The Brewers opened their offseason by shoring up innings in their starting rotation. Curt Hogg of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on Thursday that Colin Rea is sticking in Milwaukee on a one-year deal with a club option for 2025.
The Brewers have signed Colin Rea to a one-year contract with a club option for 2025.— Curt Hogg (@CyrtHogg) November 2, 2023
Per Hogg, the deal will guarantee Rea at least $4.5 million. He’ll make $3.5 million in 2024, and his $5.5 million option for 2025 comes with a $1 million buyout.
Colin Rea’s deal with the Brewers is for $3.5 million for 2024 with a $5.5 million club option for 2025 and a $1 million buyout, per league sources. There are additional incentives tied to both ‘24 and ‘25.— Curt Hogg (@CyrtHogg) November 2, 2023
Rea first joined the Brewers organization in August 2021 between stints in Japan and made one relief appearance with them later that year. After spending the entirety of the following year with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, he returned to Milwaukee on a minor-league contract before the 2023 season.
Initially signed as a depth arm for the upper minors, the veteran became a key member of the big-league pitching staff. A rotating series of injuries to Brandon Woodruff, Adrian Houser, Wade Miley, and Eric Lauer kept Rea in the starting rotation for much of the season.
Rea finished the season with 124 2⁄3 innings pitched, placing him third on the team behind Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta.
His work in that sample didn’t jump off the page. Rea’s 4.55 ERA and 4.90 FIP were a few ticks below the league average. He struggled with home runs, surrendering 23 long balls (1.66 per nine).
However, Rea put the Brewers in a position to win with most of his starts. He logged at least five innings in 17 starts and allowed three earned runs or fewer in 15 bulk outings.
Rea does not possess a standout pitch; each of his offerings except his curveball graded out below average in 2023 by Stuff+. However, he throws six distinct pitches and achieved serviceable results by changing speeds and locations.
Rea’s three fastballs did much of the heavy lifting. He threw his sinker to the arm side part of the plate, his cutter to the glove side, and elevated with his four-seamer while using all three pitches at similar rates.
He also utilized a new sweeping slider as a putaway pitch. Opponents hit .218 with a .254 wOBA against the sweeper, and it induced a 35.8% whiff rate.
Rea was a useful back-of-the-rotation innings eater in 2023, and he figures to fill the same role next season.
The Brewers’ rotation is in a somewhat precarious state. Brandon Woodruff will miss most of the season after shoulder surgery and may not pitch at all. Aaron Ashby may not be able to handle a starter’s workload coming off his own shoulder surgery. The Brewers have publicly downplayed any willingness to trade Corbin Burnes in his final year of team control, but he could still be moved. Eric Lauer elected free agency last week, and Wade Miley could join him.
Retaining Rea is the first step in addressing that instability. Prospect Robert Gasser also figures to contribute to the 2024 rotation. Expect the Brewers to pursue more rotation help as the offseason continues.