After beginning the 2015 season with a payroll over $100 mil, the Milwaukee Brewers are projected to have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball for 2016. Following the acquisition of Aaron Hill and the $5.5 mil of his salary that the club has agreed to pick up, that Derek figures that number will be in the range of about $60 mil total. For many fans who aren't familiar or on board with the club's current rebuilding plans, this has been a source of much consternation throughout the winter.
I implore you to fret not Brewer fans, as the lowered payroll won't simply mean more money lining Mark Attanasio's pocket. According to a report from MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez the Brewers are one of seven teams that plan on being very aggressive on the 2016-17 international market. It's been previously reported that the Braves, Padres, and Nationals all plan on blitzing the market this coming summer, but Sanchez's report adds the Brewers, Cardinals, Phillies, and Rangers to that mix. Specifically, Sanchez states that Milwaukee has been "very busy and expect to sign a good crop of teenagers."
The Brewers haven't been all that active on this year's international market. Their most notable signings have come in the form of catcher Jose Sibrian and outfielder Jesus Lujano, both of whom signed for less than $600K. The club has also signed several other players to smaller bonuses. The previous year Milwaukee spent their entire bonus pool to sign Gilbert Lara, who is now universally ranked among the club's top prospects.
New GM Slingin' David Stearns has previously expressed that exploring and utilizing the international free agent market is something that he values very highly. The 2016-17 signing period would be a perfect time to put this strategy in place. The Angels, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Giants, Rays, Red Sox, Royals, and Yankees have all blown past their bonus pool limits during either this year's signing period or the last, which means they cannot sign any player for more than $300k during the next signing period that begins on July 2nd. This effectively takes them out of the running to sign any of the top international talent available on next year's market, leaving a much smaller pool of teams that could compete with the Brewers for the best players.
Milwaukee might very well blow past their allotted bonus pool amount during the upcoming period, but with new a CBA on the horizon and talks of an international draft they may not have to fear suffering many negative consequences for it, if any. This would be a very tangible way for fans to see that the team is reinvesting the money that was saved after shipping off veterans like Adam Lind and Francisco Rodriguez among others this winter. It would also continue Stearns' pattern of targeting young talent to stuff into the lower levels of the minor league system, setting the club up for a sustainable pipeline of talent to help build a perennial contender.
According to Sanchez, some of the top names on the upcoming J2 market include infielders Luis Jose Almanzar and Yasel Atuna, outfielders Jorge Ona and Tirso Ornelas, and pitchers Edisson Gonzalez and Adrian Morejon. Derek also recently discussed the defections of the brothers Gurriel, including Lourdes Gurriel who would qualify as an international amateur if he signs before his 23rd birthday in October. There figures to be more concrete information about the top available talent coming out as we get closer to July 2nd, but at least now we can expect that the Brewers will be in the mix for some of the best players.