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.
Next year’s payroll projection stood at about $110 mil at the outset of winter and rumors started to circulate about possible financial restrictions. The club gave itself some breathing room for additions, though, most notably by non-tendering Jonathan Schoop and dealing away Domingo Santana and his projected arbitration raise. Those maneuvers, as well as several other arbitration contracts officially coming in below original projections, helped to pave the way for Milwaukee’s most significant outlay this winter - the splashy signing of Yasmani Grandal - as well as a few other depth moves. With less than a month left until the start of Spring Training, here is where the payroll projection stands:
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, Jimmy Nelson, Grandal, Jake Petricka, and Cain all have various attainable incentives built into their contracts.
- 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.
THIS IS NOT AN OPENING DAY ROSTER PROJECTION!
The group that Milwaukee breaks camp with will not look like the roster presented above. Certain players were placed on this list simply for the sake of showing what Milwaukee’s maximum Opening Day payroll could be based on the present group of players under contract. For example, Jake Petricka, Cory Spangenberg, and Tyler Saladino (among others) all still have minor league options available, and their contracts will pay them a smaller base rate in the minors than they would earn in the big leagues. It’s also not likely that the Brewers bring three catchers back to Milwaukee, barring an unforeseen injury that forces a player to the DL before the season begins.
Most of Milwaukee’s arbitration savings went towards footing the bill for Yasmani Grandal’s one-year, $16 mil deal (that includes a mutual $16 mil option for 2020 and a $2.25 mil buyout). His addition adds an impact bat to Milwaukee’s lineup at a premium defensive position behind the plate, where we can expect Grandal to match the ability of Pina and Kratz in handling the pitching staff while providing a significant offensive upgrade over that duo.
But that wasn’t the only re-investment in the roster that Milwaukee made. Split-contracts with Cory Spangenberg and Jake Petricka provide some optionable depth - and possible upside - in the infield and bullpen, while the trade with Texas for Alex Claudio helped to shore up Milwaukee’s deficit of left-handed relief options.
If the reports are to be believed, however, then Stearns isn’t done working the phones. The Brewers have been said to be looking to clear out some more payroll space after the Grandal signing, possibly in an effort to add to the starting pitching staff or at second base. Manny Pina has reportedly generated some trade interest, and guys like Chase Anderson, Matt Albers, and Eric Thames are logical candidates to be moved. Free agent Wade Miley and trade candidate Sonny Gray are believed to still be on the club’s radar, as well as Josh Harrison, Joe Panik, and Mike Moustakas on the infield. Barring any further transactions, however, the $112+ mil payroll would set a new record for the most the club has ever spent on an Opening Day roster.
Contract information courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts