Last season according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the Milwaukee Brewers opened the year with the league’s lowest payroll at just a shade under $64 mil. That figure was the lowest that the Brewers have seen since 2007 and was the first time the Opening Day payroll was below $80 mil since 2008.
There have been a couple notable changes since our last update that have affected how the official Opening Day payroll looks. Scooter Gennett was DFA’d and claimed by the Reds, who assumed his entire $2.525 mil salary in the process. The Brewers also signed righty Jared Hughes to a free agent contract yesterday just prior to the deadline to finalize rosters. With the roster officially submitted to the league and the Milwaukee Nine preparing to begin the season today against Colorado, here is how the Opening Day payroll looks for 2017:
|Ryan Braun||$19,000,000||Eric Thames||$4,000,000||Matt Garza - 10 day DL||$12,500,000||Neftali Feliz||$5,350,000|
|Kirk Nieuwenhuis||$900,000||Jesus Aguilar||$535,000||Wily Peralta||$4,275,000||Carlos Torres||$2,175,000|
|Keon Broxton||$535,000||Jett Bandy||$535,000||Chase Anderson||$2,450,000||Tommy Milone||$1,250,000|
|Domingo Santana||$535,000||Orlando Arcia||$535,000||Junior Guerra||$535,000||Jared Hughes||$950,000|
|Jonathan Villar||$535,000||Zach Davies||$535,000||Jhan Marinez||$535,000|
|Hernan Perez||$535,000||Jimmy Nelson||$535,000||Corey Knebel||$535,000|
|Travis Shaw||$535,000||Jacob Barnes||$535,000|
|Andrew Susac - 10 day DL||$535,000||Taylor Jungmann||$535,000|
There are a few caveats to this chart, of course:
- Ryan Braun ($4 mil) and Matt Garza ($2 mil) both have deferred money in their contract which will be paid out at a later date. Neftali Feliz also has up to $1.5 mil in incentives that he can earn with his deal, Eric Thames can earn up to an extra $500K of incentives in his, Tommy Milone’s salary is now guaranteed since he made the Opening Day roster and he can boost his salary by an additional $2 mil by hitting his performance incentives, and Jared Hughes can earn an another $250K in incentives with his deal.
- The MLB league minimum has been raised to $535,000 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 (for example, last season Jonathan Villar made $512,900 with the league minimum at $507,500).
- Matt Garza and Andrew Susac both begin the season on the 10-day disabled list, but their salaries will of course still count against the payroll. Those injuries opened up spots for Jett Bandy and Taylor Jungmann, who will both be earning close to the league minimum this season.
With the roster now official, we know for certain that this year the Milwaukee Brewers will open with a lower payroll than they did last season. 17 players on the club are still under their pre-arbitration contracts, with nine of those making their first career Opening Day rosters. In fact, just one position player on the Opening Day roster - Ryan Braun - was on the team to start the season in 2015. According to Spotrac, the Brewers will have the league’s lowest payroll on Opening Day for the second consecutive season.
There would have been plenty of room in the payroll for the club to make some inexpensive deals for veteran free agents over the winter that would’ve raised the floor of their club. Jason Hammel signed a two-year, $16 mil deal with the Royals and could have provided some stability and certainty to a mostly unproven starting rotation. Luis Valbuena signed a 2-year deal for $15 mil with the Angels, but could’ve served as insurance at second base, third base, first base, and maybe the outfield corners as well as a left-handed bat off the bench to pair with utilityman Hernan Perez. The Brewers also could have gone harder after another couple of relievers that signed short-term deals in the vein of Neftali Feliz - someone like Santiago Casilla or Drew Storen, for example. None of these moves would have hamstrung Milwaukee’s payroll in a significant way or blocked any important prospects going forward. The above players could have helped the team win more games in 2017 or given the club a few more trade chips come deadline time in July.
Who knows, maybe the Brewers did attempt to make a few of these transactions. In the end, however, David Stearns filled out most of the roster with league-minimum players and carry a payroll of just over $61 mil into the 2017 campaign.
Contract information courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts