The Brewers saw far fewer impact players head to other teams in 2021 than in 2020. Here’s a rundown of players who made an appearance on the Brewer’s 40 man roster in 2020 and won’t be back in 2021.
Alex Claudio to the Los Angeles Angels
Across his 7 year career, Claudio has a 3.44 ERA with 217 strikeouts over about 312 innings. He’s been a valuable middle inning and specialty reliever who can be counted on to get big outs, particularly against LHHs. He was a reliable reliever across a league-leading 82 appearances for the Brewers in 2019. He had an inconsistent 2020, posting a 4.26 ERA with 15 strikeouts, six walks, and two home runs across 19 innings. He inked a one-year deal with the Angels worth $1.125 million. He joins a struggling but offseason-improved bullpen in LAA.
Justin Grimm remains a free agent
Grimm made a limited appearance with The Crew in 2020 and struggled mightily. He put up a 17.36 ERA across 4 tough games. Good luck out there, Justin.
Corey Knebel to the Los Angeles Dodgers
Corey Knebel was a force with the Brewers over 2017 and 2018, putting up a 2.54 ERA, 2.74 FIP, and 126 strikeouts (a 40% K Rate) before requiring Tommy John Surgery in 2019. He struggled in his 2020 return year with a 6.08 ERA and 6.64 FIP across 15 games. Pitching just over 13 major league innings after returning from TJS, he definitely has the potential to make a strong return with the Dodgers. He joins a fairly deep bullpen in LA.
David Phelps to the Toronto Blue Jays
You remember David Phelps, or at least some of his 2020 performance. He was amazing for his time with the Brewers, pitching 13 innings for a 2.77 ERA and striking out 20 batters. He was traded for a few young prospects and the change of scenery did not suit him. He put up a 12.91 ERA across 10 games and a little over 7 innings with the Phillies over the remainder of 2020. He’ll pick up with the Blue Jays in 2021, hopefully, where he left off with the team in 2019 when posted a 3.63 ERA over 17 appearances.
David Freitas to the Kiwoom Heroes (KBO)
This was a good move for Freitas and the Brewers. Freitas spent last summer at the alternate training site and did not make any major league appearances. Despite a Pacific Coast League batting title with the Missions in 2019, he hasn’t gotten much of a chance in the majors. He could probably expect more of the same had he stayed with the Brewers in 2021. Instead, he liberates a spot on a roster overcrowded with catchers, signs on to a $600,000 1-year deal, and gets to be an everyday player in Korea. The Brewers get a $300,000 buyout in the deal.
Ryon Healy to the Hanwha Eagles (KBO)
You might have missed Ryon Healy in his only Brewers season in 2020. He spent most of his time at the alternate training site, got 1 base hit across 7 at-bats, and made an appearance as cleanup hitter in the wildcard series against the Dodgers before the Brewers outrighted him after last season. He’s typically a power hitter who’s seen his big league time decrease with a subpar defensive reputation. He’s guaranteed $800,000 in the deal.
Brock Holt to his hometown Texas Rangers
Known as a versatile defender who can often put something together at the plate, Holt was expected to be a fit for the Brewers, but he didn’t live up to expectations. He slashed .100/.222/.100 across 16 games with the Brewers in 2020. He fared a little better with the Nationals over the remainder of 2020 after Milwaukee designated him for assignment. The move to his hometown team is likely a good move for Holt, a Fort Worth native who was forthcoming about struggling to focus on baseball while his family was elsewhere during COVID-19. He signs a minor league deal that guarantees him $1.75 million if he makes the major league club.
Justin Smoak to the Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball (Japan)
Justin Smoak was another corner infielder who seemed a good fit for The Crew but didn’t deliver in 2020. He slashed .186/.262/.381 with 5 home runs across 126 plate appearances before the Brewers designated him for assignment and picked up Daniel Vogelbach. He made 6 plate appearances with the SF Giants before they let him go. With his major league prospects limited, Smoak took a $6 million payday in Japan. Only Nippon favorite Tetsuto Yamada is getting paid more.
Eric Sogard remains a free agent
Sogey has been a versatile bench presence for the Crew. He also came up big in a few key moments for the Brewers in 2020. His overall performance, which includes a .209/.281/.278 slash line, was underwhelming. He’s still unsigned after the Brewers declined to pick up his option in October, though the Cubs are rumored to have an eye on him.
Ryan Braun is a free agent, not interested in playing in 2021
The most noticeable missing face at American Family Field will be Ryan Braun. Over the course of his 14-year career with the Brewers, he’s been decorated with Rookie of the Year and MVP honors, 6 All-Star seasons, and 5 Silver Slugger awards. He’s been a major contributor in the five Brewer playoff-appearance teams. In 2020, Braun still showed some pop in his bat, still came through in a number of clutch moments, and slashed .233/.281/.488. The Brewers declined Braun’s $15 million option in October. He recently announced he’s staying in shape but not interested in playing in 2021. This is just enough to leave the Brewers faithful hesitantly assembling #RyanBraunForever tribute videos and hoping for a proper sendoff when it’s safe to return to the ballpark en masse.
Ben Gamel heads to Cleveland
Ben Gamel was another Brewers promising Brewers acquisition who didn’t quite live up to expectations. After some seasons in Seattle that hinted at a possible breakout power year or at least suggested a solid on-base hitter, Gamel slashed a modest .245/.331/.381 for the Crew. His strikeout rate ballooned from 21% with the Mariners to about 30% in Milwaukeee. The Brewers declined his $2.55 million option and then non-tendered him. He has a minor league contract with a spring training invitation and a chance to join a crowded outfield in Cleveland.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs