Last season according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the Milwaukee Brewers opened the year with the league’s lowest payroll at just a shade over $63 mil. That was the second consecutive season that Milwaukee opened the year with a payroll of less than $65 mil after topping $80+ mil in eight straight seasons from 2008-2015. The Brewers did augment payroll a bit during the season when they added players from outside the organization for their playoff run, but even still were among the lowest-spending clubs in baseball.
After spending the last two offseasons in a rebuilding cycle, the Brewers will be heading in a new direction this winter coming off an 86-win campaign and 2nd place finish in the NL Central in 2017. Milwaukee has most of the same core in place from last season, but there are a few spots on the team (namely the rotation and second base) that will likely be addressed during the coming offseason. The roster as currently assembled should leave plenty of room for the Brewers to add on a few more contracts before the 2018 season begins:
There are a few caveats to this chart, of course:
- Ryan Braun ($4 mil) has deferred money in his contract which will be paid out at a later date.
- Arbitration-eligible players Vogt, Villar, Perez, Nelson, Knebel, Hughes, and Jeffress do not yet have their 2018 salaries officially set so the figures provided are projections from MLB Trade Rumors. Not all of these players are guaranteed to have their contracts tendered, either.
- The MLB league minimum is $545,000 and has been assigned to all pre-arbitration eligible players, though ultimately many of those players will make a small amount over the league minimum.
- Pre-arb roster spots aren't set in stone, but they don't really affect the main topic of this post. So if you don't like Keon Broxton or Taylor Williams or whoever being on this list, swap them out for another pre-arb player. It won't affect the payroll projection.
- Jimmy Nelson will begin the 2018 season on the disabled list after undergoing shoulder surgery, and his timeline for return is still unclear at present.
As things stand now, the Brewers would enter 2018 with an even lower payroll than they had on Opening Day in 2016 and 2017. Things are unlikely to stay that way, however. There are a few non-tender candidates on the roster (Vogt and Villar are two that stand out), but it’s exceedingly probable that the payroll will trend upward as the winter goes on.
Per Cot’s, the highest that Milwaukee’s payroll has gotten under the current ownership group is $110 mil back in the 2014 season. If we were to use that figure as a hypothetical payroll ceiling, then, it means that the Brewers could afford to add nearly $50 mil to the books before Opening Day in 2018.
In essence, nothing is truly off-limits for David Stearns and company this winter. The only question is how aggressive the front office will be willing to get, whether it be on the trade market or in free agency.