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. The challenge for David Stearns and company was finding ways to improve the roster for 2019 without the same kind of payroll flexibility they had entering last offseason, and boy did they figure that one out!
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.
- Mike Moustakas and Yasmani Grandal both have buyouts of mutual options after this season.
- Eric Thames, Matt Albers, Jeremy Jeffress, Chase Anderson, Jimmy Nelson, Grandal, Jake Petricka, Alex Wilson, Mike Moustakas, 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.
- Players highlighted in red are ones who will begin the year on the Injured List.
The payroll projection stood at about $110 mil at the outset of winter and rumors started to circulate about possible financial restrictions faced by Milwaukee. But then Mark Attanasio decided to do something that many other owners have actively resisted in recent years — actually spend money on good, available players. The club gave itself some breathing room for additions 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 significant outlays this winter.
Since our last payroll projection, the Brewers have re-signed Mike Moustakas to one-year deal with a mutual option as well as agreed with Alex Wilson on a one-year pact. They also subtracted Erik Kratz, sending him to San Francisco in a minor trade. All-in-all, those moves, combined with ones that Milwaukee made earlier this winter, have pushed payroll deep into club-record territory. Cot’s Contracts currently has the Brewers payroll/luxury tax obligations all the up to 14th in baseball, the highest that it’s been since the club ended the 2012 season with the league’s 14th-largest payroll (which was just under $100 mil at that time).
Even with the increased expenditures, Mark A. has indicated that any perceived monetary restrictions from the outside wouldn’t be something that holds Milwaukee back from adding players in-season or at the trade deadline. That is especially notable considering the injuries to Knebel and Jeffress in the bullpen. Future Hall of Fame closer Craig Kimbrel is still sitting out on the open market, and while the rumors about a union with Milwaukee are no longer hot and heavy like they were a few days ago, we cannot close off the possibility of him signing until he actually puts pen to paper with someone.
Contract information courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts