- Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel looks at potential trade pieces at the major league level for the Brewers, naming Domingo Santana, Keon Broxton and Eric Thames as possible candidates. It’s “unlikely” the Brewers will retain both Santana and Broxton, as each outfielder is out of minor league options, notes Haudricourt, who adds that Thames “could be had in the right deal.” A first baseman/outfielder, Thames experienced a dip in production in 2018 and saw Jesus Aguilar take hold of the first base position in Milwaukee. The 32-year-old Thames is due $6MM in 2019, and with the Brewers having a limited amount of payroll room, getting his money off the books may help them upgrade elsewhere. Second base is one area Milwaukee could try to bolster, though considering high-end prospect Keston Hiura is looming, the team’s not going to make a long-term commitment there this offseason, Haudricourt relays.
- The Brewers have signed righty Deolis Guerra to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training, Adam McCalvy of MLB.com tweets. The 29-year-old Guerra didn’t appear in the majors at all in 2018 after inking a minors pact with the Rangers last offseason. He did perform well as a member of the Rangers’ Triple-A club, however, as he notched a 3.75 ERA, 10.77 K/9, 2.43 BB/9 and a 48.3 percent groundball rate in 59 1/3 innings. Prior to 2018, Guerra saw major league action in each season from 2015-17 and combined for 95 innings of 4.17 ERA pitching, with 7.11 K/9, 2.08 BB/9 and a 40.1 percent grounder mark, with the Pirates and Angels.
Here are the day’s minor moves from around the league…
- The Brewers announced a minor-league deal with catcher Tuffy Gosewisch. He’ll receive an invitation to MLB Spring Training as part of the arrangement. The 35-year-old has seen sporadic MLB action over five seasons, but has never hit enough (.190/.228/.271) to hang onto a job. He spent last year at Triple-A in the Nationals organization, where he batted .219/.310/.335. It’s conceivable that Gosewisch will compete in camp with fellow journeyman Erik Kratz, though the latter surely has the inside track to a big-league job. Of course, the club still could add another player to pair with Manny Pina behind the dish.
- Former Giants outfielder Jarrett Parker has inked a minor league pact with the Angels, Fancred’s Jon Heyman reports (on Twitter). Parker, who’ll turn 30 on New Years Day, hasn’t appeared in the Majors since a 2017 season that was cut short by a broken collarbone. However, he has at times looked like a potentially productive corner outfielder, compiling a career .257/.335/.456 slash with 15 home runs in 382 MLB plate appearances — the majority of which have come in the vast expanses of San Francisco’s AT&T Park. If he makes the Angels’ roster, he’ll give the team a much-needed lefty bat off the bench.
- Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets that left-hander Hoby Milner accepted an outright assignment from the Rays after being removed from the 40-man roster and will be in Spring Training as a non-roster invitee. Milner was outrighted late last month but did have the option to reject his assignment in favor of free agency. Instead, he’ll vie for a bullpen spot in 2019. Soon to turn 28, Milner has an appealing 3.03 ERA in 38 2/3 career innings, but that’s accompanied by a lofty 4.9 BB/9 mark and an 86.2 percent strand rate that isn’t sustainable over the long run. Fielding-independent metrics suggest his ERA should be well north of 5.00. If Milner were to be used as a strict lefty specialist, though, he could likely find plenty of success. Left-handed opponents have hit just .177/.292/.277 against him in 98 big league plate appearances.
- The Padres and Brewers are among the teams still in contact with the Yankees about a potential Sonny Gray swap, per Jon Morosi of MLB.com (Twitter links). Both organizations have been tied to various starting pitching options, though the Padres are a particularly curious fit, given their focus on the 2020 season and Gray’s status as a one-year rental. However, as Morosi’s colleague, AJ Cassavell, explains in greater detail, San Diego’s interest has some logic to it. Gray’s stock is down, and a resurgence in San Diego (like many arms before him) could allow him to either be traded for a greater price next July or position him to receive a qualifying offer next offseason. Even if the acquisition doesn’t pan out, he wouldn’t put a huge dent into a deep San Diego farm system. As for the Brewers, they’ve already got a deep collection of right-handed starters, but perhaps they view Gray as a premium rebound candidate and/or feel that acquiring him could allow them to deal from the back end of their current collection of rotation candidates.
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The Brewers went from a near-miss in the 2017 postseason to a deep NLCS run against the Dodgers in 2018. With much of the core under control, general manager David Stearns and the rest of the Milwaukee front office will look to push the roster to the next level in 2019.
- Lorenzo Cain, OF: $66MM through 2022
- Ryan Braun, OF: $38MM through 2020 (includes $4MM buyout of 2021 mutual option)
- Christian Yelich, OF: $37.5MM through 2021 (includes $1.25MM buyout of 2022 club option)
- Eric Thames, 1B/OF: $7MM through 2019 (includes $1MM buyout of 2020 club option)
- Chase Anderson, RHP: $6.5MM through 2019 (includes $500K buyout of 2020 club option; contract also contains 2021 club option)
- Jhoulys Chacin, RHP: $6MM through 2019
- Jeremy Jeffress, RHP: $3.175MM through 2019 (contract contains 2020 club option)
- Matt Albers, RHP: $2.5MM through 2019
- Erik Kratz, C: $1.5MM through 2019 (as a pre-tender arbitration contract, Kratz’s deal is not fully guaranteed)
Arbitration-Eligible Players (service time in parentheses; salary projections via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz)
- Travis Shaw (3.088) – $5.1MM
- Corey Knebel (3.151) – $4.9MM
- Jimmy Nelson (4.107) – $3.7MM
- Hernan Perez (4.079) – $2.7MM
- Junior Guerra (2.155) – $2.7MM
- Zach Davies (3.020) – $2.4MM
- Domingo Santana (3.024) – $2.0MM
- Manny Pina (3.046) – $1.8MM
- Tyler Saladino (3.053) – $1.0MM
- Jonathan Schoop, Gio Gonzalez, Mike Moustakas, Joakim Soria, Wade Miley, Curtis Granderson, Jordan Lyles, Xavier Cedeno, Dan Jennings, Stephen Vogt, Eric Sogard
Generally speaking, there aren’t going to be a lot of holes to fill for a 96-win team that stands to retain the vast majority of its top players, but that’s perhaps less so in the case of these Brewers. Milwaukee’s outfield is set, if not overcrowded, but the Brewers’ infield, catching and rotation pictures all present the opportunity for improvement.
The Brewers bit the bullet and non-tendered Jonathan Schoop — a supposedly key trade-deadline acquisition who instead flopped in his limited time in Milwaukee. With Mike Moustakas, whose midseason acquisition was much more successful, hitting the open market and Orlando Arcia still not fully cemented as an everyday player in the big leagues, the Brewers could pursue multiple avenues to solidifying their infield mix.
Travis Shaw has proven a quality third baseman for the past two seasons in Milwaukee, but he shifted to second base at times when the club added Moustakas to the fold. Presumably, given the fact that Shaw grades out as a strong defender at the hot corner, the Brewers wish to return him to third base. At the very least, Milwaukee could stand to add a second baseman, where utilityman Hernan Perez currently tops the depth chart. Fortunately for the Brewers, there’s hardly a shortage of options available to them.
Frankly, it’s possible to imagine a variety of approaches, including the addition of multiple pieces that will see action at multiple positions. Super-utilityman Marwin Gonzalez would be an intriguing fit, and he’s certainly familiar to Stearns. But he may well cost more than the Brewers wish to pay. It’s not hard to imagine Stearns looking to find his own such player at a more palatable rate of pay.
DJ LeMahieu and Jed Lowrie head up a deep free-agent crop of second basemen. The former would bring some relative youth and premium defense to the position; the latter, meanwhile, is coming off a career-best season and offers more defensive versatility, though Lowrie will play next season at age 35. With top prospect Keston Hiura already reaching Double-A, the Brewers probably don’t feel the need to spend heavily on a long-term option at second base, and likely won’t be forced to in this market. Any of Brian Dozier, Daniel Murphy, Ian Kinsler or Asdrubal Cabrera could presumably be had on short-term pacts (in some cases, even one-year deals), and the trade market also features myriad options. Starlin Castro and Cesar Hernandez could be shorter-term options, while someone such as Arizona’s Ketel Marte is a longer-term piece who has the versatility to move to a utility role if Hiura pushes him off the spot. Stearns is never shy on the trade market, and he’ll have ample avenues to explore in that regard.
At shortstop, the need is less acute. Arcia was one of the game’s worst hitters in the first half of the season, but the former top prospect returned from a brief demotion to hit .290/.320/.386 in his final 154 plate appearances before hitting .333/.353/.606 in 34 trips to the plate in the postseason. Given his strong defensive ratings at short, his once-premium prospect pedigree and the fact that he’s headed into his age-24 season, there’s reason to believe that Arcia can hold down the fort in 2019 at the very least — if not blossom into a close approximation of the player he was projected to be when ranked as a top 10 prospect in the entire game. If anything, perhaps a glove-first utility option to support Arcia could make sense — someone in the mold of Freddy Galvis.
For a second consecutive offseason, the Brewers could explore the market for help behind the plate. Manny Pina regressed in most offensive respects in 2018, but to his credit, he improved substantially in terms of pitch framing, pitch blocking and halting stolen bases. Pina turned in a terrific defensive season but hit just .252/.307/.395. At present, he’s projected to pair with affable veteran Erik Kratz, who hit .236/.280/.355 while serving as a fan favorite and clubhouse leader. It’s a defensively sound pairing but one that also lacks much offensive upside. If the Brewers want to again try to pry a Marlins star out of Miami, they’d be a fairly natural landing spot for J.T. Realmuto, who’d bring a more well-rounded approach to the table. To date, there’s no real indication of how high a priority the club places on improving in this area, but there are quite a few other plausible targets floating around the market at different price points.
Turning to the pitching staff, Stearns and his lieutenants did well to prove that the public outcry for more rotation help last offseason was exaggerated. The Brewers will welcome Jimmy Nelson back to a starting staff that should feature a combination of Jhoulys Chacin, Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, Junior Guerra, Freddy Peralta, Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes. It’s a quality mix of arms with some significant upside in the form of Nelson and Burnes. The standard adage that one can never have too much starting pitching always applies, and acquiring a clear top-of-the-rotation arm could allow the Brewers to deal from that depth to address other needs, but an impact starter is far more a luxury than a necessity for Milwaukee this winter. Milwaukee has often been mentioned as a possible landing spot for Sonny Gray, which would deepen that mix and add some potential upside to an already promising group. There’s also certainly an argument the Brewers should go bigger if they’re to make a move. The club has been connected to Noah Syndergaard, though that seems a remote possibility.
In the bullpen, the Brewers will return much of the unit that proved to be arguably the club’s greatest strength in 2018. Josh Hader, Corey Knebel and Jeremy Jeffress were an utterly dominant trio at the back of the Milwaukee ’pen for much of the season. The latter of that group may have worn down a bit in the postseason, but without the Herculean regular-season efforts of any of that threesome, the Brewers may not have been in the playoffs at all. They’ll likely be joined by veteran Matt Albers, Jacob Barnes and at least one of the rotation candidates who doesn’t end up winning a starting job this spring. But the Brewers could stand to strengthen an existing strength — particularly in the form of a left-handed reliever. Zach Britton and Andrew Miller are the top free agents out there, but Stearns hasn’t spent heavily on the ’pen in free agency since taking the reins in Milwaukee. The market has some bargain options and upside plays in the form of Oliver Perez, Zach Duke, Tyler Lyons and Jake Diekman, among others. An affordable southpaw option to pair with Hader, the resident late-inning juggernaut, would seem prudent.
Beyond filling out those needs, however, the Brewers face some surpluses with which to deal. The Brew Crew was happy to stockpile outfielders last season, knowing that players like Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana had minor league options remaining and could be shuttled back and forth from Triple-A to the Majors as needed. That won’t be the case next season, and with Yelich, Cain and Braun lined up in the outfield — Braun possesses a no-trade clause — the front office will have to make some tough decisions. Both Santana and Broxton are out of minor league options, making them obvious trade candidates this winter. Either could be used to help address the bullpen, infield or catching situations. With three and four years of club control left, respectively, neither is an extremely long-term asset, but they could very well still hold appeal to organizations such as the Indians, White Sox, and Giants that are in need of some outfield options.
It seems likely that Eric Thames will also see his name bandied about the rumor circuit this offseason. Jesus Aguilar’s ascension to primary first baseman and the outfield logjam have left Thames as something of an odd man out. It doesn’t help that the former KBO star took a step backward in his second season back in the Majors, hitting .219/.306/.478 in 278 plate appearances. Thames’ overall .237/.341/.504 slash in two seasons as a Brewer is still productive, though, and for a club seeking an affordable first base or corner outfield option (e.g. Twins, Rockies), the lefty slugger could be a reasonable target.
As MLBTR contributor Rob Huff noted in analyzing the Brewers’ payroll, the current roster construction leaves Milwaukee with around $15MM to spend — based on historically plausible payroll expectations in Milwaukee. However, moving someone such as Thames, Santana or Albers could create a bit of extra room. Beyond that, given a deep playoff run in 2018, perhaps owner Mark Attanasio will be content to push the envelope a bit further in terms of what he’ll spend on the 2019 roster.
Fortunately, the Brewers are lacking in a clear, glaring need. The rotation could be improved, but Nelson’s return and the emergence of Burnes, Peralta and Woodruff create a deep reservoir of arms from which to draw. Arcia showed signs of life at shortstop late in the season, and a short-term addition could bridge the second-base gap to Hiura. Neither Pina nor Kratz is a highly exciting option behind the dish, but it’s a sturdy enough pairing to support a young pitching staff. The bullpen’s top three spots are locked in, and some of the rotation mix figures to join the group.
None of that is to say that the Brewers don’t need to or won’t make some additions to bolster their chances in 2019. They assuredly will. But, rather than zero in on one specific area of need, Stearns and his staff can take a broad, value-based approach to looking at the best ways to improve the current collection of talent. That general tact has paid dividends (and produced surprises) over the past two seasons, so it’ll be interesting to see what the front office comes up with this time around.
- The Brewers’ ill-fated midseason acquisition of Jonathan Schoop was summed up by GM David Stearns “as a bad deal and that’s on me,” as Stearns said during a phone call with reporters (including Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) on Friday. Stearns surrendered some notable talent to the Orioles in order to land Schoop, who hit just .202/.246/.331 with four home runs over 134 PA as a Brewer, plus an 0-for-8 showing in the postseason. Between this poor performance and Schoop’s projected $10.1MM salary in 2019 through the arbitration process, the Brewers chose to non-tender the second baseman on Friday. Milwaukee did reach agreements with infielders Tyler Saladino and Hernan Perez, each of whom Stearns mentions as possible options for second base, though the team will no doubt explore external options via trades and free agency in the coming weeks. Travis Shaw played some second base down the stretch once the Brewers acquired Mike Moustakas, and while Stearns noted that Shaw’s versatility “is a nice asset to have” in regards to the team’s offseason options, reinstalling Shaw as the everyday third baseman is the team’s “default scenario.”
After a busy day of arbitration decisions, it’s worth taking stock of some recent developments in the broader market. We’ve already touched upon some major storylines today, with looks at Patrick Corbin (link), Zack Greinke (link), and Carlos Carrasco (link). Here’s more …
- Though Corbin seems to be captivating the market at present, chatter on Nathan Eovaldi is also “heating up,” per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (Twitter link). Unsurprisingly, the Red Sox and Astros are presently seen as prime contenders to land him. With the American League shaping up to be another clash of titans, those organizations are positioned t stake some dough on Eovaldi’s upside.
- The Yankees are a major player on Corbin, of course, but also some other arms — and not just as a backup plan. Indeed, per Jayson Stark of The Athletic (via Twitter), the club could even add another significant starter if it does get Corbin. That’d be quite a surprise, given that the team would appear to have a clear starting five if Corbin signs, but perhaps there’s a way to pull something off that would still make sense and leave the club with immense rotation depth.
- Meanwhile, southpaw J.A. Happ is said to have “ten teams chasing” him at this point, per Jon Heyman of Fancred. One of those is the Brewers, who’d presumably like to bolster their rotation but also don’t appear to have an immense amount of money to use. Of course, giving up on Jonathan Schoop clears a big piece of payroll, so long as the club finds a way to address its infield needs without using all the savings.
- There’s also a “strong” market for Japanese hurler Yusei Kikuchi, Heyman tweets. Unsurprisingly, west coast clubs — the Dodgers, Padres, Giants, and Mariners, at least — appear to be lining up for the 27-year-old. It’s still hard to know what kind of salary and duration he’ll be able to command. But as this particular list of clubs shows, Kikuchi’s unusual youth will play a major role in his market by opening the door to quite a few organizations to pursue him.
- Elsewhere, the Yankees are still trying to offload an asset in Sonny Gray. Per Ken Davidoff of the New York Post, with GM Brian Cashman saying he has discussed a multitude of different scenarios involving Gray, including some larger deals. That suggests that the Yanks are comfortable hanging onto Gray for a while as they sort through the possibilities, rather than putting him on the market and taking the best deal then available.
- Gray is as good as gone from the team’s perspective, but that’s clearly not the same situation for Giants ace Madison Bumgarner. The burly southpaw is reportedly on the table. But that doesn’t mean he’ll be priced at a level that will lead to a deal. Indeed one organizational source tells Heyman (Twitter link) they “don’t see [Bumgarner] going anywhere this winter.” Certainly, the Giants have little need to dump Bumgarner if they aren’t getting something worthwhile in return. Teams with interest, though, will remain wary of a big price for one season of a player with recent shoulder woes and some performance questions.
Tonight marks the deadline for MLB clubs to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. As such, there’ll be a slew of pre-tender agreements announced today — particularly for arbitration-eligible players who might have otherwise been non-tender candidates. As we saw yesterday (and frequently in previous seasons), players agreeing to terms before the tender deadline will often sign for less than they’re projected, as the alternative in some cases may simply be to be cut loose into a crowded free-agent market.
We’ll track today’s pre-tender agreements here, with all referenced projections coming courtesy of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz…
- Giants infielder Joe Panik settled at a $3.8MM price tag, per Heyman (via Twitter). That’ll represent a savings as against the $4.2MM projected salary. Many had wondered whether the new San Francisco front office would move on from Panik, who has one more year of arb eligibility remaining. Meanwhile, Heyman tweets that reliever Sam Dyson has agreed to a $5MM pact. That also comes in $400K below his projection.
- The Padres settled with righty Bryan Mitchell for $900K, Heyman tweets. Mitchell had been a non-tender candidate at a projected $1.2MM sum.
- Newly acquired first baseman C.J. Cron has agreed to a $4.8MM contract, the Twins announced. He projected to a $5.2MM salary; this becomes the latest of many indications of the unstable market position of defensively limited slugger types.
- The Indians have settled with righty Danny Salazar for $4.5MM, Jon Heyman of Fancred tweets. He was projected at $5MM, with some wondering whether the Cleveland organization might non-tender him. The talented hurler missed the entire 2018 season. Meanwhile, righty Nick Goody is slated to earn $675K, Heyman tweets.
- Southpaw Jonny Venters avoided arb with the Braves, David O’Brien of The Athletic tweets. It’s a $2.25MM deal, sitting well over the $1.5MM projection, though certainly his unusual career path could have led to some additional arguments for a stronger raise.
- The Cardinals announced an agreement with lefty Chasen Shreve. Terms aren’t yet known. The 28-year-old had projected to take home $1.2MM for the 2019 campaign, but will settle at $900K per Heyman (via Twitter).
- Pirates righty Michael Feliz has avoided arbitration with the club, Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic was among those to report on Twitter. Feliz projected at a $900K salary and will get $850K, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets. It’s a split agreement that promises $375K in the minors, per Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (via Twitter).
- Infielder Tyler Saladino has agreed to a $887,500 salary with the Brewers, Jon Heyman of Fancred tweets. That comes in below the $1MM he projected to earn.
- The Athletics settled at $2.15MM with Liam Hendriks, per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter), all of which is guaranteed. That’s just where he projected ($2.1MM) on the heels of a fascinating 2018 season. Hendriks was dropped from the MLB roster in the middle of the season but returned late in the year in dominant fashion as the A’s “opener.”
- Lefty Sammy Solis agreed to terms with the Nationals to avoid arbitration, the club announced. He profiled as a potential non-tender candidate, so it seems likely the organization pushed to get something done before the deadline. Solis, who has an intriguing power arsenal but struggled through a homer-prone 2018, projected at $900K. He’ll earn $850K, per Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post (Twitter link).
- The Athletics announced that they’ve agreed to a one-year deal with righty Ryan Dull in advance of tonight’s deadline. He’ll get $860K, Fancred’s Jon Heyman tweets, which checks in pretty closely with his $900K projection. Dull, 29, posted a 4.26 ERA with 21 strikeouts and seven walks in 25 1/3 innings of relief in 2018.
- Heyman also tweets that the Padres and Greg Garcia, whom they claimed off waivers earlier this offseason, settled on a one-year deal worth $910K that aligns with his $900K projection. Garcia hit .221/.309/.304 in 208 plate appearances with St. Louis last season and is a career .248/.356/.339 hitter in 860 plate appearances.
- The Brewers and Hernan Perez avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $2.5MM, as first reported by Heyman. He’ll check in a bit shy of his $2.7MM projection but remain on hand as a versatile utility option in Milwaukee.
- Left-hander Tony Cingrani and the Dodgers avoided arb with a one-year deal worth $2.65MM. That checks in just south of the lefty’s $2.7MM projection. Cingrani turned in a brilliant 36-to-6 K/BB ratio in 22 1/3 innings but was also tagged for a considerably less palatable 4.76 earned run average.
- The Red Sox announced that they’ve agreed to terms on a one-year contract for the 2019 season with right-hander Tyler Thornburg. They’ve also tendered contracts to the remainder of their arbitration-eligible players, though the terms of those deals will be negotiated in the coming weeks. Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston tweets that Thornburg will earn $1.75MM i 2019 and can earn another $400K via incentives. I’m told that includes $100K for reaching each of 45, 50, 55 and 60 appearances. Thornburg, 30, was roughed up to the tune of a 5.63 ERA in 24 innings for the Sox this season — his first action for Boston since being acquired prior to the 2017 season. His Boston tenure has been utterly derailed by thoracic outlet syndrome and the ensuing surgery. Thornburg was excellent for the 2016 Brewers, and Boston parted with Travis Shaw in order to acquire him, so the Sox will surely hope that a regular offseason of rest and further removing himself from TOS surgery will get the righty back on track. This will be Thornburg’s final season of club control. He’d been projected to earn $2.3MM.
The Brewers announced this evening that they have non-tendered three players. Infielder Jonathan Schoop is the most notable name who’ll be sent onto the open market; he’ll be joined by veteran lefties Xavier Cedeno and Dan Jennings.
[RELATED: Projecting Payrolls: Milwaukee Brewers]
Schoop was picked up last summer with intentions of installing him as a key figure in the infield for the 2019 season as well. As GM David Stearns acknowledged today, though, that deal simply did not work out.
Ultimately, the Brewers felt they could put the projected $10.1MM Schoop would have earned through arbitration to better use through other investments. There are indeed loads of possibilities on the second base market. Schoop, meanwhile, will join a crowded group — but will stand out from may owing to his power ceiling and young age.
Otherwise, Stearns and co. were obviously uninterested in continuing to commit roster space to a pair of lefty specialists who did not project for much of a payroll hit ($1.6MM for Jennings; $1.5MM for Cedeno). It seems likely the Brewers will end up looking at other southpaws on the market this winter, as ace reliever Josh Hader is the lone lefty remaining in the pen.