The Brewers will be renewing the contract of right-hander Devin Williams for 2022 season, The Athletic’s Will Sammon reports. Club president of baseball operations David Stearns commented on the move, saying “We understand players have a right to take a renewal and look forward to watching Devin continue to make significant contributions to our team this season.”
As standard practice, teams agree to terms on contracts with all of their pre-arbitration players, even though there usually isn’t much real negotiating that takes place since pre-arb players don’t have leverage in demanding big raises beyond the minimum salary. Most teams have formulas in place that do award raises to pre-arb players based on seniority or on particular achievements, though this can usually amount to a relatively small amount of extra money (maybe a bonus of $10K or $20K).
If a player doesn’t accept the team’s proposed salary, then the team can still give that same salary to the player, yet via a renewal rather than an “agreement.” It is essentially something of a symbolic gesture reflecting that the player doesn’t agree with the number being offered by the team, and it doesn’t impact Williams’ status with the Brewers. Quite a few prominent players over the years have opted for renewals rather than regular agreements, and Williams now joins this list of notable names.
Williams earned $681.1K last season, coming off an outstanding 2020 campaign that saw him capture NL Rookie Of The Year honors and finish seventh in NL Cy Young Award voting. If that season has been played under the terms of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Williams would have received a significantly higher 2021 salary, as per the new $50MM bonus pool for pre-arbitration players and the extra money allotted for awards — the top two finishers in ROY balloting, top-five finishes for MVP or Cy Young balloting, and a spot on the All-MLB first or second team.
2022 is Williams’ final pre-arbitration season, as the reliever is slated for three arb years before becoming eligible for free agency after the 2025 season. While Williams will get a raise as he enters the arbitration process, he is also the type of player whose true value isn’t accurately reflected by the traditional counting stats preferred by arbiters in deciding cases. Williams’ whopping 42.9% strikeout rate or his 1.78 ERA in 2020-21 could be somewhat belied by his lack of saves, as Josh Hader (himself a dominant reliever) remains Milwaukee’s closer.
With Hader always rumored to be on the trade market, however, Williams would seem like the natural heir apparent to the closer’s job if the Brewers did indeed opt to send Hader elsewhere. Williams would also seem like a logical candidate for a contract extension, if the Brew Crew wanted to get some cost-certainty over Williams’ arb years (such as if a new closer role did lead to a big increase in saves) and into at least one or two of his free agent years.