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Brewers wield financial flexibility and lock up Freddy Peralta for the long haul

Now official, this appears to be a good deal for both sides.

2020 Milwaukee Brewers Photo Day Photo by Adam Glanzman/MLB Photos via Getty Images

“The philosophy of building a sustainable playoff team is not a secret. You need to acquire, develop and keep controllable, young talent. If you look at the sustainably competitive teams throughout the industry, regardless of market size and city, that’s what they have to do.” — David Stearns, 21 Sept 2015

Aqcuire.
Develop.
Retain.

That has been the stated mantra of David Stearns since the day he took over as General Manager (and now, President of Baseball Operations) of the Milwaukee Brewers. To this point, however, the “retain” aspect of that motto has not received much attention, especially after an offseason filled with roster turnover. But Stearns and company have officially turned the page to a new chapter of team-building, and it began with the five-year contract extension that was recently given to right-hander Freddy Peralta.

Announced officially over the weekend, the terms of Peralta’s new deal will guarantee him the sum of $15.5 mil over the next half-decade, with team options for years six and seven that could push the total value of the pact to $30 mil. Peralta, who turns 24 this season, will now be expected to remain in Milwaukee through his prime-age years. If the options are exercised down the road, he won’t be eligible to hit free agency until after his age-30 season in 2026.

Monetarily, there is not very much risk here on the part of the Brewers. The average annual value of the guaranteed portion of the deal works out to be only a little more than $3 mil per season. That is slightly higher than what the team paid Matt Albers to struggle in each of the last two years, and slightly less than what they gave to Jimmy Nelson the last two seasons to rehab his shoulder injury. Regardless of how Peralta performs, that rather paltry sum shouldn’t hold the team back in any significant way from executing other personnel moves.

That is not to say there is no risk involved for the team, of course. But rather than gobs of money on the line, the Brewers are making a gamble by guaranteeing a roster spot for the forseeable future on a pitcher who has yet to prevent runs at even a league-average clip during his first two big league seasons.

Viewed through that lens, it is not difficult to see why Peralta was willing to forgo his arbitration years in exchange for the guarantee of a lifetime of financial security. Peralta has been open about how being able to provide for his loved ones was the primary driver of to agreeing to the deal. He signed for $137K as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, a notable sum to be sure, but not the type of money that sets a person and their family up for the long-term. Now, not only was he able to lock in his first fortune, but he did so coming off of a season in which he posted a 5.29 ERA and was worth a full win below replacement according to Baseball-Reference.

For all the upside that he has flashed both as a prospect and a young big leaguer, the jury is still out on what role Peralta will eventually settle into and how effective he’ll be at the game’s highest level. He has finished the last two seasons with ERA- marks of 104 and 119, and while Field Independent Pitching has been a fan of his (FIP- totals of 91 and 93), Deserved Run Average has not been (DRA- totals of 116 and 101). He possesses the makings of an elite fastball, one that ranks highly in terms of spin rate (89th percentile), has improved by some 3-4 MPH over the last couple of years (averaging 94.1 MPH in 2019), and looks even harder to the hitter because of the outstanding extension that he generates. But his curveball graded out as only so-so last season, and though there is optimism regarding the slider he has recently added to his arsenal, the only tests that the pitch has undergone have come against the lackluster competition of Dominican winter ball and spring training opponents.

Peralta, who owns a 4.79 ERA across 163.1 big league frames, has battled control problems both as a minor leaguer (3.6 BB/9 in 440.0 MiLB innings) as well as in The Show (4.24 BB/9). That has led to maddening stretches of inconsistency when working in both starting and relief roles. In general, he has fared much better as a reliever (3.83 career ERA) versus pitching out of the rotation (5.27 career ERA), and given his diminutive stature at 5’11” and 175 lbs, it is still an open question as to how well his frame and high-effort delivery would hold up under the stress of potentially starting 30+ games, year after year.

At his price point, though, Peralta need only be a solid-to-good relief pitcher over the life of his deal in order to justify the dollars spent. While he has struggled at times over the last two years, he has established a relatively safe floor as a cromulent bullpen arm. And if he’s able to figure out a consistent secondary offering, refine his command, and spend a few years as a successful starting pitcher, then that leaves a lot of room for surplus value on the Brewers’ end of things.

It is not often that we can look at a baseball contract and say objectively “this looks like a good deal for both sides.” But that appears to be the case regarding the Freddy Peralta extension.

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs, Baseball-Reference, Baseball Prospectus, and Baseball Savant