February 21: Rosenthal updated his story today to indicate that Sanchez will reportedly accept a $3MM base salary with the potential to get to $7MM via incentives. The deal is now official, per Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Brandon Woodruff has been transferred to the 60-day injured list in a corresponding move. Woodruff’s own deal just become official earlier today. He’s expected to miss most or perhaps all of the upcoming season while rehabbing from shoulder surgery.
February 20: The Brewers and catcher Gary Sanchez agreed to terms on a one-year, $7MM contract in early February — but the team has yet to formally announce the signing. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic now reports that the Brewers had some concerns regarding Sanchez’s wrist, which he fractured in early September last season after being hit by a pitch, and that’ll likely lead to new financial terms. Sanchez will likely still be able to earn up to that same $7MM figure, per the report, but some of it will be contingent upon his wrist holding up. That implies that a lower base salary and incentives seem likely to be baked into the new-look contract arrangement.
While the financial terms of the deal seem likely to change, it doesn’t appear the concern was strong enough to torpedo the deal entirely. And, given that Sanchez was never expected to be the primary catcher on a roster featuring All-Star William Contreras anyhow, his role might not change much either. The veteran slugger will presumably operate as the primary backup to Contreras and also mix in at designated hitter a fair bit.
The Brewers could carry three catchers this season; they inked Eric Haase to a big league deal earlier in the winter. It’s a split contract, but he’s out of minor league options, so the minor league salary would only come into play if he first clears waivers. Rosenthal notes that the Brewers “plan to keep” Haase, though it’s at least possible they could simply be confident he’ll clear waivers and stick around as upper-level depth.
In particular, Sanchez will likely be in the lineup against left-handed pitchers as often as possible. The 31-year-old hit .267/.304/.680 against southpaws in 2023 and has generally posted better power numbers and a higher walk rate when holding the platoon advantage. Sanchez is just a .215 hitter against lefties in his career, but he’s reached base at a .314 clip and slugged .484 against them. Sanchez slotting in as a designated hitter against lefties could be used as a means of getting a breather for any of Milwaukee’s many lefty-swinging outfield/DH/first base options: Christian Yelich, Garrett Mitchell, Sal Frelick or Jake Bauers.
The exact terms of the newly framed deal aren’t yet available, but the Brewers were projected for a $122MM payroll with Sanchez penciled in for his full $7MM guarantee (per Roster Resource). That was already about $10MM shy of their franchise-record mark, and shaving some of Sanchez’s guarantee off the books creates even more wiggle room. Of course, it’s still not known how much Brandon Woodruff will command on his new two-year deal to return to the Brew Crew, though it’ll presumably be quite backloaded given that he’s expected to miss the majority of the 2024 season following shoulder surgery.
However that pair of guarantees shakes out, the Brewers will likely still have some distance between their 2024 payroll figure and the previous franchise-high, established just two years ago in 2022. That could leave a bit of space for further additions to round out the roster, and for a team that already moved ace Corbin Burnes and saw its GM proclaim that he’s “open to more conversations,” the possibility remains that further changes to both the payroll and roster outlook could yet come together.