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.
Our first look at next year’s payroll had the franchise bumping up against the $110 mil threshold when factoring in the projected raises for arbitration-eligible players. Since then, however, Slingin’ Stearns non-tendered three players and agreed to terms with three others, altering the lay of the land when it comes to how much money the team will be able to spend this winter:
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, Shaw, Pina, Nelson, Davies, Knebel, and Guerra do not yet have their salaries officially set for 2019 so the figures provided are projections from MLB Trade Rumors.
- 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 like any of the league-minimum players on this list, swap them out for another pre-arb player. It won’t affect the payroll projection.
The Brewers saved a shade over $800K on next year’s payroll by agree to below-projected contracts with Erik Kratz ($1.2 mil), Hernan Perez ($2.5 mil), and Tyler Saladino ($887.5K) and helped provide some clarity about the role players who will be filling in as depth next season. Non-tendering Jennings and Cedeno leaves the bullpen without much left-handed depth (Hader is the only healthy southpaw remaining on the 40 man roster), but according to Stearns, often times the arbitration process gives larger salaries to those types of players than what they would be able to find on the open market. Finally, the decision to move on from Jonathan Schoop and his $10+ mil arb projection provides the most financial flexibility of any of the moves made yesterday; “Look, it was a bad deal, and that’s on me,” Stearns said of the decision to trade Jonathan Villar, Jean Carmona, and Luis Ortiz to Baltimore for Schoop in late July.
Overall, the payroll projection is now about $12 mil lower than it was when the offseason began, coming in at close to $97.5 mil. Assuming that the front office is willing to reach - or slightly exceed - previous levels of spending in a competitive cycle and increase personnel expenditures to $110-$120 mil in 2019, that gives the front office some $15+ mil to work with while searching for upgrades to the roster this winter. Additional space could be opened up by dealing obvious trade candidates like Chase Anderson, Eric Thames, or Matt Albers. The club now has a glaring need at second base - which, given the composition of the roster, may be best filled by a right-handed batter - and they’re sure to look for additional pitching depth, as well.