2022 should be a fun ride. It is nice to see that Brewers management entered this season with the highest opening day payroll ever at $132M. Second highest was 2019 at $122M. (Cots Salary Info)
I know there are those among us who wish this amount was even higher. I am one of them. I love spending other people's money.
So lets talk about how to keep the good times rolling and continue to spend the Brewers dollars.
The Brewers actually only have $32M and change in signed contracts for 2023. The only two players under contract to play for the Brewers next year are Yelich and Peralta. But the Brewers do have a whopping 18 players that are in the arbitration phase of their career next year. The total payroll for those players this year is $64M. So a total of at $96M is spent between these players signed to longer term deals and those going into arbitration. And if you add in the six more slots for players making the minimum the payroll begins at $100M plus any sort of arbitration raise which should equal at least $10M. (Hader, Burnes, Adames and Urias will all get raises.)
For 2023, if the Brewers chose to maintain their current payroll of $132M than they probably only have about $20M to play with and have holes to fill at catcher, 2B and depending upon how you view Taylor, perhaps CF.
And things don't necessarily get better in 2024. So what is a poor baseball team supposed to do? Offer extensions for security rather than year by year hopes of raises. My top candidates for extensions:
1. Luis Urias: (age 25, year one of four arbitration salary: $2.5M) Urias is in that prime extension sweet spot of starting to show his potential but is not a sure thing. Also he is young enough to buy out a few years of free agency and he still will have the chance to cash in later in his career. An extension for Urias could look like a 4 or 5 year deal buying out year one or two of being free agent and still be 30 when he hits the open market. A Urias deal could look to buy out each remaining year of arbitration at $5M each and each of the first two years of free agency at $10/M a season for a total of $35M over five years.
2. Rowdy Telez: (age 27, year one of four arbitration salary: $1.9M.) A little older than Urias but seems to have found a home in Milwaukee. He has some injury concerns that could lead to a lower cost deal. Something on the order of buying out all of his remaining arbitration years at $13M could provide the Brewers an opportunity for cost certainty and Telez the ability to perform with the security of a starting job for the next three years.
3. Aaron Ashby: (age 24 with under 1/2 year of MLB experience) This could be a deal very similar to the Peralta deal which provided a signing bonus as well as 20:$575,200, 21:$1M, 22:$2.25M, 23:$3.5M, 24:$5.5M, 25:$8M club option ($1.5M buyout), 26:$8M club option (no buyout) Ashby could be $3M signing bonus followed by $20M over five total years with a club option for $10M in year six.
It is important to be realistic, Burnes, Hader, Lauer and Woodford are not likely candidates for extensions. They don't have as much reason to avoid risk as free agency is right around the corner and the Brewers couldn't achieve much savings by spreading salaries over more years.
Even with the players listed above, they would have to be interested in an extension rather than looking towards free agency. The Peralta deal demonstrates that there is some opportunity for efficiency through extension. Hopefully the Brewers are actively pursuing these opportunities.