After winning 86 games and finishing a game out of the playoffs in 2017, the Milwaukee Brewers opened up the pocketbook and added roughly $145 mil in future payroll commitments to the books during the 2017-18 offseason. This led to close to a 50% jump in Opening Day payroll from 2017 ($63 mil) to 2018 ($91 mil). The Brewers proceeded to add even more money to the books during their run through the regular season and into the playoffs.
The additional expenditures certainly aided Milwaukee’s cause, as the club improved to 96 victories and captured a division championship, securing their first playoff berth since 2011 before bowing out in game seven of the NLCS. Now the challenge for David Stearns and company will be to get the squad over the hump and into the World Series by finding ways to improve the roster for 2019 without the same kind of payroll flexibility they had entering last offseason:
There are a few caveats to this chart, of course:
- Ryan Braun ($4 mil) and Lorenzo Cain ($1 mil) have deferred money in their contracts which will be paid out at a later date.
- Eric Thames, Matt Albers, Jeremy Jeffress, Chase Anderson, and Cain all have various attainable incentives built into their contracts.
- Arbitration-eligible players Santana, Schoop, Shaw, Perez, Pina, Kratz, Saladino, Nelson, Davies, Knebel, Guerra, Jennings, and Cedeno do not yet have their salaries officially set for 2019 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 salary rises to $555,000 in 2019 and has been assigned to all pre-arbitration 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 any of the league-minimum players on this list, swap them out for another pre-arb player. It won’t affect the payroll projection.
As things stand right now, if the Brewers were to bring back all of their players with guaranteed contracts and tender an offer to every arbitration-eligible player, they would already set a new record for Opening Day payroll in 2019 without making a single roster move during the upcoming winter. The club’s previous high for Opening Day payroll is a shade over $104 mil, set back in 2015 (the record for end-of-year payroll is $110.3 mil, set in 2014).
It stands to reason that given their improved attendance, increased revenue from a deep playoff run, and an adjustment for inflation, that the Brewers may have enough cash in reserve to exceed their previous high-water mark for payroll spending. But it also figures that the club may look to move some money around this winter to improve their spending flexibility. There are more than a few non-tender candidates on the roster (Schoop, Saladino, Cedeno, and Jennings stand out) as well as some higher-priced players who could be candidates for trade (Anderson, Thames, and Albers) based on falling down the depth chart.
Slingin’ Stearns and company may have to get creative in order to shore up some of the roster’s weaknesses before the 2019 campaign starts, so perhaps we should consider buckling up for another potentially active offseason.