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.
2020 Salary: $1.85 million
2021 Projection: Between $2 million and $2.3 million
The prevailing wisdom seems to be the fates of Manny Pina and Omar Narvaez are linked. With Jacob Nottingham showing flashes of potential during his 2020 run after Pina’s knee injury, there may be only one roster spot for Pina and Narvaez unless the Brewers want to carry 3 catchers on their 26-man roster.
Pina was his usual stellar self defensively and had a .231/.333/.410 line before he tore his meniscus after just 15 games. He’s long been an ideal backup catcher — strong defensively, with just enough pop offensively that you don’t mind having to start him for short bursts, especially against left-handed pitching.
A knee injury for a catcher who will turn 34 in 2021 is a bit concerning, though, and the fact that Nottingham is going to be 26 in 2021 and do many of the same things may be bad news for Pina’s chances of sticking on the roster. Despite his large size, Nottingham has progressively gotten better defensively every year he’s been in the Brewers’ system, and by Baseball Prospectus’ count ranked in the Top 20 of best defensive catchers in baseball despite his limited reps.
The offensive woes from Narvaez in 2020 may leave some feeling he’d be the one to cut loose, but the decision may not be that simple. David Stearns (and presumably Matt Arnold) have shown an affinity for forming platoons when possible. Unfortunately for Pina, he hits on the same side as Nottingham — and likely hits worse. The fact Narvaez hits from the other side may buy him another chance, even if the position doesn’t end up a strict platoon.
Paying $2 million for a quality backup catcher like Pina isn’t an expenditure most teams would find excessive, especially considering Pina has been worth more than that for several years now, putting up a total fWAR of 4.6 from 2017 to 2020. That’s what potentially makes this one of the front office’s most difficult tender/non-tender decisions: Pina has been a valuable piece for years, his price isn’t likely to be very high, but his spot on the roster may be a bit redundant and catchers can age in a hurry.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs