The Brewers have shown interest in free-agent outfielder Eddie Rosario, according to Robert Murray of Fansided. Rosario, on the open market since the Twins non-tendered him in December, stands out as one of the most accomplished free-agent hitters remaining. The 29-year-old is a three-time 20-home run hitter who belted another 13 during a shortened 2020 season, though it’s unclear where he would fit in Milwaukee. The Brewers already appear to have their starting outfield figured out with Christian Yelich and Avisail Garcia flanking Lorenzo Cain, but if the universal designated hitter sticks around in 2021, Rosario could play a big role there.
Yesterday we learned that free agent Justin Turner had a final four teams he was considering for 2021. The Dodgers and Blue Jays have long been known as interested parties, but now we can add the Brewers as the third team looking to woo Turner, per Jon Heyman of the MLB Network. Turner wants a four-year deal, but that seems unlikely for the 36-year-old. The Dodgers hope to bring him back for two, but if another team is willing to go to three years for the GEM Agency client, that could be enough to pry Turner from LA. Whether the Blue Jays, Brewers, or the final mystery team are willing to make that kind of commitment to Turner is TBD.
The Brewers are an interesting entrant into the Turner sweepstakes. They have about $25MM before hitting their luxury tax payroll from 2020, so there’s room for a splashy addition if the Brewers are going to maintain their payroll. That’s a big “if,” however. The Brewers have been largely inactive thus far, however, with their only Major League contract going to infielder Daniel Robertson, who figures to play a reserve role for Milwaukee.
The Brewers have a host of young, promising, but unproven infield contributors who could move around the diamond to accommodate Turner. Keston Hiura demands a lineup spot, and he’ll probably play the keystone, while Luis Urias and Orlando Arcia are their other likely starters. Arcia has had more than enough time to establish himself, and outside of some postseason and big-game heroics, he hasn’t done enough to guarantee his starting spot. A career slash line of .244/.295/.366, with a roughly-average 20.1 percent strikeout rate, and below-average 6.6 percent walk rate definitely leaves room for improvement. Turner’s 130 wRC+, for instance, would give the Brewers’ lineup quite the boost from Arcia’s 71 wRC+ career mark.
Two new teams can be added to the list of potential Marcus Semien suitors, as SKOR North’s Darren Wolfson reports (Twitter link) that the Twins and Brewers have each spoken with representatives for the free agent shortstop. While Semien might not necessarily join one of those two clubs, Wolfson writes that there is some sense that Semien is “moving closer to a decision.”
Minnesota has been speculatively linked to Semien for months, considering that the Twins have been known to be monitoring the middle infield market as part of their rather broad range of free agent considerations. MLBTR’s Steve Adams wrote back in September that acquiring a new everyday shortstop or second baseman would allow Minnesota to shift either Jorge Polanco or Luis Arraez into super-utility duty, thus effectively filling Marwin Gonzalez’s old role as a Swiss Army knife off the bench.
Or, it isn’t out of the question that Semien could find himself playing elsewhere than shortstop, if the Twins were one of the teams considering him at other infield positions. It’s probably safe to assume that Semien would get the bulk of the action at shortstop in Minnesota, but if he was open to playing some second base (or even third base, to occasionally spell Josh Donaldson), it would further increase manager Rocco Baldelli’s flexibility in regards to lineup construction and in-game maneuvering.
J.A. Happ and Hansel Robles have been added on the pitching side, but the Twins have yet to make a significant position player move this winter. There isn’t yet any news on the Nelson Cruz front, and Minnesota already said goodbye to a notable power bat when Eddie Rosario was non-tendered (though the team hopes that top prospect Alex Kirilloff can immediately step in to fill Rosario’s shoes). Before salaries were reduced last season, the Twins had a non-prorated $132MM payroll projected for 2020 and currently have a little over $100MM committed for the 2021 roster, so there is theoretically room to add at least one more big salary while still not approaching their 2020 spending.
Signing Semien would perhaps be an even more interesting move from the Brewers’ perspective, and it would mark the first big-ticket addition of the offseason within an NL Central that has collectively seemed more focused on cutting payroll than planning to contend. It could be that the division’s general inactivity has given Milwaukee some inspiration in making a move that could separate the team in the playoff race, even if it means stretching the budget to some extent. Granted, there was considerable debate over what Semien’s next contract would look like even in the early days of the offseason, and as we approach February, it’s possible Semien’s asking price has dipped into the Brewers’ range. Milwaukee had a pre-proration payroll of just under $97.5MM in 2020 and are just shy of $85MM in projected payroll for 2021 thanks to some notable contracts (including Ryan Braun) coming off the books.
Semien would immediately solidify a rather uncertain left side of the Milwaukee infield, as Orlando Arcia and Luis Urias are respectively slated as the starting shortstop and third baseman. Daniel Robertson and Jace Peterson have also been added this winter as backup infield options. Similar to the aforementioned scenario with Semien and the Twins, Semien would likely mostly play shortstop in Milwaukee but perhaps also get some work at other infield spots to stay in the lineup every day while the Brew Crew juggles their other players in and out of the lineup.
- The Dodgers, Brewers, Yankees, and Red Sox are among the teams interested in Marcell Ozuna, according to Hector Gomez of Deportivo Z 101 (via Twitter). These four clubs are new additions to Ozuna’s market, while the Twins and Mets (also mentioned by Gomez) were linked to the slugger earlier this winter. Ozuna is looking for at least a four-year contract, Gomez writes. While financial demands weren’t mentioned, it can be assumed that Ozuna is looking for enough money to put the Dodgers and Yankees well over the $210MM luxury tax threshold, so it’s possible their interest is somewhat limited. Such a signing would also put Boston close to the threshold, and while the Brewers are nowhere near the tax line, it would represent a very bold move by a Milwaukee team that wasn’t expected to spend much this winter. It has been a relatively quiet offseason for Ozuna on the rumor mill, as his market may be dependent on whether or not the NL has a designated hitter spot available in 2021 and beyond.
The deadline to exchange arbitration figures is today at 1pm ET. As of this morning, there were 125 arbitration-eligible players who’d yet to agree to terms on their contract for the upcoming 2021 season. Arbitration is muddier than ever before thanks to the shortened 2020 schedule, which most believe will lead to record number of arb hearings this winter. Be that as it may, it’s still reasonable to expect dozens of contractual agreements to filter in over the next couple of hours.
We’ll highlight some of the more high-profile cases in separate posts with more in-depth breakdowns, but the majority of today’s dealings will be smaller-scale increases that don’t radically alter a team’s payroll or a player’s trade candidacy. As such, we’ll just run through most of today’s agreements in this post.
I’ve embedded MLBTR’s 2021 Arbitration Tracker in the post (those in the mobile app or viewing on mobile web will want to turn their phones sideways). Our tracker can be sorted by team, by service time and/or by Super Two status, allowing users to check the status on whichever groups of players they like. You can also check out Matt Swartz’s projected arbitration salaries for this year’s class, and we’ll do a quick sentence on each player’s agreement at the bottom of this post as well, with the most recent agreements sitting atop the list.
Today’s Agreements (chronologically, newest to oldest)
- Rockies outfielder Raimel Tapia avoided arbitration with a $1.95MM deal, Jon Heyman of MLB Network tweets. The team also reached an agreement for $805K with reliever Robert Stephenson, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
- The Tigers have deals with infielder Jeimer Candelario ($2.85MM), outfielder JaCoby Jones ($2.65MM) and righty Jose Cisnero ($970K), Chris McCosky of the Detroit News relays.
- The Yankees and reliever Chad Green settled for $2.15MM, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports.
- The Marlins and lefty Richard Bleier have a deal for $1.425MM, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com tweets.
- The Dodgers reached a $3.6MM settlement with lefty Julio Urias, Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times reports.
- The Angels announced a deal with righty Dylan Bundy for $8.325MM.
- The Tigers and southpaw Matthew Boyd have settled for $6.5MM, Chris McCosky of the Detroit News tweets.
- The Yankees have deals with catcher Gary Sanchez ($6.35MM), first baseman Luke Voit ($4.7MM), third baseman Gio Urshela ($4.65MM), shortstop Gleyber Torres ($4MM) and outfielder Clint Frazier ($2.1MM), per Jon Heyman of MLB Network and Ken Davidoff of the New York Post.
- The Rays and outfielder Manuel Margot avoided arbitration with a $3.4MM agreement, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
- The Padres and outfielder Tommy Pham have a deal for $8.9MM, according to Robert Murray of FanSided. Reliever Dan Altavilla settled for $850K, AJ Cassavell of MLB.com tweets.
- The Angels and righty Felix Pena have come to terms for $1.1MM, Maria Torres of the Los Angeles Times reports.
- The Red Sox and third baseman Rafael Devers have reached a $4.575MM agreement, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network.
- The Mets and outfielder Brandon Nimmo have come to a $4.7MM agreement, Anthony DiComo of MLB.com tweets.
- The Reds and righty Luis Castillo have settled for $4.2MM, Robert Murray of FanSided relays.
- The Rays reached a $2.25MM agreement with infielder Joey Wendle and a $1.175MM settlement with righty Yonny Chirinos, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets.
- The Cardinals and flamethrowing reliever Jordan Hicks have an agreement for $862,500, according to Heyman.
- The White Sox and ace Lucas Giolito avoided arbitration with a $4.15MM agreement, James Fegan of The Athletic reports.
- The Pirates and righty Joe Musgrove have reached an agreement for $4.45MM, Jon Heyman of MLB Network tweets. They also made deals with second/baseman outfielder Adam Frazier ($4.3MM), third baseman Colin Moran ($2.8MM) righty Chad Kuhl ($2.13MM) and lefty Steven Brault ($2.05MM), per reports from Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Adam Berry of MLB.com.
- Hard-throwing right-hander Reyes Moronta agreed to a $695K deal with the Giants after missing the 2020 season due to shoulder surgery, tweets Robert Murray of Fansided.
- The Tigers agreed to a $2.1MM deal with infielder Niko Goodrum, tweets Robert Murray of Fansided. They also inked lefty Daniel Norris for a $3.475MM salary, tweets Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press.
- The Pirates agreed to a $1.3MM deal with catcher Jacob Stallings and a $1.1MM deal with righty Chris Stratton, per Robert Murray of Fansided (Twitter links).
- Athletics right-hander Lou Trivino agreed to a $912,500 salary for the 2021 season, tweets Robert Murray of Fansided.
- Right-hander Richard Rodriguez and the Pirates agreed to a $1.7MM deal, tweets Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- Catcher Jorge Alfaro and the Marlins agreed to a $2.05MM deal, tweets Craig Mish of SportsGrid.
- The Reds agreed to a $2.2MM deal with right-hander Tyler Mahle, tweets Fansided’s Robert Murray. Cincinnati also signed lefty Amir Garrett for $1.5MM, tweets Mark Feinsand of MLB.com.
- The Indians agreed to a $2.4MM deal with newly acquired shortstop Amed Rosario and a $975K deal with righty Phil Maton, tweets Zack Meisel of The Athletic.
- The Tigers and righty Buck Farmer settled at $1.85MM, tweets Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press.
- The Marlins agreed to a $1.9MM deal with right-handed reliever Yimi Garcia, tweets MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.
The Brewers are in agreement with utilityman Jace Peterson on a minor league contract, reports Adam McCalvy of MLB.com (via Twitter). The team has since announced the signing. Peterson, an ISE Baseball client, will be invited to Major League Spring Training.
Peterson, 30, spent the 2020 season with the Brewers organization as well, appearing in 26 games and tallying 61 plate appearances. He went just 9-for-45 in that time but also drew a whopping 15 walks and slugged a couple of home runs, resulting in a .200/.393/.356 batting line. Peterson saw time at second base, third base, first base and in both outfield corners with Milwaukee but was non-tendered earlier this winter.
The Brewers were Peterson’s fifth organization, and he’ll have the opportunity to earn a bench role with them once again in 2021. He becomes the second utility option added by Milwaukee in as many days after yesterday’s signing of Daniel Robertson to a non-guaranteed, Major League contract. Peterson is a career .227/.317/.331 hitter in just shy of 1700 plate appearances split between the Braves, Orioles, Padres, Yankees and Brewers.
2:58PM: Robertson’s deal is not fully guaranteed, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter link).
12:57PM: The Brewers have agreed to a one-year deal with infielder Daniel Robertson, FanSided’s Robert Murray reports (via Twitter). The contract, a Major League pact, will be official once Robertson passes a physical. Robertson will earn $900K in guaranteed money, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (Twitter link), with another $400K available in incentives. He’s represented by the MVP Sports Group.
After being designated for assignment by the Rays last August, Robertson was acquired by the Giants and ended up appearing in 13 games for San Francisco, posting a .750 OPS over 24 plate appearances. Robertson was non-tendered in December, as the Giants chose to let him go rather than pay a projected arbitration salary of roughly $1.2MM.
Selected 34th overall by the A’s in the 2012 draft, Robertson went to Tampa Bay as part of the January 2015 trade that sent Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar to Oakland. Robertson was garnering some attention on top-100 prospect lists at the time, and it seemed like he would be yet another shrewd Rays pickup after he broke out with a .262/.382/.415 slash line over 340 plate appearances in 2018.
That season was cut short by thumb surgery, however, and Robertson couldn’t get on track in 2019, hitting only .213/.312/.295 over 327 PA. With injuries also playing a factor in these struggles, it seemed like Tampa Bay moved on to other infield options, as Robertson didn’t receive any playing time for the Rays last season before his DFA.
While Robertson’s right-handed bat isn’t necessarily the best platoon fit within Milwaukee’s current infield mix (Keston Hiura, Orlando Arcia, and Luis Urias all swing from the right side), his ability to play second base, third base, and shortstop make him an ideal candidate for a backup infielder role. The Brewers are always prioritizing utility types, and Robertson has also played a handful of games at other positions in the big leagues, appearing as a first baseman and both corner outfield slots.
Reyes didn’t play during the 2020 season due to an 80-game PED suspension issued in February. He elected to become a free agent after the season, ending a nine-year stint as a member of the Pirates organization. After initially signing as a minor league free agent with the Bucs in 2012, Reyes hit .278/.351/.421 over 2587 plate appearances in Pittsburgh’s farm system.
This solid bat and the ability to play all over the field (though Reyes was mostly a shortstop and second baseman in the minors) got Reyes a look at the MLB level in both 2018 and 2019. Debuting with a strong .832 OPS over 63 PA in 2018, Reyes struggled at the plate in 2019, hitting only .203/.274/.322 in 157 plate appearances while also missing about a month of action due to an ankle injury. Reyes spent much of his time on the Pirates’ active roster as an outfielder.
The Brewers often prioritize multi-positional players, so the Reyes signing gives the team another versatile option to consider heading into Spring Training. Reyes is a right-handed hitter, which could make it a bit of an uphill battle for him to break camp considering the Brewers already have quite a bit of right-handed depth.
Three of the 2020 campaign’s five lowest-scoring offenses belonged to National League playoff teams, but that’s not an ideal outcome if you truly want to make noise in October. Indeed, all three of those clubs (St. Louis, Cincinnati and Milwaukee) failed to advance beyond the playoffs’ initial round during the fall. So what have they and the league’s other two bottom-feeding offenses done to improve themselves this offseason? Not much, as you’ll see below…
Pirates (219 runs scored, 73 wRC+):
- The Pirates look even worse on paper than they did at the end of the season, having traded first baseman Josh Bell to the Nationals last week. While Bell had a horrid season in 2020, he was a star-caliber performer during the previous year, in which he slashed .277/.367/.569 with 37 home runs. The Bell-less Pirates haven’t done anything of significance to bolster their offense this winter, but the good news is that they should get a full 2021 (however many games that consists of) from third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes, who ran roughshod over the league during a scintillating 95-PA debut in 2020. There’s also nowhere to go but up for holdovers such as Gregory Polanco, Bryan Reynolds and Adam Frazier, who each posted awful numbers last season.
Rangers (224 runs, 67 wRC+):
- The Rangers have a couple newcomers in outfielder David Dahl and first baseman Nate Lowe, who they hope will improve their attack in 2021. Otherwise, they’ll be counting on bounce-back efforts from the likes of Joey Gallo, Willie Calhoun, Nick Solak, Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor. It’s hard to imagine things will get any worse next year for that quintet, though Andrus and Odor have been trending in the wrong direction for years. The Rangers are down enough on Andrus these days that they’re planning on using him as a backup shortstop/utilityman behind Isiah Kiner-Falefa next season.
Cardinals (240 runs, 93 wRC+):
- The Cardinals’ place in these rankings is deceiving because a team-wide COVID-19 outbreak cost them two full games. Their 93 wRC+ was closer to average than horrendous, but that isn’t to say they don’t have work to do offensively. First baseman Paul Goldschmidt and outfielder Harrison Bader, two of their best hitters in 2020, are returning. But Brad Miller, who was second on the team in wRC+ (121), is a free agent. Going by wRC+, those three were the only above-average offensive players on last season’s roster. The Cardinals haven’t done anything thus far to better their offense, even though they’re facing questions almost everywhere. Catcher Yadier Molina is a free agent, as is second baseman Kolten Wong, while most of their outfielders underwhelmed at the plate in 2020.
Reds (243 runs, 91 wRC+):
- The Reds made a real effort to upgrade their offense last winter in signing Nick Castellanos, Mike Moustakas and Shogo Akiyama. Moustakas wound up having a typical season at the plate, but Castellanos and Akiyama fell short of expectations. Barring trades, no one from that group is going anywhere in 2021. Likewise, Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez, Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel and Tucker Barnhart will hang around in key roles. Aside from Winker, who was fantastic in 2020, the Reds will need more from everyone listed in the previous sentence. They also need to upgrade at shortstop, where the largely untested Jose Garcia is their current starter, but it’s unclear whether the team will do so to a satisfactory extent during what has been a cost-cutting winter so far.
Brewers (247 runs, 89 wRC+):
- We’ll cap things off with another NL Central team, Milwaukee, which has joined its division rivals this winter in doing virtually nothing to better its chances of success in 2021. The Brewers opted against retaining infielder Jedd Gyorko, among their most productive hitters last season, instead paying him a $1MM buyout in lieu of exercising his $4.5MM option. They also declined team icon Ryan Braun’s option, but that was an easy decision because the six-time All-Star would have otherwise earned a $15MM salary in 2021. Braun, to his credit, was roughly a league-average hitter last season, which is more than you can say for most Brewers regulars. Whether or not the Brewers bring in outside help, better years from former NL MVP Christian Yelich, Keston Hiura, Avisail Garcia and Omar Narvaez would go a long way in helping the team tack more runs on the board in 2021.
Nottingham, who was injured during the postseason, will have just over two months to heal up before camp opens. The hope is that he’ll be a full go at or near the start of Spring Training.
This malady likely won’t have a big impact on the Brewers’ plans, particularly given the promising prognosis. If anything, it could nudge the organization to gather up a bit more catching depth.
Nottingham, 25, hit for enough power (.458 slugging percentage) to make up for a miserly .278 OBP in a twenty-game stretch with the Milwaukee organization in 2020. He stepped into the MLB fold after Manny Pina went down with an injury.
The Brewers ultimately elected to tender Pina a contract, making him the odds-on favorite to serve as the #2 backstop. Presumptive starter Omar Narvaez scuffled with the bat in his first season with the club, but seems sure to get a chance to redeem himself.
That leaves the out-of-options Nottingham with a need to make an impression in camp. If he shows well enough, and/or there are cracks in the Narvaez/Pina pairing, the Brewers could carry three backstops. If not, Nottingham may end up being dangled in trade or placed on the waiver wire.