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Stearns: Brewers will stick by core after NLCS loss

Stearns: Brewers will stick by core after NLCS loss

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — David Stearns doesn’t expect wholesale change for the Milwaukee Brewers after they fell a game short of the World Series.

Milwaukee is set to return most of its roster after winning the NL Central in a tiebreaking 163rd game and pushing the Dodgers to Game 7 of the NL Championship Series. Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain headline the group, with Ryan Braun, Travis Shaw, Jesus Aguilar and Orlando Arcia all under contract, too. That gives Milwaukee’s general manager reason for optimism long-term.

“Those are players that performed on a big stage in October and have the ability to continue performing as Brewers in the future,” Stearns said. “We genuinely believe we are set up to succeed going forward.”

Stearns also pointed to an abundance of young pitching. Rookie right-handers Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta pitched well down the stretch, and Woodruff and Burnes played crucial roles in the postseason. All three will be in the mix for a rotation spot with Jhoulys Chacin, Zach Davies and Chase Anderson. The wild card for that unit is Jimmy Nelson, a breakout ace in 2017 who missed all of this season following surgery on his right shoulder.

The Brewers’ bullpen 1-2 punch of Josh Hader and Corey Knebel are also under team control for years to come.

“We certainly like our numbers and we do feel we have depth at that position,” Stearns said. “We’re always going to look to get better. We’re always going to look to improve. But we think we have a number of high-upside, high-quality arms who are continuing to improve, and some who are entering that sweet spot in their careers. That’s fun for us to see.”

The team has just three free agents — late-season acquisitions Wade Miley, Gio Gonzalez and Curtis Granderson. Miley was a major contributor, going 5-2 with a 2.57 ERA in 16 starts during the regular season and then pitching masterfully in the postseason.

Mike Moustakas and Joakim Soria have mutual options for $15 and $10 million, respectively, and Jeremy Jeffress and Jordan Lyles have club options for 2018.

Moustakas seemed a strange fit when Milwaukee acquired him from Kansas City prior to the trade deadline because the team already had Shaw entrenched at third base. But Shaw held his own after moving to second, and Moustakas came through with some timely postseason hits after delivering eight homers, 33 RBIs and a .767 OPS in the regular season.

“There is a reason why he has the reputation he has as a big game player,” Stearns said. “We’re happy to have him.”

Jonathan Schoop didn’t fare as well after he was acquired from Baltimore. He batted .202 with four home runs and 21 RBIs for Milwaukee and went hitless with three strikeouts in eight postseason plate appearances.

Schoop is still under team control for next season, but after earning $8.5 million in 2018, he might be a non-tender candidate.

“He has had really impressive stretches throughout his career, and unfortunately for both him and us, we didn’t see one of those stretches when he was a Brewer,” Stearns said. “We’ll sit down to see if we can determine why, and then we’ll go forward.”

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