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Milwaukee Brewers 2019 arbitration estimates released

Holy smokes, that’s a lot of guys.

San Francisco Giants v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images

After a couple years of austere payrolls while rebuilding, the Milwaukee Brewers opened the pocketbook back up last offseason. According to Cot’s Contracts, the Brewers began the 2018 season with a payroll close to $91 mil, quite a bit more than the roughly $63 mil figures they opened with in 2016 and 2017. The team took on quite a bit more money as the season went on for players like Gio Gonzalez, Mike Moustakas, etc, and figure to end the year with a total outlay of over $100 mil for the first time since 2014. The increased spending doesn’t figure to stop anytime soon for the reigning NL Central champions, either.

MLB Trade Rumors has developed their own system for accurately projecting arbitration salaries, and each year shortly after the end of the regular season they release their forecasts for the following campaign. Those numbers were released by MLBTR earlier this week and include a whopping 15 players currently under contract with the Brewers who will be eligible for arbitration during the coming winter. Here are what their algorithms came up with:

2B Jonathan Schoop

2018 salary: $8.5 mil
2019 projection: $10.1 mil
Difference: +$1.6 mil

The Brewers gave up a bit of a haul to get Schoop from the Orioles just moments before the July non-waiver trade deadline, but overall the second baseman had one of the least productive seasons of his career in 2018. After clubbing 32 homers with a 122 wRC+ in 2017, the free-swinging Schoop could manage only a .233/.266/.416 slash (80 wRC+) with 21 homers in 501 total plate appearances between his two stops. That includes a horrendous .202/.246/.331 batting line in 46 games after getting dealt to the Cream City. He was relegated to a bench role for most of September and that has continued into the playoffs. This would be Schoop’s final trip through arbitration before reaching free agency.

2B/3B Travis Shaw

2018 salary: $567,400
2019 projection: $5.1 mil
Difference: +$4,532,600

Thanks to his terrific production across the last two seasons, Shaw has found himself entrenched in the middle of the order to Milwaukee. The 28 year old hit .241/.345/.480 with a career-best 32 home runs in 2018, good for a wRC+ of 119 that is only one point of where he was last year, despite a 70 point drop in BABIP. Shaw struck out less, walked more, and registered hard contact more often than he did last season, all while learning a new position on the fly. In addition to his strong work at third base (+9 DRS), Shaw acquitted himself nicely at second base, providing roughly average defense (-1 DRS) in 39 games there after the Mike Moustakas trade. Shaw is arb-eligible for the first time this winter.

RHP Corey Knebel

2018 salary: $3.65 mil
2019 projection: $4.9 mil
Difference: +$1.25 mil

Knebel missed six weeks of action with a hamstring injury to start the year, then struggled upon his return to the point where he not only lost his job as closer, but was optioned to the minor leagues in August to try and get back on track. The ploy worked, as Knebel delivered 16.1 scoreless inning during the final month of the season and worked his way back into the high-leverage mix. His strong September helped to make his full-season numbers look quite a bit more palatable - a 3.58 ERA, a 73 FIP-, and 14.3 K/9 versus 3.8 BB/9. Knebel qualified for arbitration for the first time last winter as a Super Two player, so this will be his second out of four years of eligibility.

RHP Jeremy Jeffress***

2018 salary: $1.7 mil
2019 projection: $4.8 mil
Difference: +$3.1 mil (but more likely +$1.475 mil)

Jeffress gets an asterisk next his name here because of the extremely club-friendly deal he signed last offseason. Jeremy was a revelation out of the bullpen in 2018, authoring a 1.29 ERA and 67 FIP- across 73 appearances and 76.2 innings. He recorded 15 saves after taking over as closer, too. Jeffress’ work would have him in line for a sizable arb raise, but at this point it seems like a forgone conclusion that Milwaukee will exercise the $3,175,000 team option it holds over the 31 year old righty for 2019.

RHP Jimmy Nelson

2018 salary: $3.7 mil
2019 projection: $3.7 mil
Difference: none

Nelson missed all of the 2018 season while recovering from a complicated shoulder surgery, and as such MLBTR projects his salary to remain the same during his second run through the arbitration process. We did recently learn that Nelson has completed his rehab and should be ready to go for 2019, and a return to his ace-like form from 2017 (3.49 ERA, 70 FIP-) prior to the injury would obviously be a boon to the club. It’s tough to forecast what Nelson will look like, however, but regardless the team has two more seasons of control over the 29 year old.

C Stephen Vogt

2018 salary: $3.065 mil
2019 projection: $3.065 mil
Difference: none

Like Nelson, Vogt missed all of the 2018 season with a shoulder injury. Unlike Jimmy, however, it doesn’t seem likely that Vogt is brought back, at least at his projected arbitration price. He will be 34 next season and hit only .233/.285/.423 (83 wRC+) during his last extended action in the big leagues in 2017, when he split time between Milwaukee and Oakland while struggling on defense. His veteran presence has been invaluable to the Milwaukee clubhouse this year, but if he wants to continue his playing career it’s likely he’ll be searching for a minor league deal this winter.

UTIL Hernan Perez

2018 salary: $1.975 mil
2019 projection: $2.7 mil
Difference: +$725K

Hammerin’ Hernan once again showcased his versatility in 2018, making multiple appearances at every position on the diamond except catcher. His passable defense across the board has made him a favorite of Craig Counsell, but Perez’s bat was once again well-below average and yielded only a .253/.290/.386 slash line across 334 plate appearances. That marked the second consecutive season he’s posted a 79 wRC+, and he added nine home runs and 11 stolen bases.

RHP Junior Guerra

2018 salary: $554,800
2019 projection: $2.7 mil
Difference: +$2,145,200

Guerra began the year in the minors but wound up finishing third on the team with 141 innings pitched in 2018. He performed like an ace in 17 starts before the All-Star break, but suffered a forearm injury in mid-July and saw his effectiveness quickly wain upon his return. He lost his spot in the rotation after terrible month of August, but showed well with five scoreless appearances out of the bullpen in September to earn a spot on the postseason roster. All together his work adds up to a 4.09 ERA and a near-matching 4.24 FIP, and perhaps some kind of hybrid multi-inning role within Milwaukee’s run prevention system in 2019.

RHP Zach Davies

2018 salary: $572,000
2019 projection: $2.4 mil
Difference: +$1.828 mil

Davies was supposed to be a key cog in Milwaukee’s rotation, but endured a mostly lost year thanks to shoulder and back injuries. He made only 13 starts in total, logging 66.0 innings with a 4.77 ERA and 106 FIP-. A solid September performance (3.91 ERA in 23.0 IP) looked a lot more like the 2016-17 version of Davies and should have him firmly in the mix for a spot on the pitching staff in 2019.

OF Domingo Santana

2018 salary: $572,400
2019 projection: $2 mil
Difference: +$1,427,600

Santana looked to be on the verge of stardom after smashing 30 home runs with a 127 wRC+ in 2017 and he was the club’s Opening Day right fielder even after the Cain and Yelich additions. Unfortunately his power mysteriously vanished, eventually leading to an extended stay in the minors. Santana was recalled when rosters expanded in September and played well in a pinch-hit role, but ultimately produced a mere .265/.328/.412 slash (97 wRC+) and knocked only five balls over the fence in 235 plate appearances.

C Manny Pina

2018 salary: $560,100
2019 projection: $1.8 mil
Difference: +$1,239,900

Pina couldn’t quite match his 2017 batting performance this year, but nonetheless produced a .252/.307/.395 slash line (85 wRC+) that landed right around the league-average for catchers. He clubbed nine homers across 337 plate appearances, too, matching his 2017 dinger output. Pina is well-regarded defensively and that rang true again in 2018, throwing out 41% of attempted base stealers while also grading out positively as a pitch framer.

C Erik Kratz

2018 salary: $545K
2019 projection: $1.7 mil
Difference: +$1.155 mil

The lovable Kratz has become a fan favorite since coming over from the Yankees in May and his NLDS performance will have his name forever etched in the franchise’s lore. He wasn’t great with the bat - .236/.280/.355 with six homers in 219 PA - but Kratz graded out as one of the top pitch framers in baseball this year and every hurler on the staff raved about the way he works with pitchers. Kratz turns 39 next season and it remains to be seen if he’ll look to continue his playing career.

LHP Dan Jennings

2018 salary: $750K
2019 projection: $1.6 mil
Difference: +$850K

Lieutenant Dan signed with Milwaukee right at the beginning of the season after getting cut by Tampa Bay, and he produced a sturdy 3.22 ERA across 64.1 innings and 72 appearances. The peripherals are less promising, however, including a roughly leave-average 99 FIP- accompanying a career-low strikeout rate. Counsell appeared to lose trust in Jennings as the season wore on, and his usage declined sharply after the acquisition of Xavier Cedeno in late August. Speaking of...

LHP Xavier Cedeno

2018 salary: $1.05 mil
2019 projection: $1.5 mil
Difference: $450K

Cedeno began the year in the minors with the White Sox after injuries limited him to only 3.0 innings in 2017. Once he got back to The Show, though, he put together one of his finest seasons. A pure LOOGY, Cedeno appeared in 48 games this year but totaled only 33.0 innings. He did so with a 2.43 ERA and a 34:16 K/BB ratio. The soft-tossing cut-fastball specialist was charged with only one run in 15 games and 8.0 innings after getting picked up by the Brewers, and could be a candidate to reprise that role in 2019.

INF Tyler Saladino

2018 salary: $565K
2019 projection: $1 mil
Difference: $435K

Saladino, another former White Sock, was acquired early on in the season in a cash deal to serve as infield depth. The struggles of Orlando Arcia pushed him into an everyday role for awhile, and he started off pretty hot before suffering a brutal ankle injury. His bat had cooled by the time he returned to active duty, and he was eventually sent back to the minors before returning in Septemeber. His slash with the Brewers stood at .246/.302/.398 with five home runs across 130 plate appearances by season’s end, and he doesn’t have an obvious role with Milwaukee moving forward.

If all 15 arbitration-eligible players return to Milwaukee next season at their projected salaries, that alone would account for close to an additional $20 mil in raises versus 2018. It’s quite unlikely that happens, however, so stay tuned for what figures to be another busy offseason for Slingin’ David Stearns and his Menomonee Valley Nine. But no until after the playoff runs concludes, of course!

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs, salary information courtesy of Cot’s Contracts