Brewers’ Stearns will look for roadblocks to get building blocks

As funny as it sounds, one thing the Milwaukee Brewers are looking for this offseason is roadblocks.


More specifically, players who are on major-league rosters or on the verge of being called up who are blocked by an established veteran at their position or potential alternate positions.

Take Jarrod Dyson of the Kansas City Royals. Dyson has had key roles in each of the last two postseasons for the Royals, but primarily as a pinch-runner. But Dyson is entering his age-31 season and is arbitration-eligible for the second time.

With the Brewers needing a stopgap solution to patrol center field until Brett Phillips likely arrives for full-time duty to begin 2017, Dyson makes perfect sense. First, he is cheap talent, slated to make $1.7 million in 2016, according to arbitration projections by Dyson is also in a logjam in the Royals outfield, regardless of whether free-agent left fielder Alex Gordon returns, which is likely. Lorenzo Cain is established in center field and Paulo Orlando appears set to replace free agent Alex Rios in right. Prospect Jose Martinez could also be in the mix after winning the Pacific Coast League batting title at .384, not to mention speedster Terrance Gore, who might have to be kept on the big-league roster next spring due to already burning an option or two.

All are seemingly more attractive than the left-handed-hitting Dyson due to Dyson’s age and the fact he hasn’t hit that well (.255 career average) and only really a base-stealing threat. So why should the Brewers go after Dyson? They would have control over him for the next two seasons and be a veteran who can help Phillips’ transition to the majors whenever that happens. Dyson also excels defensively, a point of emphasis as new general manager David Stearns reshapes the Brewers’ roster. Dyson also can play all three outfield positions and should be a cheap acquisition due to the Royals’ plethora of outfield candidates for one, maybe two jobs. Any move with Dyson, though, may wait until Gordon signs with the Royals or elsewhere as he becomes more valuable to Kansas City should Gordon leave.

Another guy who is roadblocked is Joey Gallo, a power-hitting third baseman in the Texas Rangers system. Gallo is a one-trick pony with his tremendous power, hitting six homers in 36 games during an emergency midseason cameo. He also struck out 57 times in 123 plate appearances, showing he might need a little more seasoning. Gallo is stuck behind veteran Adrian Beltre, who likely has another couple seasons left in him. Shifting over to first base seems questionable as the Rangers used Mitch Moreland there this season and relegated Prince Fielder to being the designated hitter. Gallo played left field during his call-up, but that was because of injuries to corner outfielders Josh Hamilton and Shin-Soo Choo, both of whom are expected to be back in 2016. It could be a push to make Gallo your starting third baseman to open next season, considering his hit .195 at Triple-A following his call-up from Double-A.

I’m not saying Stearns should go out and get Dyson and/or Gallo, they are just the types of players Stearns will be shopping for — at positions of need for the Brewers — as he starts to establish a young, controllable core of players to build a winner. Sure, there are a few free-agent options who could help out the Brewers, but the early steps of the foundation can often be the most important and Stearns will want to stay true to his blueprint.

Brewers need only look at Royals to see how to build a winner

When the Kansas City Royals celebrated winning the World Series on Sunday, the story line was that it was a culmination of a yearlong journey of redemption after coming up 90 feet short of tying Game 7 of the World Series in 2014 against the San Francisco Giants.

But that journey was a bit longer.

Experts took notice of the Royals a couple years ago as a team that was on the precipice of contending, having a young core of position players the franchise developed augmented with homegrown and acquired pitchers.

But it wasn’t an overnight success.

Left fielder Alex Gordon was the second overall pick in the 2005 draft. Catcher Salvador Perez, the spirit of this Royals team and the Series MVP, was an international free agent who signed in 2006. Third baseman Mike Moustakas was the second overall pick in the 2007. First baseman Eric Hosmer was the third overall pick in 2008. Shortstop Alcides Escobar, the AL Championship Series MVP, and center fielder Lorenzo Cain, last year’s ALCS MVP, were among the players acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers for Zack Greinke before the 2011 season. Another player from the Greinke deal, pitcher Jake Odorizzi, was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays along with outfielder Wil Myers for pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis before the 2013 season. Shields was the anchor of last season’s rotation, while Davis has become the best reliever in the majors.

So when new Brewers general manager David Stearns preached to a gathering of season ticket-holders last week that his goal is to acquire young, controllable talent in order to make the Crew a consistent contender, he could use the Royals or the Houston Astros — a team he was assistant GM for until being hired last month and a team that had back-to-back 100-loss seasons just a few seasons ago — as primary examples.

There has been some heavy lifting already done. The Brewers’ farm system isn’t the barren wasteland it was a couple seasons ago. The development of players including shortstop Orlando Arcia and pitcher Jorge Lopez, as well as the acquisition of a handful of players not that far away from being ready for the majors has the Brewers not having to take a major step back.

But there will be growing pains. 2016 figures to be focused on development rather than contending. After that? Arcia, Lopez, center fielder Brett Phillips and pitchers Adrian Houser and Josh Hader figure to be in a group of prospects ready to break through no later than Opening Day 2017. They will join outfielder Domingo Santana, who established himself as an everyday option after his call-up, and right-hander Zach Davies, who pitched well in his September audition and figures to be a rotation candidate going into spring training.

Stearns, still officially formalizing his front-office staff, will begin in earnest the process of molding the roster in the vision he promised owner Mark Attanasio when hired, with first baseman Adam Lind‘s $8 million option his first significant player decision.

Brewers fans will have to be patient. One more thing to keep in mind: The Royals were successful because, for the most part, they kept their core players together at the same level as they migrated through the minors. Everyone points to the talent at Double-A Biloxi — and rightfully so — but with an exception or two, most of that team should be at hitter-friendly Triple-A Colorado Springs in 2016 before becoming ready for prime time.