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.
RHP Brandon Woodruff
2020 Salary: Pre-Arbitration
2021 Projection: Between $2.3 and $4.5 million
Like Josh Hader, there’s no question the Brewers are going to give Brandon Woodruff a contract for 2021. With Woodruff, the question is more about whether it will be a multi-year deal, or if they decide to go year-to-year with him.
While Corbin Burnes got the downballot Cy Young votes this year, Woodruff was still the leader of the Brewers’ rotation and one of the big reasons why they were able to sneak into the 8th playoff spot despite their inept offense. He threw more innings than any other Brewers pitcher (73.2) and struck out more than any other Brewers pitcher (91) while largely pitching more efficiently.
He was also able to do something else that he’s had some trouble with to this point in his career — stay healthy. While things like hamstring pulls and oblique strains have popped up during his first few years, that wasn’t the case in 2020 — although it was just a two-month season.
His tendency to miss starts might weigh into the Brewers’ eventual decision on whether to sign him to a multi-year extension, but for the purposes of this exercise, the Brewers would still likely be fine paying either end of that $2.3 million to $4.5 million range. Considering he put up career-best totals in ERA, ERA+ (149), WHIP (0.991), H/9 (6.7), BB/9 (2.2) and K/9 (11.1), the soon-to-be 28-year-old pitched like a legitimate ace — and someone who would easily get north of $20 million per year on the free agent market, even in a depressed baseball economy.
Woodruff being a late bloomer likely works in the Brewers’ favor when it comes to arbitration purposes — he’s arbitration-eligible for the first time as he’s already in the middle of his peak years, meaning they’re likely getting his best production for a fraction of the cost. It would, in theory, mean there’s more money available to spend to upgrade the offense — but we know that’s not always how things work in baseball.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs