3 key offseason questions facing Brewers

3 key offseason questions facing Brewers

MILWAUKEE -- With the World Series in the books, baseball is looking ahead to 2018.

Free agents were allowed to start talking with other clubs at 8 a.m. CT, though they cannot sign with a new team until Monday at 4 p.m. There are no restrictions on trades now that 2017 is in the books, so general managers are free to start wheeling and dealing.

For Brewers general manager David Stearns, it could be another busy winter.

Free agents: P Matt Garza, P Anthony Swarzak, 2B Neil Walker

Arbitration-eligible: P Jared Hughes, P Jeremy Jeffress, P Corey Knebel (Super Two), P Jimmy Nelson, INF/OF Hernan Perez, 2B Jonathan Villar, C Stephen Vogt

Deals done: Signed pitcher Chase Anderson to a two-year extension, avoiding arbitration. Re-signed free-agent infielder Eric Sogard.

Three offseason questions for the Brewers:

1. How much time will Nelson miss?
In other words, what constitutes "a chunk" of a season? That is the only hint about a timeline for Nelson's recovery from right shoulder surgery that Stearns has let on, saying the Brewers will not have a more specific idea about how long they will be without their top starting pitcher until he resumes throwing, a benchmark still months away. At some point before the start of Spring Training, however, the Brewers should get a better handle on how many games Nelson might miss.

The answer to that could impact Milwaukee's aggressiveness in regards to the starting-pitching market, because even if Stearns re-signs the bulk of those arbitration-eligible players, there will be funds to add a free agent or take on salary via trade. If Nelson has a setback or his rehab progresses more slowly than thought, would Stearns be more inclined to step up for a top starter?

2. Where does Josh Hader fit?
Like Nelson's health, the answer to this question will help direct the Brewers' offseason efforts. When Hader says he is equally content returning in 2018 as a reliever as he would be moving back to the rotation, he sounds convincing, so it seems that it's in the Brewers' hands as to how they handle the left-hander. Is there more value in impacting twice as many games as a reliever? Or is it better to have Hader pitch twice as many innings (or more) as a starter? Either way, Hader appears to be a weapon.

3. What surprise is up Stearns' sleeve?
You just know that the man who signed Eric Thames back from South Korea, traded for Travis Shaw when no one saw it coming and tried to trade for Jose Quintana has something outside the box in store. Stay tuned over the winter to see what it is.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.