The Brewers announced today that they have avoided arbitration with catcher Erik Kratz. The deal promises him $300K and provides a $1.2MM salary in the majors, per Jon Heyman of Fancred (via Twitter).
Kratz had been projected by MLBTR and contributor Matt Swartz to earn $1.7MM through the arbitration process. The team understandably wasn’t interested in paying quite that amount, so instead worked out an agreement that will provide Kratz more certainty than the standard arb contract (which promises only thirty days of salary as a starting point) but will limit what he can earn if he sticks on the MLB roster.
The 38-year-old Kratz did not even touch the majors until he was already in his age-30 season. He has now appeared in nine-consecutive MLB campaigns, though he also hasn’t generally commanded much of an opportunity to play.
It came somewhat out of the blue, then, when the Brewers acquired Kratz in the middle of the 2018 campaign and installed him as a not-infrequently-used backup. He ended up striding to the plate 219 times, one more than his previous season high (2013, with the Phillies).
Certainly, the results on offense weren’t much different than might have been expected. Kratz produced a meager .236/.280/.355 slash, which maps to a 70 wRC+ — only marginally better than his career 65 wRC+.
Of course, there’s quite a bit more than hitting to the job of a reserve catcher. Kratz excelled at framing pitches and smothering balls in the dirt, while also drawing plaudits from the Milwaukee organization for his game calling, work ethic, and clubhouse presence.
Clearly, the club valued what he brought to the table. After seeing MLB action with seven teams, then, it seems Kratz has found something of a home. Whether he’ll open the season on the active roster, and if so whether he’ll last, remains to be seen. But it’s still a continuation of a great story for a respected veteran grinder.