When Corey Hart signed with Seattle, the prospect of another season with a gaping production hole at first base was dismal to contemplate. For a while, it seemed like the Brewers’ best hope was a trade for Ike Davis, and the sentiment of fans could probably best be summed up as, “C’mon, Ike Davis? Well, I guess…” When the Davis talks went nowhere and he ultimately re-signed with the Mets, the sentiment of fans could probably best be summed up as, “We can’t even get a jabroni like Ike Davis? Christ.”
What a difference a few weeks makes! As of this writing, the possibilities at 1B are nearly endless for the Brewers. To be sure, none of them will knock your socks off, but there’s something to be said for the relative lack of downsides. Especially following a 2013 season when the Brewers played seven guys at 1B, having only a few downsides at the position would be a tremendous improvement.
Lyle Overbay: When it was announced yesterday that Milwaukee signed Overbay to a minor league deal, it was hard not to feel warm and fuzzy. Heck, that news briefly knocked ten years right off of me. I’m sure more than a few fans dug up jerseys they haven’t worn since the mid-00’s. Although Overbay is well into the “unremarkable” phase of his career, at the very least he’s not a defensive liability, and the nostalgia factor counts for something.
Mark Reynolds: If I may, here’s a version of the line that ran through all our heads when we heard about the Reynolds signing: “Looks like the Brewers have more than replaced Corey Hart’s strikeout numbers.” It’s impossible to resist. Reynolds is still relatively young, so there’s always a chance he’s got a career resurgence in him somewhere. As with Overbay, there’s nothing to lose signing him to a minor league deal. As others have observed, Reynolds’ experience at 3B also provides depth if Aramis Ramirez has another injury-plagued season.
Juan Francisco: The Brewers’ incumbent first baseman just got an arbitration-avoiding pay raise, so maybe that will motivate him. Francisco didn’t inspire much confidence with his 2013 season, but…I mean, he can’t get any worse. Probably. His winter ball numbers weren’t too shabby. Are we supposed to believe Ike Davis would have been an upgrade? Also, if he ends of platooning with Reynolds, there’s always the possibility of a bittersweet Head & Shoulders “Whiff” sponsorship.
Sean Halton: Speaking of winter ball, Halton had a great run in Liga de Beisbol Dominicano. It was a small sample size (52 at bats), but it’s hard to be disappointed by a .327 / .410 / .538 stat line. Obviously, Halton already has big league experience, and in theory he has a bright future. Indulging in high hopes for Halton seems to make more sense than any of the other guys on this list.
Hunter Morris: I think I’ve heard of this fellow before. Apparently Morris is still highly regarded, since the Brewers protected him from the latest Rule 5 draft. I don’t know much about Morris, but here’s what I do know (or think I know) – everyone with a glove and facial hair started at 1B for Milwaukee last year, and Morris never got called up. The Brewers clearly have lots of first basemen signed to minor league deals, so it’s about time for Morris to distinguish himself. We’ve seen more of Blake Lalli in the majors than Morris. Speaking of which…
Blake Lalli: I understand he’s more of a catcher and fairly long in the tooth for a minor leaguer, but he did have that walk off hit last year. Why not Lalli? (Update 1/22: I'm told Lalli is no longer with the Brewers organization. Good thing I didn't put him higher on this list! Hat tip: Brew Crew Ball.)
In many ways, the Brewers are still trying to fill a void left by Prince Fielder all those years ago. Surely we’d all prefer the team had 1B locked down with a dependable, productive player. But the reasons the Brewers haven’t been as competitive the past two seasons have more to do with pitching than offense. Given the alternatives, the Brewers aren’t too badly positioned with their 1B options right now. As fans, we might as well manage our expectations and be grateful there are bright sides to look on.