Each year, our top ranking of the top 50 free agents and their projected contracts/destinations prompts many to raise an eyebrow. In the now five years that I’ve spent contributing to that behemoth of a post, though, I’m not sure I can recall a more unpopular pick with readers than the notion that Jake Arrieta could sign with the Brewers for what would be the largest free-agent signing in Milwaukee’s franchise history. The notion that the Brewers would win a bidding war isn’t one to which most are accustomed. Milwaukee signed Matt Garza to a four-year, $50MM contract prior to the 2014 season and has, at times, played in the second tier of free agency. But the Brewers are among baseball’s smallest markets, and placing Arrieta there admittedly felt odd even for us.

The question we kept asking, however, is: Why should it? The Brewers are one of two teams we kept coming back to that are in a position to act in a manner in which we’ve never really seen them act before. The other is just a five-hour drive to the west, in Minneapolis. I’m not suggesting that it’s a slam dunk that we’ll see the Brewers and Twins shatter their longstanding small-market perception; however, there’s an argument to be made for both teams to give serious consideration to spending far more aggressively this winter than they have in years past.

The 2017 season was a similar tale for both the Brewers and the Twins. Each club was largely written off heading into the 2017 season as they sought to continue rebuilding with an eye more toward 2018 and beyond than toward 2017. Last winter, the Twins’ biggest expenditure was a $24.5MM contract for veteran catcher Jason Castro. The Brewers spent $16MM on KBO reclamation project Eric Thames. The moves were not met with excessive fanfare.

But both the Brewers and Twins saw the majority of their young, potential core pieces take a step forward. Travis Shaw and Domingo Santana broke out with three-win seasons in Milwaukee, while Thames made good on his investment. Jimmy Nelson, Chase Anderson and Zach Davis led a surprisingly strong rotation, and Corey Knebel announced his presence as one of the best relievers on the planet.

Over in Minnesota, Byron Buxton rebounded from a terrible start and batted .274/.333/.452 over his final 459 PAs with elite defense. Miguel Sano hit 28 homers in 114 games before a stress reaction from a foul ball to the shin cut his season short. Eddie Rosario belted 26 homers, Jorge Polanco posted a 128 wRC+ in the second half, and Jose Berrios established himself as a useful big league starter. Joe Mauer even quietly rebounding to hit .305/.384/.417 (116 wRC+).