In addition to Yasmani Grandal and Mike Moustakas opting out of their mutual options today, the Brewers saw five other players file for free agency Friday as the offseason gets underway.
All five are pitchers, as David Stearns will have his work cut out for him over the winter to rebuild his stable of out-getters, with new potential rules on bullpen use to keep in mind. Matt Albers, Gio Gonzalez, Jay Jackson, Jordan Lyles and Drew Pomeranz are all free to listen to offers from other teams.
RHP Matt Albers, LHP Gio Gonzalez, RHP Jay Jackson, RHP Jordan Lyles and LHP Drew Pomeranz have also elected free agency.— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) November 1, 2019
With today’s moves, the 40-man roster now stands at 31. pic.twitter.com/2DcCdht38Q
Other than Albers, all of those are names the Brewers may have some interest in bringing back if the price is right.
Stearns signed Albers to a two-year, $5 million deal before the 2018 season, fresh off a surprising run with the 2017 Washington Nationals that saw the career average-at-best reliever put up a 1.62 ERA in 63 appearances. His run with the Brewers was marked by brief periods of that kind of effectiveness -- including his first month or so in 2018 -- before injuries seemed to rob him of that level of consistency.
It’s hard to call a contract only paying someone $2.5 million a bad one in baseball, but the Brewers’ reliance on the bullpen over the past two years meant Albers sometimes found himself in higher-leverage situations than Craig Counsell would’ve liked, and it occasionally burned him. Albers’ run in Milwaukee is now likely over after a 5.94 ERA in 101 games, the highest ERA of any of his 8 stops over a 14-year career.
Gonzalez was a late addition to the 2019 Brewers after originally signing a minor league contract with the New York Yankees last winter that would’ve paid him up to $12 million if he was in the rotation the entire season. The Yankees never really showed an interest in using him at the major league level, though, even when CC Sabathia was on the Injured List, and ended up granting him his release at the end of April.
By then, the Brewers desperately needed that kind of depth, so Stearns righted a slight wrong over the winter by bringing him back on a $2 million deal with incentives up to $4 million. The late start and injuries meant Gonzalez made 19 appearances for the Brewers, 17 of which were starts. He was predictably a perfectly fine backend starter, putting up a 3.50 ERA/4.04 FIP and a 127 ERA+. The lefty will be 34 years old in 2020 -- which is verging on ancient in the eyes of many teams -- but he managed to strike out 8 batters per 9 innings this year, even if he wasn’t terribly efficient, walking 3.8 batters per 9.
Jackson was another typical Stearns diamond-in-the-rough find, signing him out of Japan to give him another chance at a Major League career. The surface numbers didn’t end up looking great thanks to a couple of rough outings in his 28 games and 30.1 innings that led to a final 4.45 ERA/4.66 FIP and 101 ERA+, but he did strike out an impressive 13.9 batters per 9 innings and 35.6% of the batters he faced overall. While the 32-year-old is still considered a rookie by service time, as Kyle told us earlier this week, Jackson was able to declare free agency by virtue of the contract he signed out of Japan.
Both Lyles and Pomeranz were trade deadline acquisitions for the Brewers, and ended up being significant factors in the team’s run to a second straight playoff appearance. Lyles was arguably the team’s best starting pitcher down the stretch, putting up a 2.45 ERA in his 11 starts after returning to Milwaukee, while Pomeranz was arguably the team’s best reliever outside of Josh Hader, dominating in Hader’s old fireman role with a 2.39 ERA/2.68 FIP while striking out 45% of the batters he faced in 26.1 innings.
Stearns has already expressed interest in bringing back Lyles after passing on that opportunity last winter, and it would stand to reason he’d be interested in doing the same with Pomeranz after giving up Mauricio Dubon for Pomeranz and Ray Black at the deadline.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs