Platoon

We will start with this option because I imagine that it is the least likely. The Brewers don’t have anyone in the minor leagues that could step in and fill this role but they do on the big league roster in Ryan Braun and Travis Shaw.

In order for this to work there are a number of moving parts with the first being bringing Travis Shaw back. Shaw is coming off of a horrendous season where he spent most of the summer in the minors and with the Brewers he hit just .157 with an OPS of .551 and had an OPS+ of 45. MLB Trade Rumors has Shaw’s projected arbitration amount at $4.7 million, which is obviously a lot for those kinds of numbers, but if Milwaukee thinks he can get back to his 2017-2018 production, then it’s worth it. However, that remains the big question.

We also have to mention that if Shaw’s primary position is first base, then the Milwaukee Brewers will need to find a third baseman which could include re-signing Mike Moustakas or another free agent. And Shaw could fill in there as well when needed, but it’s something else to take care of.

Now on to Braun who did play some first base at the beginning of the 2018 season but had mixed results. But as we’ve seen in recent seasons, the Brewers will sacrifice defense for offense and Ryan Braun can definitely give them offense. With the emergence of Trent Grisham in the outfield last season, Milwaukee doesn’t necessarily need Braun defensively like they used to, however, they’ll still need his bat and a move to first base could make sense.

As I mentioned above, there is a lot of moving parts with this option and it’s a risky one as well considering Braun needs time off and if Shaw can’t rebound, the Brewers could end up in a world of hurt at first base. With that said, they do have a number of other needs to fill this offseason and if they choose to spend the money elsewhere, this gives them two players already on the roster if they choose to bring Shaw back on a relatively inexpensive contract.

Re-sign Eric Thames at a cheaper amount

I see this as perhaps the best option of the bunch. Although Eric Thames had a very nice season in 2019 which included some big hits, $7.5 million for a part-time first baseman is steep. A big reason for Thames’ success was due to manager Craig Counsell rarely using him against left-handed pitching who Thames is batting just .197 against with a .648 OPS over his career.

Given the production and what it cost to keep Thames, coupled with also having to sign a right-hander to platoon with him, bringing Thames back at $7.5 million just didn’t make the most sense financially. However, now that he is a free agent, depending on what Thames is commanding on the open market, bringing him back on a smaller contract does make a lot of sense.

Now, keep in mind that this isn’t meant to take away from the value Thames can provide, but obviously if the Brewers can have him back at $4.5 million for example instead of $7.5 million, it’s better for the team and regardless, they’ll still need to find a right-handed option as well.

And one thing to keep in mind is that the Milwaukee Brewers traded Chase Anderson to the Toronto Blue Jays who then picked up Anderson’s $8.5 million option. I imagine that there’s a good possibility that Stearns called around on Thames as well, but a deal couldn’t get done because other teams didn’t want to pick up his option either. If this happened, it would bode well for the Brewers being able to bring him back at a lesser amount.

Exploring Free Agency

The final option is that the Milwaukee Brewers utilize free agency and sign a player not name Eric Thames. However, with third base, catcher, and pitcher all needs for this team, being conscious of the cost is a must.

According to, here is a list of the free agents available at first base this offseason with their age and WAR in parentheses:

Howie Kendrick (36, 2.9)
José Abreu (33, 1.9) — received qualifying offer from CWS (11/4)
Eric Thames (33, 1.9)
Mitch Moreland (34, 0.7)
Neil Walker (34, 0.4)
Justin Smoak (33, 0.2)
Logan Forsythe (33, 0.2)
Ryan Zimmerman (35, 0.1)
Matt Adams (31, -0.1)
Logan Morrison (32, -0.1)
Ryon Healy (28, -0.1)
Justin Bour (32, -0.4)
Mark Reynolds (36, -0.8)
Steve Pearce (37, -0.9)
Lucas Duda (34, -1.0)
Yonder Alonso (33, -1.2)

Next. Brewers' pending free agents. dark

It will certainly be interesting to see what route Stearns and the Milwaukee Brewers take since they’ve shown in the past that they can be very creative problem solvers. But with their decision to decline Thames’ option, another position of need has been added to the offseason checklist.