KEY ADDITIONS: Kolten Wong, Daniel Robertson
KEY SUBTRACTIONS: Ryan Braun, Jedd Gyorko, Eric Sogard, Alex Claudio, Ben Gamel
It just won’t be the same without Ryan Braun around when the Brewers visit Wrigley Field. His deal with the Brewers expired at the end of 2020 and it doesn’t appear there’s any interest in Milwaukee bringing him back, nor any from any other team.
Braun is 37, missed part of 2020 with injuries and his last really good year was 2016. He’s probably done.
You’ll miss booing him once fans are allowed back in Wrigley. If this is it for him, he retires with 19 career homers at Wrigley Field and 40 total against the Cubs. The active leader in HR vs. the Cubs is Albert Pujols, who almost certainly has played his last game at Wrigley (57 total, 29 at Wrigley). The new active opponent leader in home runs vs. the Cubs and at Wrigley when Pujols retires will be Joey Votto (37 total, 19 at Wrigley).
All right, history lesson over, what’s new with the Brewers?
Not much, apart from their signing of Kolten Wong, who I wish the Cubs would have at least tried to bring to the North Side. Wong will improve Milwaukee’s infield defense. Their previous second baseman, Keston Hiura, will reportedly move to first base this year. Luis Urias is listed at the top of Milwaukee’s depth chart at third base, though re-signed Jace Peterson and newly-acquired Daniel Robertson will get some time there.
Milwaukee’s other choice at first base is our old buddy Dan Vogelbach, and ... well, let’s just say the Brewers are hanging on to him for when the universal DH is instituted.
Lorenzo Cain, who opted out of the 2020 season, returns in center field. It remains to be seen how a year off plus his age (35 in April) will affect his play.
The Brewers rotation looks the same as it did in 2020 with the recent re-signing of Brett Anderson. The top of the rotation is pretty good with Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes; the rest is probably league-average at best.
Josh Hader, the subject of trade rumors this winter, returns to anchor the bullpen. Hader allowed three home runs all of 2020 (in 19 innings, 78 batters faced). Two of them were back-to-back by Jason Heyward and Ildemaro Vargas of the Cubs last September and of course you’d like to see those again:
More of that, please.
In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Devin Williams start closing some games for the Brewers. He was lights-out in his rookie year, allowing only 17 baserunners in 100 batters faced and posting 53 strikeouts in 27 innings. That’s a pretty good one-two combination.
The Brewers are still a decent enough team, but they seem like they’re stuck in place.
The Cubs are scheduled to face the Brewers 19 times in 2021:
April 5-6-7, April 23-24-25 and August 9-10-11-12 at Wrigley Field
Now what kind of scheduler makes a team that plays indoors at home play TWO series in possible cold weather in Chicago in April?
April 12-13-14, June 28-29-30 and September 18-19-20 at American Family Fields, the new corporate name for the former Miller Park.
The Cubs are scheduled to play nine of their first 21 games against the Brewers, then not face them again until late June. That could set an early tone for the NL Central race.