The Brewers raised some eyebrows this past winter when they brought back former first round pick and top prospect Brett Lawrie on a minor league contract after Lawrie had been out of baseball for more than two years.
Still just 29 years old, Lawrie seemed like a low-risk lottery ticket -- if he couldn’t stay healthy or didn’t have anything left, he could be easily cut loose; if he had something left, he could conceivably be a good bench bat or stopgap second baseman until Keston Hiura was promoted.
From the start, though, the Brewers were clear that this would be a very long process.
Lawrie didn’t participate in any baseball activities for the first couple months after the signing, and even after staying back in Arizona for extended spring training, he never made it to a game setting.
The organization ultimately decided things weren’t going to get much better — or at least not quickly enough — and announced Lawrie’s release this morning.
Moves: OF Tyrone Taylor will begin a minor league rehab assignment tonight with the AZL Brewers Gold.— Brewers Player Dev (@BrewersPD) June 18, 2019
INF Brett Lawrie has been released.
The exact nature of the injuries that kept Lawrie out of baseball for two years and had him on an extensive training and conditioning program at the Brewers’ new state-of-the-art facility were always murky at best. Lawrie had long complained of foot and lower body injuries that he felt the Chicago White Sox didn’t adequately treat or understand, and the Brewers were willing to give him time to build up strength to the point of him being able to play competitive professional sports again.
Unfortunately, it looks as if Lawrie’s progress stalled.
GM David Stearns told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that this isn’t a question of effort on either side — it’s just a situation that simply wasn’t going to work out, and neither side wanted to waste the other’s time.
Just spoke with #Brewers GM David Stearns. He said Brett Lawrie worked had, team's medical people worked hard but not enough progress was being made: "It just made sense for everybody to move on."— Tom (@Haudricourt) June 18, 2019
More Stearns on Lawrie decision: "We all agreed on a tentative timeframe with certain benchmarks. We weren't able to meet those benchmarks... We just couldn't get there. Brett put a lot of effort into this."— Tom (@Haudricourt) June 18, 2019
Haudricourt’s piece for the Journal-Sentinel provides a more in-depth explanation from Stearns:
“At the front end of this, we all agreed on a tentative time frame, with certain benchmarks. We weren’t quite able to meet some of those benchmarks. So, we thought now was the right time to allow Brett to move on and allow us to devote our resources to other players.”
Asked which side decided it wasn’t going to work, Stearns said, “There was an understanding going in that there were certain benchmarks we wanted to meet. When we couldn’t get over a few of those hurdles, this was the mutual understanding.
“We had benchmarks in terms of certain rehab goals, in terms of competition goals. We just couldn’t quite get there in the time everyone thought we were going to. This allows Brett to move on with his life and career.”
This would appear to end a once-promising career — the Brewers, having originally drafted him and now having one of the best physical training facilities in baseball, were the only team to take a chance on Lawrie this winter after two years away, and now they’re throwing their hands up and moving on.
During his very brief peak, he looked to be on his way to stardom as one of the best young infielders in the game. In the end, he’ll very likely finish with 9.6 fWAR in 588 career games, the last coming in 2016. At the very least, he’ll remain an important piece of Brewers history as the prospect that brought Shaun Marcum to Milwaukee, who played a key role on the best team in Brewers history before running out of gas in the postseason.
We haven’t heard from Lawrie yet on this, but here’s to hoping this experience at least helps prove to himself that he gave it one last shot, and there are no more what-ifs.