Right-hander Jeremy Jeffress, officially released by the Brewers yesterday, has drawn some level of interest from several teams, tweets Yahoo’s Matt Ehalt. The Reds, Mets, Phillies, Rays and even the Brewers are among the teams who’ve inquired about the 2018 All-Star.
Jeffress isn’t postseason eligible, having been cut loose in September, but some of the interested teams would apparently like to proactively lock him up to a deal that covers the 2020 campaign (perhaps via a club option). That’d help to explain Milwaukee’s reported interest in bringing the righty back; the Brewers clearly had no intention of exercising Jeffress preexisting $4.3MM option for the 2020 season, but they (or another suitor) could conceivably try to hammer out an option at a lower base salary with some additional incentives. Any team signing Jeffress would only owe him the prorated league minimum for the remainder of the current season.
It’s also possible, though, that Jeffress could simply sit out the remainder of the season and explore opportunities this winter. He was on the injured list due to a hip ailment at the time of his release, and there’d surely be some benefit to an extended period of rest for the righty. He’ll likely have offseason minor league offers with decent base salaries (though less than the previous $4.3MM) at the very least, meaning there’s no rush to sign at the moment. There’ll surely be teams who are only interested in adding him after the current season draws to a close, so waiting until November to take a deal would widen his market.
Open-market circumstances surrounding Jeffress will always be somewhat atypical, given the right-hander’s history. He’s served multiple minor league suspensions for drugs of abuse (i.e. marijuana) and was charged with a DWI while pitching for the Rangers in 2016. That track record surely contributed to the club-friendly deal Jeffress signed with Milwaukee prior to the 2018 season, which came with two team options at relatively low base rates and plenty of yearly incentives based on innings pitched and games finished.
Jeffress’ release earlier this week marked the end of a radical downturn in performance. The right-hander logged a 1.29 ERA with 10.5 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 0.59 HR/9 and a 56.4 percent ground-ball rate in last year’s All-Star season before unraveling in the playoffs. He then missed the first several weeks of the 2019 season due to shoulder fatigue.
Upon activation in mid-April, Jeffress pitched well for two months, logging a 2.52 ERA and a 26-to-9 K/BB ratio through his first 22 appearances (25 innings). Since that time, he’s scuffled with an ERA north of 7.00 and a deflated strikeout rate. Jeffress’ velocity has actually improved a bit as he’s distanced himself from the early shoulder fatigue, but the aforementioned hip ailment has added another injury to the ledger. In all, he’s turned in 52 innings with a 5.02 ERA, 8.0 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 1.00 HR/9 and a 48.4 percent ground-ball rate while enduring a pair of IL stints in 2019. The upside a healthy Jeffress brings to the table is enormous, but he’s struggled to produce consistent results over the past three seasons.