As tonight's midnight eastern time non-tender deadline approaches, the Brewers dropped a moderately-sized bomb on us early this evening, announcing that utility infielder Elian Herrera will not be offered a contract and will become a free agent.
The #Brewers have non-tendered INF/OF Elian Herrera, making him a free agent. The 40-man roster now stands at 37.— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) December 2, 2015
Herrera, 30, became the de facto starter at third base last season after Aramis Ramirez was dealt back to the Pirates in July. Over the final 39 games he was about as good as you would have expected him to be, hitting .261/.310/.408 with 3 home runs in 45 games (39 starts). It's a bit of a surprise for this announcement in part because with just over two years of major league service time, Herrera is not yet eligible for arbitration.
In no way does this move indicate that Herrera won't be back with Milwaukee next season. While Herrera is a free agent and is now able to sign with anyone, this isn't the first time the Brewers and Herrera have found themselves in this situation. He was designated for assignment and outrighted twice to AAA-Colorado Springs over the past year; once in the off-season before having his contract purchased on April 21, and then again in June 2. He rejoined the team on July 31 and stuck for the rest of the season. Indeed, GM David Stearns has already indicated he is interested in keeping Herrera in the organization:
Stearns indicates Brewers would like to re-sign Herrera to MiLB deal. But wanted to clear another spot on 40-man roster, which stands at 37.— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) December 2, 2015
With three open spots on the roster, the Winter Meetings starting next week, and four months to go before Opening Day, there's just no way to speculate as to what this means for the Brewers active roster or their starting lineup, so I won't even try. Today it looks like it'll be Jonathan Villar at the hot corner to start 2016, but Milwaukee's starting third baseman could very well be outside of the organization today.
Given Stearns' assertion that he valued the opening on the 40-man roster however, one thing we can start to speculate about is who Milwaukee might look to target in the Rule 5 draft, as that's one fast-approaching reason why Stearns would want to have a keep a roster spot open. Later this week Kyle will have a primer on the Rule 5 draft, which takes place next week Thursday.
During his four year career with Milwaukee and the Dodgers, Herrera owns a .253/.306/.360 slash line, eight home runs (seven of which he hit last season) and a wRC+ of 81.