Stearns exploring moves to bolster Brewers

Club plans to keep entire coaching staff intact for '18

Stearns exploring moves to bolster Brewers

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers' coaching staff will return intact for 2018, GM David Stearns said Tuesday during a discussion of the team's surprising run to late-season relevance.

But what about the roster?

Stearns & Co. were already into those discussions when he met with reporters to look back on a season in which the Brewers went 86-76 and finished one game out of the postseason. He said he plans to "take a long" look at second base, the most wide open position for the Brewers at the moment. He is exploring trades and free-agent options to bolster the starting rotation, with Jimmy Nelson expected to miss "a meaningful part of the 2018 season." Josh Hader is one option, but a decision on whether Hader will enter next season as a starter or a reliever is months away, manager Craig Counsell said.

Club officials will also dig into an offense that set another all-time record for strikeouts, and determine whether changes must be made, or whether their existing crop of young players deserves patience and an opportunity to improve.

On the second day of the Brewers' offseason, all of those topics were already under discussion in the baseball operations wing of Miller Park.

"I will say I am comfortable with the team we have," Stearns said. "I think we have a good team. I think we have a team that has a chance to continue to grow together. To the extent we have to supplement that group, we are certainly going to take advantage of those [opportunities]. Where exactly those lie, two days into the offseason, we really don't know."

Stearns on evaluating talent

The Brewers ended the season with essentially a clean slate. Nelson's right shoulder surgery was their only significant injury, and no other players had clean-up surgeries planned, Stearns said. In terms of financials, they have only two commitments for next season -- Ryan Braun and Eric Thames, for about $25 million -- though a growing group of arbitration-eligible players will add to that sum.

Thames' go-ahead solo home run

When a reporter asked about the potential for playing with another modest payroll in 2018, Counsell smiled and said, "I don't know about that. I think David's going to do something about that.

"Every year, we have a challenge in that area, but I would stress that next year's team will be a different group," Counsell said. "A lot of the same players are going to be back, but it will still be a different group. You're a different person at a different point in your life coming into next season so the team will be different.

"The thing we'll all want to say is, 'Last year's team was so much fun.' The 2018 team will be a different bunch. They'll create their fun in a different way, they'll create their memories in a different way and connect in different ways. We have to be ready for that and know that it's going to be different."

One area that will not be different is the coaching staff. Bench coach Pat Murphy, pitching coach Derek Johnson, bullpen coach Lee Tunnell, hitting coach Darnell Coles, assistant hitting coach Jason Lane, first-base coach Carlos Subero and third-base coach Ed Sedar are all returning.

"It is a group that has helped this organization grow a great bit over the past two years," Stearns said. "I think it speaks to the direction we think the organization is going as a whole and the confidence that we have in this coaching staff."

By the nature of his job, Sedar is among the highest-profile men in that group. His critics point out that the Brewers ranked first or second in the Major Leagues in runners thrown out at home plate.

"I have instructed Eddie to be aggressive because I think that's the right way to do it," Counsell said. "It's because of who we are as a team and who's hitting next. And when you [cite the raw numbers of runners thrown out], you don't get the measure of the benefit of being aggressive. When Domingo Santana scores on the contact play, no one writes, 'That was a great contact play.'

"You have to understand the context. You're playing an odds calculation there. I'm aware of it, for sure. We're trying to get better at it. And we have to evaluate how Eddie is doing there, for sure."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.