TODAY: Lawrie’s deal with the Brewers is now official, the team announced.
FEBRUARY 9: Infielder Brett Lawrie, out of baseball since the conclusion of the 2016 season, announced on Instagram today that he has signed with Milwaukee. Per Robert Murray of the Athletic, the deal is a minors pact with a club option for 2020, and may reach up to $7MM in total value. If he cracks the MLB roster at any point during the 2019 season, he’ll earn $1MM. The deal also includes performance bonuses in 2019, with “escalators” baked in to the 2020 option.
The 29-year-old Lawrie made his early-career mark with the Blue Jays, where his abrasive, hard-nosed style of play split critics and admirers evenly apart. After four injury-marred seasons in Toronto, wherein the Canadian-born Lawrie settled in as a league-average bat with an on-again, off-again glove, the then-24-year-old was the centerpiece of the ridiculously lopsided trade that sent eventual AL MVP Josh Donaldson to the Jays.
Though he made it through a mostly-full season for the first time, Lawrie was a disappointment in Oakland. His famously aggressive style in the box teetered too far to the negative extreme, at times spilling over to the basepaths, and even on the field, where his verbal outbursts and come-get-me persona overshadowed a lethargic statistical output. After a 0.9 fWAR season, suppressed largely by an awful defensive performance, Lawrie was shipped early in the offseason to the South side of Chicago.
With the White Sox, Lawrie’s strikeout rate ballooned to career-high 28.4%, and he again struggled to stay on the field. Still, his offensive performance maintained its even flow, as he fell around five percent below league-average for the third consecutive season.
Forecasting a player after such a long absence is a difficult task, but the offensive bar in the Brewers infield has been set shockingly low. The club is set to enter the season with a platoon of Cory Spangenberg and Hernan Perez at second, neither of whom can match Lawrie’s league-average (.261/.315/.419, 100 wRC+) track record. If the rust is surface-layer, Lawrie should find his way back to the major-league roster in short order.