- The Angels have made a couple of additions to new general manager Perry Minasian’s front office. The team’s hiring Brewers vice president/assistant to the GM Ray Montgomery and Dodgers international crosschecker Brian Parker, per reports from Joel Sherman of the New York Post and Jim Callis of MLB.com. It’s unclear which roles the two will take on as part of the Angels’ staff.
Milner, 30 next month, put up a strong 2.01 ERA but questionable peripherals through 37 1/3 innings as a rookie with the Phillies back in 2017. He’s yet to come close to replicating that level of run prevention; in 24 1/3 frames since that debut effort, he’s been rocked for a 7.77 ERA.
That sky-high ERA is an eyesore, but Milner excels at limiting hard contact (career 83.4 mph opponents’ exit velocity and 27.9 percent hard-hit rate). He also comes with a terrific minor league track record, having tallied 146 innings of 3.08 ERA ball with 11.5 K/9 against 2.3 BB/9 in four seasons out of the bullpen at the Triple-A level. He’s seen big league time each year since 2017, so there are clearly some clubs who believe there’s another level possible despite the overall lackluster results.
Cozens, meanwhile, was once one of the more promising prospects in the Phillies organization. The 2012 second-rounder is now 26 years old and four seasons removed from a 40-homer campaign at the Double-A level. Cozens hasn’t played in an official game since May 2019 thanks to surgery to remove bone spurs and repair torn cartilage in his left foot that year. He’s a career .252/.329/.473 hitter in the minors with prodigious power but far too much swing-and-miss in his game, evidenced by a 36 percent strikeout rate in parts of three Triple-A seasons.
Cozens does have a handful of MLB plate appearances (45) but has managed just a .154/.267/.282 slash with 24 punchouts in that tiny sample. He’ll give the Brewers some left-handed-hitting depth in Triple-A, but with a full outfield in Milwaukee, he’s likely to open the year in the minors and shake off some of the injury rust as he awaits an MLB opportunity.
The 27-year-old Perdomo had been cut loose recently by the Padres. He’s expected to miss all of the upcoming campaign while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
It isn’t clear just yet whether the accord has any special provisions (such as an option) for future seasons. If nothing else, Perdomo will be eligible for arbitration once again at season’s end, so the Brewers could decide to add him to their 40-man roster and tender him a contract if his rehab progresses well.
If he can fully recover from his elbow woes, Perdomo will be looking for a chance to prove that he can deliver consistent results at the MLB level. He has a standout, mid-nineties sinker that reliably produces gaudy groundball numbers, but owns only a 5.19 ERA in his 444 1/3 career frames at the game’s highest level.
The latest minor league moves from around baseball…
- The Rays have signed catcher Joe Odom to a minors pact, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. A 13th-round pick of Atlanta in 2013, Odom stuck with the Braves organization through 2017 before joining the Mariners in the ensuing winter’s Rule 5 Draft. Odom did make it to the majors for the first time last season with Seattle, collecting 44 plate appearances, but the 28-year-old batted a meek .128/.209/.128 with no extra-base hits and 20 strikeouts. The Mariners outrighted him after that.
- The Rangers signed right-hander Luis Ortiz to a minors contract, the team announced. Ortiz has a 12.71 ERA over career 5 2/3 innings in the majors (with the Orioles in 2018-19), and is making his return to Texas after being drafted 30th overall by the Rangers in 2014. He has been part of two notable deadline trades, included as part of the trade package sent to Milwaukee for Jonathan Lucroy in 2016, and then the Brewers shipped him to the Orioles in July 2018 as part of the Jonathan Villar/Jonathan Schoop swap.
- The Brewers signed outfielder/first baseman Dustin Peterson to a minor league deal, as originally reported by Ana Soriano of RIDA Sports (Twitter link). Originally a second-round pick for the Padres in the 2013 draft, Peterson has a .262/.316/.382 slash line over 2918 career minor league plate appearances in the Padres, Braves, and Tigers farm systems. At the big league level, Peterson has a .570 OPS over 49 PA with Atlanta and Detroit over the 2018-19 seasons. Most recently, Peterson posted big numbers for the independent Sugar Land Skeeters in 2020 and is currently tearing it up in the Mexican Pacific Winter League.
- Catcher Tim Federowicz has signed with the Dodgers, as Federowicz revealed himself on Twitter. This will be the veteran’s second stint in Los Angeles, as he spent his first four MLB seasons (2011-14) with the Dodgers. It’s probably safe to assume that it is a minor league contract, as the Dodgers have Will Smith and Austin Barnes in the majors and top prospect Keibert Ruiz in the wings after his Major League debut last season. Appearing in parts of eight seasons with six different teams, Federowicz has a .568 OPS over 443 career plate appearances and 163 games at the big league level. He didn’t see any MLB action in 2020 after signing a minors deal with the Rangers last offseason.
Dec 11: The Brewers are acquiring southpaw Leo Crawford to complete the Knebel trade, per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand and others (via Twitter). The Brewers sent Knebel to the Dodgers just before the non-tender deadline. In Crawford, they’re getting a 23-year-old lefty who reached Double-A in 2019. Between High-A and Double-A, Crawford pitched to a 2.81 ERA across 121 2/3 innings with 9.9 K/9 against 2.0 BB/9. Some comparisons have been drawn to Brent Suter in terms of his deception and projectionable functionality as a starter who could work out of the bullpen depending on need.
Dec 2: The Dodgers announced that they’ve acquired right-hander Corey Knebel from the Brewers in exchange for a player to be named later or cash. The trade comes after Knebel was reportedly set to be non-tendered, but it appears that the Brewers instead found an eleventh-hour trade for the former All-Star closer. He’ll still be eligible for arbitration with the Dodgers.
Knebel, 29, struggled this past season in his comeback from 2019 Tommy John surgery. The 2017 All-Star was rocked for a 6.08 ERA with a 15-to-8 K/BB ratio in 13 1/3 innings — his first action on a big league mound since the end of the 2018 campaign.
There were plenty of red flags for Knebel in 2020, most notably a 94.4 mph average fastball velocity that sat three miles per hour shy of its 2017 peak. That said, Knebel’s velocity began to trend upward late in the season, which could have been enough to give the Dodgers hope that he’ll regain some of the life on his heater next year when he’s another season removed from surgery.
Knebel’s struggles in 2020 should prevent him from taking home much of a raise on his $5.125MM salary from this past season, so he’ll be an affordable, high-upside roll of the dice for a Dodgers club that hasn’t been afraid to take chances when it comes to buying low on formerly elite relievers.
From 2017-18 with the Brewers, Knebel racked up 55 saves while pitching to a 2.54 ERA and 2.74 FIP over the course of 131 1/3 innings. Along the way he emerged as one of the game’s premier strikeout artists, averaging an obscene 14.7 K/9 and punching out 40.2 percent of the hitters he faced on the whole.
Obviously, that was two years and one major surgery ago, but the Dodgers will hope for a return to form in what will be Knebel’s final season prior to free agency. If they can successfully round him into form, he’ll join a late-inning mix featuring Kenley Jansen, Brusdar Graterol and Joe Kelly, although the Dodgers figure to further supplement that group between now and Opening Day.
TODAY: The deal has been officially announced.
DECEMBER 1: The Brewers have agreed to sign catcher Luke Maile to a major league contract, pending a physical, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweets. Details are unknown. Maile is a client of Meister Sports Management.
The 29-year-old Maile saw major league action with the Rays and Blue Jays from 2015-19. Maile then signed a major league deal with the Pirates last winter, but he didn’t play at all in 2020 after suffering a fractured right index finger that required surgery in July. He’ll bring a .198/.252/.304 line and 10 home runs in 657 plate appearances to Milwaukee.
The Brewers relied on Omar Narvaez, Manny Pina and Jacob Nottingham at catcher in 2020, but they might not bring all three back next year. Narvaez and/or Pina could be non-tendered before Wednesday’s deadline, which makes the timing of the Maile addition especially interesting.
- The Brewers tweeted that they’ve signed third baseman Zach Green to a minor league contract with an invitation to big league camp. The 26-year-old was a third-round pick of the Phillies in 2012 who spent the previous two seasons in the Giants organization. Green made his MLB debut in 2020 and totaled 16 plate appearances, though he picked up just two hits. However, Green isn’t far removed from an excellent 2019 showing in Triple-A, where he slashed .282/.380/.659 with 25 home runs in 297 plate appearances.
8:06pm: Reports of Knebel being non-tendered proved premature, as he’s been traded to the Dodgers, per announcements from both teams. (More on that transaction here.)
The 28-year-old Gamel hit .237/.315/.404 while playing outfield spots in 2020, but the Brewers opted not to give him a raise on last year’s $1.4MM salary. It was a rough day for corner outfielders across the board, with several notable names hitting the market.
Claudio, 29 in January, posted serviceable results in 19 innings but saw his elite ground-ball rate trend more toward league-average levels this past season. Peterson’s non-tender isn’t particularly surprising given his status as a journeyman utility piece who has been on four teams in the past four seasons.
Now 29 years old, Knebel was one of the majors’ most dominant relievers for a short time. At his best, Knebel threw 76 innings of 1.78 ERA/2.53 FIP ball with 14.92 K/9 and 4.74 BB/9 en route to his lone All-Star nod in 2017. Knebel was again highly effective the next season, but he underwent Tommy John surgery before 2019 and wasn’t able to return to form this past season.
During his comeback with the Brewers, Knebel could only muster a 6.08 ERA/6.64 FIP with 10.13 K/9 against 5.4 BB/9 across 13 1/3 frames. Knebel also saw his average fastball drop from around 97 mph in his peak to 94.4 in 2020. That said, he should still draw a fair amount of interest as a buy-low, bounce-back candidate in free agency.
With the non-tender deadline coming today at 7pm CT, expect quite a few players to agree to contracts for the 2021 season, avoiding arbitration in advance. In many (but not all) cases, these deals — referred to as “pre-tender” deals because they fall prior to the deadline — will fall shy of expectations and projections. Teams will sometimes present borderline non-tender candidates with a “take it or leave it” style offer which will be accepted for fear of being non-tendered and sent out into an uncertain market. Speculatively, such deals could increase in 2020 due to the economic uncertainty sweeping through the game, although there are also widespread expectations of record non-tender numbers.
You can track all of the arbitration and non-tender activity here, and we’ll also run through today’s smaller-scale pre-tender deals in this post. You can also check out Matt Swartz’s arbitration salary projections here.
- The Giants have a $1.275MM agreement with first baseman/outfielder Darin Ruf, Schulman tweets.
- Pirates righty Jameson Taillon will earn $2.25MM in 2021, Adam Berry of MLB.com tweets. Taillon didn’t pitch at all in 2020 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in August 2019. Reliever Michael Feliz will get $1MM, Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
- Twins righty Jose Berrios will earn $6.1MM with a $500K signing bonus in 2021, Dan Hayes of The Athletic reports. Catcher Mitch Garver will rake in $1.875MM, per Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News. Center fielder Byron Buxton ($5.125MM) and reliever Taylor Rogers (terms not released) also agreed to deals, according to Phil Miller of the Star Tribune.
- The Phillies have deals with starter Zach Eflin ($4.45MM) and relievers Hector Neris ($5MM), David Hale ($850K) and Seranthony Dominguez ($727,500), Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia, Heyman and Todd Zolecki of MLB.com relay.
- The Marlins and first baseman Garrett Cooper have a $1.8MM agreement that could max out at $2.05MM with performance bonuses, Craig Mish of Sportsgrid tweets.
- The Brewers are keeping catcher Manny Pina in the fold for $1.65MM, according to Heyman. They’re also retaining first baseman Daniel Vogelbach for $1.4MM, Nightengale reports.
- The Giants and outfielder Austin Slater have a one-year, $1.15MM deal, per Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.The club also reached a $925K agreement with lefty Wandy Peralta and a $700K pact with righty Trevor Gott, Heyman tweets.
- The Cubs are bringing back hurlers Dan Winkler ($900K), Colin Rea ($702,500) and Kyle Ryan ($800K), Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Ryan’s agreement is a split contract that features a $250K minor league salary.
- The Mets are retaining lefty Steven Matz for $5.2MM, Nightengale tweets. Matz had a brutal campaign in 2020 with a 9.68 ERA/7.76 FIP over 30 2/3 innings in 2020, but the Mets will give him a chance to rebound.
- The Padres and lefty Matt Strahm have a one-year, $2MM deal, Nightengale reports. Strahm gave the Padres a 2.61 ERA/4.93 FIP in 20 2/3 innings in 2020.
- Outfielder Guillermo Heredia, whom the Mets claimed from Pittsburgh in August, will earn $1MM in 2021, according to Nightengale.
- The Astros and reliever Austin Pruitt have settled for $617, 500, per Heyman. The right-hander missed the season with elbow issues.
- The Royals and outfielder Jorge Soler have agreed to a one-year, $8.05MM deal with $250K in incentives, Nightengale reports. Soler was a 48-home run hitter in 2019, but his production went backward this past season, in which he slashed .228/.326/.443 with eight HRs in 174 trips to the plate.
- The Red Sox have kept relievers Matt Barnes ($4.4MM) and Ryan Brasier ($1.25MM) and catcher Kevin Plawecki ($1.6MM), per tweets from Nightengale, Robert Murray of FanSided and Heyman. Barnes has been a solid reliever as a member of the Red Sox, though he yielded more than five walks per nine and upward of four runs per nine in 2020. Brasier was more successful this past season, as he tossed 25 frames of 3.96 ERA/3.15 FIP ball and averaged better than 10 strikeouts per nine. Plawecki had a nice year as the backup to Christian Vazquez, as he batted .341/.393/.463 in 89 PA.
- The Giants and southpaw Jarlin Garcia have settled for $950K, according to Heyman. Garcia is coming off an 18 1/3-inning effort in which he posted a near-perfect 0.49 (with an impressive 3.14 FIP) and 6.87 K/9 against 3.44 BB/9.
- The Marlins have agreed to a one-year, $4.3MM deal with first baseman Jesus Aguilar, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets. The 30-year-old slugger put up strong numbers in his first year with the Fish, slashing .277/.352/.457 with eight long balls in 216 plate appearances.
- The Giants and outfielder Alex Dickerson settled at a year and $2MM, tweets Nightengale. The 30-year-old slugger has a lengthy injury history but has been excellent in limited work with the Giants, including a .298/.371/.576 slash in 170 plate appearances this past season.
- Luis Cessa will be back with the Yankees on a one-year deal, tweets Nightengale. He’ll earn $1.05MM. The righty notched a 3.32 ERA and 3.79 FIP with a 17-to-7 K/BB ratio in 21 2/3 innings this past season. Fellow righty Ben Heller will also return, the team announced, though it didn’t disclose financial details.
- First baseman Matt Olson and the Athletics settled on a one-year deal worth $5MM, tweets Nightengale. The 26-year-old Olson’s .198/.310/.424 slash was an obvious step back from his 2019 campaign, but he’s still viewed as a vital part of the club’s future moving forward.
- The Braves and righty Luke Jackson agreed to a one-year deal, tweets MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. The 29-year-old was rocked for a 6.84 ERA in this year’s shortened slate of games but posted a 3.84 ERA and 3.24 FIP with better than 13 K/9 as one of the team’s steadiest relievers in 2019. The contract is valued at $1.9MM, per a team announcement.
- The Brewers are bringing back catcher Omar Narvaez for one year and $2.5MM, Heyman tweets. Narvaez was a very good offensive catcher from 2o16-19 with the White Sox and Mariners, but he struggled last season after the M’s traded him to the Brewers. Thanks in part to a career-worst 31 percent strikeout rate, Narvaez could only muster a .176/.294/.269 line and a paltry two HRs in 126 plate appearances. Nevertheless, he’s in line to return to the Brewers for a second season.
- The Brewers have agreed to a one-year, $2MM contract with shortstop Orlando Arcia, Nightengale relays. Arcia endured serious struggles on offense in prior years, but the 26-year-old managed a respectable .260/.317/.416 line with five home runs over 189 plate appearances this past season.
- The Phillies and catcher Andrew Knapp have reached a one-year, $1.1MM agreement, per Nightengale. Typically a light-hitting backstop, Knapp batted a career-best .278/.404/.444 in 89 plate appearances in 2020. He’s currently the No. 1 catcher on a Phillies team that could lose J.T. Realmuto in free agency.
- Pirates infielder Erik Gonzalez agreed to a one-year deal worth $1.225MM, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets. It was the second year of arb eligibility for Gonzalez, whose glovework will earn him a contract despite a brutal .227/.255/.359 batting line in 193 plate appearances in 2020.
- The Royals and Hunter Dozier agreed to a one-year deal worth $2.72MM in entirely guaranteed money, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reports. More is available to Dozier via contract incentives. Dozier hit .228/.344/.392 over 186 PA after missing over the first two weeks of the season recovering from a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.
- The Red Sox agreed to an $870K deal with right-hander Austin Brice for the 2021 season, as per Nightengale. Brice posted a 5.95 ERA, 11.4 K/9, and 5.9 BB/9 over 19 2/3 innings in his first season in Boston, and was considered a potential non-tender candidate.
- The Twins and righty Tyler Duffey agreed to a one-year, $2.2MM pact, SKOR North’s Darren Wolfson reports. According to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney, Duffey’s deal is fully guaranteed.
- The Braves agreed to a one-year, $900K deal with southpaw Grant Dayton, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets. Dayton had a 2.30 ERA over 27 1/3 innings in 2020.
- The Braves announced an agreement with utilityman Johan Camargo on a one-year, $1.36MM deal. Camargo was thought to be a non-tender candidate after struggling to a .222/.267/.378 slash line in 375 plate appearances over the last two seasons, but he will return for a fifth year in Atlanta.
- The White Sox and left-hander Jace Fry agreed to a one-year deal worth $862.5K, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (Twitter link). Fry posted a 3.66 ERA, 2.00 K/BB rate, and 11.0 K/9 over 19 2/3 innings in 2020, and he has strong overall career numbers against left-handed batters.
- The Orioles agreed with second baseman Yolmer Sanchez on a one-year deal worth $1MM, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (via Twitter). Baltimore claimed Sanchez off waivers from the White Sox at the end of October. A Gold Glove winner in 2019, Sanchez was non-tendered by Chicago prior to last year’s deadline, though after signing a minors deal with the Giants, he returned to the White Sox on another minors deal and appeared in 11 games on the South Side.
- The Twins agreed to a one-year deal worth roughly $700K with left-hander Caleb Thielbar, The Athletic’s Aaron Gleeman reports (via Twitter). 2020 marked Thielbar’s first taste of MLB action since 2015, as the southpaw worked his way back from independent ball to post a 2.25 ERA, 2.44 K/BB rate, and 9.9 K/9 over 20 innings for Minnesota.
- The Dodgers and left-hander Scott Alexander have agreed to a one-year, $1MM deal, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports (Twitter link). Alexander posted a 2.92 ERA over 12 1/3 innings out of the Los Angeles bullpen this season, recording an equal number of walks and strikeouts (nine). The southpaw was thought to be a potential non-tender candidate given his relative lack of usage and his non-inclusion on the Dodgers’ playoff roster, but the team will retain Alexander for his second arb-eligible year. ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (via Twitter) adds the noteworthy detail that Alexander’s $1MM salary is fully guaranteed, as opposed to the usual contracts for arbitration-eligible players that allow their teams to release them prior to Opening Day and only pay a fraction of the agreed-upon salary.
The Brewers eked out a postseason berth in 2020 by virtue of this year’s expanded format, laying claim to the No. 8 seed in the National League despite finishing with a sub-.500 record (29-31). They’re headed back into the offseason with plenty of holes to fill thanks to last year’s slate of one-year pickups, but the infield in particular is rife with uncertainty.
In Keston Hiura, Luis Urias and Orlando Arcia, the Brew Crew has some options up the middle, but the infield corners are far less certain. That reality is all the more clear after president of baseball operations David Stearns acknowledged the deficiency in an interview with The Athletic’s Will Sammon this week when discussing the work that lies ahead between now and Spring Training.
“I think what is clear is our production at first base and third base has to improve,” Stearns tells Sammon. “That, we know. Whether that can come from internal sources or external sources are some of the questions we’re continuing to talk through, evaluate and then determine the best course of action.”
While Stearns’ comment about a need for improvement is of course accurate, it also in many ways largely undersells how dire the situation is. Milwaukee third basemen combined for an abysmal .200/.279/.295 in 2020, which translated to an MLB-worst 56 wRC+ at the position.
Things were better across the diamond, where Milwaukee first basemen batted .229/.303/.467 — good for a 101 wRC+ that ranked 17th in the Majors. However, the bulk of that production came from Jedd Gyorko, whose option was bought out at season’s end. Daniel Vogelbach was red-hot in his short time with the Brewers to end the season, but he only logged eight plate appearances as a first baseman. He could be in line for more of a look at first in 2021, but it’s not guaranteed that he’ll be tendered a contract. Vogelbach is arbitraiton-eligible and struggled enormously from the All-Star break in 2019 up until his acquisition by the Brewers. He’s more of a designated hitter than a first baseman, and the lack of clarity regarding the universal DH could lead to a non-tender.
There are plenty of external options to explore at the infield corners, although Sammon reports that the Brewers’ payroll — like the payroll of most clubs around the league — is expected to decline in 2021. The Brewers’ 2020 payroll was set to open at just shy of $98MM before the season was halted and salaries were pro-rated. They currently have about $47.5MM in guaranteed contracts plus a big slate of arbitration players who could approach roughly $26MM in salary. Several of those names are non-tender candidates, which could give Stearns & Co. some breathing room as they search for upgrades.
Trades for high-profile infielders like Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado and Francisco Lindor can be ruled out due to the salary associated with those players. Free agents Justin Turner and DJ LeMahieu, similarly, are likely to be too expensive. But the market does have some intriguing bounceback options, with Jake Lamb and Carlos Santana among the veterans eyeing rebounds. Trade possibilities are numerous, of course, and the Brewers will see a whole new set of possible candidates join the field next week after Wednesday’s non-tender deadline. They’ll also have a firmer grasp on what they can afford to spend at that point.
One player sure to be immune from that non-tender fate is lefty Josh Hader, whose name has again popped up on the rumor circuit. Despite Stearns’ prior assertion that he doesn’t envision trading Hader, Fansided’s Robert Murray reported recently that Milwaukee is “open” to such a move. That’s a far cry from shopping Hader, of course, and Stearns again sought to downplay the possibility while instead characterizing any listening on Hader more as due diligence. The Brewers, per Stearns are in a “very similar position” with Hader as they were after the trade deadline when he initially made those comments.
“Josh remains a very large contributor to our team and he has since he got here,” Stearns says. “I don’t really anticipate that changing. And when you have really good players, you’re going to get calls on them. And I don’t anticipate that changing, either.”
Stearns, like many of today’s presidents and general managers, seems to prefer not to operate in absolutes, so it’s only natural that he’ll continue listening should teams continue to try to blow the Brewers away with an offer. And this time next year or even at the 2021 trade deadline, the situation may be different.
If Hader keeps piling up strikeouts and saves, the arbitration process will keep ballooning his salary. He’s projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $5.1MM in 2021, and barring a long-term deal, that number could quickly rise beyond Milwaukee’s comfort level. If the Brewers are well out of the race next summer or carry Hader into the offseason, it might become more realistic to see a low-payroll club more aggressively solicit offers. That’s not to say that a trade this winter is wholly off the table, but at least for the time being, he appears affordable enough that Milwaukee can enjoy the benefit of a Hader/Devin Williams combo late in games to help slam the door in close contests.