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Milwaukee Brewers Non-Tender Candidates

Which players might the Brewers cut loose rather than tender a new contract?

Milwaukee Brewers vs Arizona Diamondbacks Set Number: X164184 TK1

This Friday is the deadline for teams to tender contracts for 2023 to their arbitration-eligible players.

The Brewers have 18 players up for arbitration this year, second to only the Tampa Bay Rays. Many of these players, including Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Willy Adames, Devin Williams, and Matt Bush, are locks to be tendered new contracts for next season. The club has implied that they are operating on a budget, so some less impactful players scheduled for raises could be on the chopping block.

The club has until arbitration hearings in February to agree to a new deal with players they choose to retain. Non-tenders will hit the free agent market, but the Brewers could still re-sign them for a lesser salary (Alex Claudio is a recent example).

The Brewers will not tender contracts to all their arbitration-eligible players. Who are candidates to be non-tendered by Friday evening?

Note: projected arbitration salaries are courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors’ annual predictions.

The Likely Non-Tenders

Brent Suter
2022 Season: 66.2 IP | 3.78 ERA | 4.40 FIP | -0.2 fWAR
2022 Salary: $2.7M
Projected 2023 Salary: $3.1M

Suter has been a key fixture in Milwaukee’s bullpen for several seasons. He has helped Craig Counsell in a versatile role, operating as a low-leverage innings eater, a lefty specialist, and even an occasional high-leverage option.

Since returning from Tommy John surgery in September 2019, Suter has worked 190 innings with a 3.08 ERA and 3.79 FIP.

Suter continued to be a solid middle reliever for much of 2022, but rough patches bookended his season to produce his worst ERA and FIP since 2018. His once-excellent control has also taken a step back over the past two seasons.

While he remains a capable innings-eater out of the bullpen, it’s unlikely the Brewers deem Suter to be worth his projected $3.1 million salary moving forward. Expect a non-tender, although he could still re-sign on a lesser deal if he fails to find a better offer on the open market.

Trevor Gott
2022 Season: 45.2 IP | 4.14 ERA | 4.45 FIP | -0.1 fWAR
2022 Salary: $725K
2023 Projected Salary: $1.4M

Gott has long had promising stuff but failed to parlay it into consistent results. That theme continued in his most extensive big-league action since 2019. The Brewers inked him to a big-league deal last fall, and after making the team out of spring training, he put up a mediocre 4.14 ERA and 4.45 FIP as a middle reliever and occasional high-leverage arm.

At the start of the season, Gott looked to be heaving a breakout. Relying on his new cutter as his go-to pitch, he posted a 1.64 ERA and 2.11 FIP through his first eleven innings. However, he reverted to his inconsistent form the rest of the way and spent a couple of stints on the injured list throughout the year.

Gott remains an interesting arm moving forward. His cutter (.246 wOBA, 29.8% whiff rate) and four-seam fastball (.285, 27.4%) graded out as plus pitches in 2022. His velocity still sits in the mid-to-upper-90s.

Despite struggling with home runs, Gott excelled at inducing weak contact on a broader scale. As such, Statcast credited him with a far more promising 2.94 xERA.

Interestingly, Gott dramatically switched up his approach on the mound during the latter half of the season. He turned to his four-seamer as his preferred pitch and repurposed the cutter as a secondary offering.

The promise has been there for a while, though, and Gott enters his age-30 season having failed to put it all together. He’s also out of options. His $1.4 million projected salary is modest, but the Brewers will likely cut him loose by the deadline and instead try to retain him on a minor-league deal.

The Toss-Ups

Luis Perdomo
2022 Season: 23.2 IP | 3.80 ERA | 4.80 FIP | -0.2 fWAR
2022 Salary: $473K
2023 Projected Salary: $1M

The Brewers inked Perdomo to a two-year contract in 2020 after he underwent Tommy John surgery, and he made his return to the mound in 2022.

An elbow injury wiped out a good chunk of Perdomo’s season. When healthy, he split his time between Triple-A and the big-league team. In 23 23 innings, he worked to a respectable 3.80 ERA but an inauspicious 4.80 FIP.

Perdomo’s sinker helped him induce ground balls at an excellent 62.5% rate. He also works quickly and pounds the strike zone, dramatically cutting his walk rate to 3.1%. On the flip side, he also surrendered four home runs and only struck out 12.5% of opposing hitters.

The results were more encouraging in Nashville, where Perdomo posted a strong 28.7% strikeout rate against a 3.5% walk rate. He also allowed just two home runs in 30 13 innings.

In addition to his sinker, Perdomo also features a slider that has proven adept at generating whiffs and a splitter he breaks out against left-handers. He will be out of options next year, but his encouraging stuff and low salary may move the Brewers to retain him so he can compete for a bullpen spot in the spring.

Jandel Gustave
2022 Stats: 28 IP | 3.86 ERA | 4.43 FIP | 0.0 fWAR
2022 Salary: $700K
2023 Projected Salary: $900K

Gustave may have even more promising stuff than Gott, regularly cruising in the 96-98 mph range with his power sinker. Instead of taking the next step, he has settled into a gray area of posting OK results despite less encouraging peripherals.

In two seasons with the Brewers, he has produced a 90 ERA-, but his 20.1% strikeout and 7.2% swinging strike rates are underwhelming given how good his stuff is. He also struggles with control, issuing too many walks and catching the heart of the plate too often when he is in the zone.

Gustave has one option year remaining and isn’t projected for a notable salary change next year. That might be enough to keep him around for another year as a depth arm, but it’s also possible the Brewers feel they’ve seen enough.

Possible But Unlikely

Keston Hiura
2022 Season: 266 PA | .226/.316/.449 | 115 wRC+ | 0.8 fWAR
2022 Salary: $593K
2023 Projected Salary: $2M

Hiura is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter, and he’s had somewhat of a strange journey to this point.

A serious swing-and-miss problem has prevented Hiura from meeting expectations as Milwaukee’s former top prospect, but it didn’t hamper him nearly as much in a sheltered role in 2022.

Hiura still has the ability to crush the ball as well as anyone when he puts it in play. He batted just .226 but slammed 14 home runs and finished with the fourth-highest wOBA on contact among hitters with at least 250 plate appearances.

He doesn’t make enough contact to succeed consistently, though. Hiura punched out at a career-worst 41.7% rate despite making numerous adjustments to his stance and load to reduce his strikeouts.

For this reason, the Brewers refused to give him more playing time for much of the year. When they finally gave in after Hiura’s two-homer game on August 21, he confirmed their suspicions, hitting .193/.258/.352 the rest of the way in a more regular role.

Hiura is out of options and has dramatic reverse splits, so there is no clear spot for him in the organization moving forward.

It has become clear that Hiura does not have a future in Milwaukee, but it’s unlikely the Brewers will cut him loose for nothing. Expect them to tender him a contract and try to work out a trade. If no one bites, they could attempt to showcase him in spring training in hopes that someone gives him a shot or encounters a need due to injuries.

Adrian Houser
2022 Season: 102 23 IP | 4.73 ERA | 4.21 FIP | 1.0 fWAR
2022 Salary: $2.43M
2023 Projected Salary: $3.6M

Houser dealt with a right flexor injury this summer and struggled when he was on the mound. While Houser’s ground ball rate went in the wrong direction, it’s worth noting that his pitch-to-contact style gives him very little control over his results. His 4.21 FIP was actually an improvement from 2021.

The Brewers need rotation depth, and Houser is still a capable back-of-the-rotation arm. They will not find that for a better rate than Houser’s projected salary, so chances are he’ll stick around.

Rowdy Tellez
2022 Season: 599 PA | .219/.306/.461 | 110 wRC+ | 0.8 fWAR
2022 Salary: $1.94M
2023 Projected Salary: $5.3M

Tellez led the team with 35 home runs, but his low on-base percentage and negative defensive value limited him to 0.8 fWAR. As such, there’s a chance that the Brewers view him as replaceable. Some have argued that Jon Singleton’s addition to the 40-man roster is evidence of this.

The decisive factor is not so much Tellez’s bottom-line results in 2022 as it is how the Brewers expect him to perform next year.

Tellez looks like a prime breakout candidate. He makes loud contact, placing in the 80th percentile in hard hit rate and the 88th percentile in barrel rate. He also walks at an above-average clip. Whereas many similar sluggers have plenty of swing and miss in their game, Tellez has an average strikeout rate.

Batted ball luck sank Tellez’s ship in 2022. His .215 BABIP was the second-lowest among qualified hitters, and he underperformed his 84th-percentile xwOBA by 22 points.

Tellez was also a frequent victim of the shift, frequently grounding or lining out to an infielder in short right field. Many of those outs will become hits next season due to MLB’s new infield positioning rules.

The Brewers have almost certainly considered those factors, so while a non-tender is possible, it’s a long shot.