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Which Brewers player should receive the next contract extension?

The Brewers have signed contract extensions with key members of the team every year for the last half-decade. Will they keep up that pattern?

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Note: Mug is off today. Enjoy this, instead.

Prior to 2013, the Brewers signed Carlos Gomez to a three-year deal worth $24 million to keep him from becoming a free agent this offseason. Before the 2012 season, the Brewers signed Jonathan Lucroy to a five-year, $11 million deal. Before 2011, Ryan Braun signed an extension to his previous extension, adding on an additional five years and $105 million. They also signed Corey Hart to a three-year extension worth $25 million. Before the 2010 season, Yovani Gallardo signed a five-year extension.

Before 2009, the Brewers extended general manager Doug Melvin for three years, TV play-by-play commentator Brian Anderson for five years, and even extended their TV deal.

Before the 2008 season, Ryan Braun signed his original extension with the Brewers.

What I'm getting at here, is that the Brewers have made a habit out of signing contract extensions in the offseason in recent years. So much so that it would be more of a surprise this year if they didn't sign a player to a new contract extension this offseason. So who might be next for a deal?

Jean Segura is probably the most likely player to be approached. In fact, the Brewers already have made initial overtures to their young shortstop and plan on talking to him some more.

Segura has just one full season under his belt, but he was pretty spectacular. He has already established himself as one of the top shortstops in the MLB, hitting .294/.329/.423 with very nice defense, reasonably unexpected power numbers, and blazing speed that saw him swipe 44 bases, falling just short of the league lead.

Signing a player so early in his career certainly is not unprecedented. On the contrary, it has become a more popular option recently as players tend to sign cheaper deals in exchange for financial security. This has been one of the Brewers favored moves as they pulled off early contract extensions with both Braun and Lucroy. Given the fact that Segura has been hesitant to sign thus far, it may take slightly more money than the Brewers are fully comfortable with giving out. However, shortstops are in high demand, so locking up a potential perennial All Star will be a priority.

After Segura, though, there aren't exactly many clear options for the next Brewers extension. Rickie Weeks, Kyle Lohse and Aramis Ramirez are unlikely to stay with the team longer than their current contracts. Yovani Gallardo and the Brewers would certainly be too far apart on terms. Gomez and Braun are already signed. Other players are too young, too inexperienced, or too bad.

The only players I could see the Brewers approaching this offseason about a contract extension other than Segura are Marco Estrada or Jonathan Lucroy.

The latter is certainly questionable. He is still signed for another three years with an option for a fourth, after all. However, like shortstops, catchers are in high demand. Especially catchers who are actually really good. Lucroy's pitch framing and defense has been celebrated at length, and he also hit .280/.340/.455 in his fourth major league season. He's one of the best catchers out there right now, especially in the non-Yadier Molina or Buster Posey category. Lucroy won't come close to an MVP award, but he's very valuable.

Signing Lucroy to a second extension would be similar to what the Brewers did with Braun. Milwaukee could keep Lucroy on his current deal, but remove the option year in favor of an additional two or three years at a (much) higher salary. It would keep him in Milwaukee longer, possibly a step towards being a career-Brewer. It would keep him happy. It probably won't happen, but it makes sense on some level.

Estrada is more likely. He is under team control for just two more seasons and could be on the verge of big things a la Carlos Gomez. He posts excellent strikeout and walk numbers with an 8.8 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 over the past two seasons. Over that time frame, he also has a 3.75 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. That's a really good pitcher, and one that currently is not being talked about much around the league.

It's very possible that Estrada breaks out in 2014 to become the inarguable top pitcher on the Brewers staff. He has excellent stuff and good command typically, though he struggles with home runs on occasion. Estrada is one of the latest Doug Melvin trash heap finds, and could be one of Melvin's best. If he does break out next year, signing him now could lock him in cheaply for several years.

Other than those three players, however, the Brewers don't really have anyone deserving of an extension. Guys like Khris Davis and Jim Henderson are still pre-arbitration and, unlike Segura, don't yet deserve a long-term contract. Other players are either already signed, on their way out, or are someone like Martin Maldonado, who isn't a key player needing to stay long-term.

The Brewers have a pattern of signing extensions every offseason. We'll see if they have one in store this year.