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Milwaukee Brewers Tender or Non-Tender Decisions: Orlando Arcia

The young shortstop improved at the plate this year, but is continuing to slip defensively

Wild Card Round - Milwaukee Brewers v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Two Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Teams have until December 2nd to decide whether to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players. The Brewers have a slew of players up for raises this winter, but the uncertain financial situation for teams across the league could lead to some surprising non-tenders. Who will the Brewers keep among their arbitration-eligibles, and who will they let go? We take a look at each player’s case.

Orlando Arcia

2020 Salary: $2.2 million ($825,000 when prorated)
2021 Projection: Between $2.7 million and $3.8 million

A year ago, Arcia looked like a possible — if not likely — non-tender. He was coming off a historically bad offensive season while also seeing his defensve performance slip. You can be a bad offensive shortstop (although that is changing across the league, too), but if you can’t provide value with the glove, it’s usually a one-way ticket to Non-Tender Town.

Arcia showed up to Spring Training looking stronger, in terms of both physical look and at the plate. He went on an unexpected power binge in Spring Training before things were shut down in mid-March, and as we waited for baseball to resume, one of the big questions facing the Brewers was whether that power would still be there if/when the Brewers got back on the field.

For the most part, it did. In 59 games, Arcia hit .260/.317/.416, improving his slugging percentage by 66 points over last year. He hit 5 home runs and had 10 doubles during the shortened season, which would have translated to 13 or 14 home runs and 27 doubles over a full 162-game season.

Arcia also cut down his strikeout rate from 20% in 2019 to 16.9% in 2020, but he’s also an example of why poor discipline doesn’t always mean lots of strikeouts. Even in a year in which he was thought to have improved offensively, Arcia’s BB% dropped about about a half percent, from 7.9% last year to 7.4% this year. He swung at 68.3% of the pitches he saw in the zone and made contact on 79.5% of his swings — basically, if it was a strike, he was hacking just about as much as he was last year, he just got a little better luck when he put the ball into play.

All of that led to Arcia posting a career-best wRC+ of 96 — one of the best totals on the team, but still 16th among 23 qualified MLB shortstops in 2020. Shortstop used to be a position where you’d accept subpar offense, but that may be changing in a hurry — 13 shortstops in the majors had a wRC+ of 100 or better in 2020, led by the likes of Trea Turner (157), Corey Seager (151), Fernando Tatis Jr. (149) and Tim Anderson (143). Still, a wRC+ of 96 places Arcia somewhere among the middle of the road, which isn’t too bad compared to the level he was at the year before.

Unfortunately, it appears his focus on improving offensively may have led to him neglecting his defense. With all of the normal caveats about single-season defensive sample sizes being amplified by a partial season, Arcia put up a negative value for Defensive Runs Saved for the first time in his career, posting a value of -5 DRS — basically costing the Brewers at least a half-win defensively on the season. His range has progressively gotten worse over the last three years, to the point where David Stearns and Craig Counsell have publicly called it out, saying they need better defensive production from the position.

With that in mind, with Luis Urias in the fold and a slew of defensive-minded shortstops generally widely available every year (and other shortstops possibly being non-tendered this year), would the Brewers decide there are better ways to spend $3 million? Or do they bet on the continued development of their shortstop, who will still only be 26 years old next year and is under team control through 2023?


Should the Brewers tender or non-tender Orlando Arcia?

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Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference