After making their first postseason in seven years and riding a late-season hot streak that propelled them to the NLCS, the Milwaukee Brewers opened up the pocketbooks like never before heading into the 2019 season. Splashy one-year signings of Yasmani Grandal and Mike Moustakas headlined the offseason dealings of David Stearns, and the club opened the year with a franchise-record payroll approaching $123 mil.
Even more money was added to the ledger as a result of myriad trades and signings during the course of the year, and the maneuvering paid off when Milwaukee made back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time since 1981-82. The team was eliminated in the Wild Card game by the eventual World Champion Nationals, and several significant contributors have already departed from the roster and found new homes.
The challenge for Slingin’ Stearns and company this winter has been to fill those holes, and the front office created plenty of financial flexibility with which to work with. Our last payroll projection had the club looking at only about $70 mil in commitments after a series of non-tenders, but the Brewers have expended a lot of energy — and a “responsible” amount of coin — over the last few weeks, executing a series of deals to plug many of the obvious gaps on the roster:
There are a few caveats to this chart, of course:
- Ryan Braun and Lorenzo Cain have deferred money in their contracts which will be paid out at a later date.
- Cain, Josh Lindblom, Eric Sogard, and Brett Anderson have incentives built into their deals. Avisail Garcia and Lindblom also received signing bonuses that were paid out immediately.
- Arbitration-eligible players Narvaez, Hader, and Suter do not yet have their salaries officially set for 2020 so the figures provided are projections from MLB Trade Rumors.
- The MLB minimum salary in 2019 was $555,000 but there will be a cost-of-living increase coming in 2020 up to $563,500. For this exercise, however, the minimum has been set at $600,000 to account for the impending raise as well as those who may make a small amount above 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, simply swap them out for another pre-arb player. It won’t affect the payroll projection.
- Ray Black, Jake Faria, Deolis Guerra, Adrian Houser, Corey Knebel, and Manny Pina are out of minor league options in 2020 (per Brewerfan.net).
Within the last payroll update post, these were the needs laid out that Milwaukee would have to fill during the course of the winter:
- Starting first baseman
- Starting third baseman
- Multiple starting pitchers
- One or more relief pitchers
- Possibly bench help
President Stearns has been busy checking off those boxes over the last three weeks, executing the following deals:
- Trading for Omar Narvaez (Catcher)
- Signing Josh Lindblom to a three-year deal and Brett Anderson to a one-year pact (multiple starting pitchers). Those additional arms should allow hurlers like Brent Suter and Jake Faria to slot into swingman roles in the bullpen to begin 2020, though they could still serve as rotation depth along with the likes of Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta, and perhaps eventually prospects like Trey Supak, Zack Brown, Thomas Jankins, and others.
- Re-signing the previously non-tendered Alex Claudio (one relief pitcher)
- Signing Justin Smoak to a one-year deal with an option (starting first baseman)
- Signing Avisail Garcia for two years plus an option, Eric Sogard for one year and an option, and Ryon Healy for one year (bench help). Garcia figures to play on a near-daily basis between the three outfield spots, primarily in left. Sogard and Healy may end up filling the void at third base as a platoon, but are versatile enough to play elsewhere if someone else is added to play primarily at the hot corner.
The Brewers have indeed been very busy during the month of December, but as was written at Beyond The Box Score recently, one might argue that they haven’t actually gotten much, if any, better than they were at the conclusion at the 2019 season. There is still plenty of time left in the winter, of course, and a few spots that the team could use upgrades. Adding an impactful third baseman would be the most obvious way to improve the roster, and as it happens, All-Star Josh Donaldson remains available. A team can never have too much pitching, either, and the top arms out left there include starters Hyun-Jin Ryu, Rich Hill, and Dallas Keuchel, as well as relievers Dellin Betances, Will Harris, and Daniel Hudson, among a host of other out-getters still on the market.
The Brewers have roughly another $30 mil to spend to reach last year’s Opening Day payroll figure and close to $40 mil to get to the level where they ended things in 2019. But with reports of the team looking to trim down their financial commitments, it may not be wise for fans of the team to assume that they’ll wind up outlaying quite that much during the remaining days of the offseason.