The Brewers are in “advanced” talks with free-agent outfielder Avisail Garcia, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal tweeted on Saturday that Milwaukee was “trying hard” to complete a contract with the 28-year-old.
Garcia spent the 2019 season with the Rays, hitting .282/.332/.464 with 20 home runs, 25 doubles and a pair of triples in 530 trips to the plate. It was the second above-average offensive season from Garcia in the past three years, as he also turned in a career-best .330/.380/.506 line with the White Sox in 2017 (albeit with the help of a sky-high .392 average on balls in play). Garcia’s hard-hit rate and exit velocity both deteriorated in 2019 but were still better than league average. And while most wouldn’t expect it based on his 6’4″, 250-pound frame and middling stolen base totals, Garcia rates among the game’s best in terms of sprint speed, per Statcast.
Milwaukee’s outfield is already rather full, with Ryan Braun, Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich lined up from left to right field. But Braun has seen time at first base in recent seasons, and a more permanent move in that regard would open some at-bats for Garcia in the outfield, perhaps setting up a platoon with the left-handed-hitting Ben Gamel. The right-handed-hitting Garcia was a bit better against righties than lefties in 2019, but his career platoon splits suggest that he’s been much better against southpaws (.296/.352/.456) than against righties (.264/.312/.418).
Braun, Cain, Keston Hiura and Luis Urias give the Brewers four right-handed bats on whom to rely in 2020, and backup catcher Manny Pina has also been serviceable against lefties in his career. The Brewers, though, look like a club that could struggle to match up against left-handed starters — particularly if Cain doesn’t bounce back from a lackluster 2019 season at the plate. At the very least, Garcia would give manager Craig Counsell some extra thump against lefties, but he’s still a relatively young option who has more than held his own against right-handed pitchers over the past three seasons as well, creating the possibility that he could occupy a more regular role.
From a payroll vantage point, the Brewers have trimmed off quite a bit of money with an aggressive slate of non-tenders, the trade of Chase Anderson and the departure of free agents Yasmani Grandal and Mike Moustakas. After opening the 2019 season with a club-record $122.5MM payroll, they currently have about $67MM committed to 10 players (plus pending arbitration raises for Omar Narvaez, Josh Hader and Brent Suter as well as pre-arbitration salaries to round out the roster). Even if owner Mark Attanasio prefers not return to last season’s level of spending, there should still be room for Garcia and others to be added to the mix for the 2020 season.