Jeffress, 31, would have been eligible for arbitration for a final time, but agreed to a contract last winter that gave the team a pair of options. It was quite an unusual deal, evidently occasioned by the fact that Jeffress has struggled with substance abuse in the past and had thrived in the environment provided by the Milwaukee organization.
As it turns out, Jeffress reached $550K in incentive pay by virtue of throwing over seventy innings and finishing over twenty games. Added to his $1.75MM base salary, he earned $2.3MM — just a bit less than the $2.6MM he was projected for in arbitration.
Jeffress can reach up to $2.2MM in incentives for each of the following two seasons, though achieving all would mean reaching not only 55 games finished but also throwing over ninety frames. In addition to the $3.175MM he’ll earn for 2019, the final club option comes with a $4.3MM price tag.
To this point, the deal has worked out on the field — tremendously so, in fact. Jeffress worked to a minuscule 1.29 ERA in 76 2/3 innings in 2018, surrendering only 49 hits while compiling 10.4 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9 along with a typically excellent 56.4% groundball rate. The strikeouts came as a pleasant surprise; Jeffress ended the season with a 13.5% swinging-strike rate that easily topped his prior high.
As for Lyles, the 28-year-old gave the Brewers 16 1/3 effective innings after coming over from the Padres via trade. He allowed only six earned on a dozen hits in that span, racking up 22 strikeouts against nine walks.
Obviously, the Brewers did not seen enough to think that was a sign of things to come. Lyles has thrown 768 2/3 major-league frames, after all, with only a 5.28 ERA with 6.4 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 on his overall ledger.