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.
We posted our most recent payroll update shortly after the beginning of the new year, but we have had some more action since then that has affected the outlook for the upcoming season. The Brewers added another free agent arm on a major league deal, and the club also agreed to contracts for all of their remaining arbitration-eligible players in advance of last Friday’s deadline to exchange figures. So here’s how things stand with only about four more weeks until pitchers and catchers report:
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. Yovani Gallardo also has $2 mil in incentives available, Eric Thames has $500K, Chase Anderson has $400K, Eric Sogard has $650K, Jeremy Jeffress has $2.2 mil, Boone Logan has $3.2 mil, and Hernan Perez has an undisclosed amount of incentives built into his contract. Logan’s deal also includes a $625K buyout of his 2019 team option.
- 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 Brent Suter 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 mentioned above, this past Friday was the deadline to teams and players to exchange and file salary figures for the upcoming season. After going to a hearing with Chase Anderson last season, the Brewers will avoid having to appear before the arbitration panel with any of their players this year. The four remaining arb-eligibles each wound up agreeing to deals below their MLBTR projections - Jimmy Nelson at $3.7 mil, Corey Knebel at $3.65 mil, Jonathan Villar at $2.55 mil, and Hernan Perez at $1.975 mil. When you add in the previous agreements with Stephen Vogt and Jeremy Jeffress, David Stearns and his front office saved $3.81 mil on all six players versus what MLB Trade Rumors projected at the beginning of the offseason.
Milwaukee also completed the long-awaited signing of Boone Logan, which took three weeks from the day it was first reported until the it was officially announced by the team. The contract guarantees Logan $2.5 mil over a one-year term and includes a club option for 2019 valued at $4.125 mil (which comes with a $625K buyout). Boone can also earn up to $3.2 mil in incentives based on appearances and innings pitched totals. He figures to serve as the LOOGY in Craig Counsell’s bullpen when the season begins.
When accounting for the arbitration salaries getting settled and adding Logan’s contract to the books, Milwaukee’s payroll projection actually decreased slightly from our last update. The team still doesn’t even have close to $70 mil on the books for next season with about a month left until Spring Training kicks off in Maryvale. But as was the case with our prior payroll post, basically every major free agent remains available, as do most of the top trade candidates. And if the reports are to be believed, Milwaukee has at least one big-money offer out there to Jake Arrieta as well as continuing interest in Lorenzo Cain and Neil Walker. The Brewers have the means, motive, and opportunity to strike the iron at least once in a major way before the season begins. The question is if Slingin’ Stearns will pull the trigger.