The Milwaukee Brewers have four impending free agents this winter: RHP Anthony Swarzak, RHP Matt Garza, INF Eric Sogard, and INF Neil Walker.
Most of these guys had terrific years and will likely get a pay raise this winter. Whether that raise comes from the Brewers or not, remains to be seen.
Impending free agents begin their exclusive negotiation window with their ball club as soon as the World Series is over. That period lasts for five days and on the sixth day after the World Series, players can begin negotiating and signing with other clubs.
None of the Brewers free agents are eligible for qualifying offers this winter.
RHP Anthony Swarzak
Anthony Swarzak just had the best season of his career. At age 32, Swarzak is due for a significant raise this winter. He was tremendous out of the eighth inning since being acquired from the White Sox back in July.
He was on a one year, $900k contract so he was extremely cheap for the Crew this year but that won’t be the same story next year. Swarzak could possibly get a three year deal this winter. Although baseball GMs could be slightly nervous about handing out three years to a reliever who peaked on the wrong side of 30.
The Milwaukee Brewers should absolutely be interested in bringing back their setup man and the feeling reportedly is mutual. Swarzak has bounced around a lot in recent years. He’ll likely want some stability and stay in one place. Don’t be surprised if Swarzak gets eight figures this winter, even on a two-year deal.
Swarzak coming back to Milwaukee on a two year, $12-18 million deal would be beneficial to both sides and sound like a reasonable deal considering the relief market and the quality of his performance. But a three year deal should not be ruled out for David Stearns.
RHP Matt Garza
Matt Garza never achieved much success in Milwaukee after signing in 2014. He seemed to get off to a good start in 2017 in his contract year, hoping to earn another chance but he ended the season with a 4.94 ERA and few innings in September due to a lack of effectiveness.
Garza does not have a club option for next year as previously thought and will be a free agent. The odds of the Brewers resigning Garza are about as good as a snowball’s chance in hell. We’ve seen the last of Garza in a Brewers uniform
Perhaps it’s also the last we’ll see of Garza in a major league uniform as well. He will be 34 next season and doesn’t exactly have a track record of success past the age of 30.
If Garza does decide to play in 2018, he likely won’t get more than a one year deal and the Brewers won’t be that team to give it to him.
INF Eric Sogard
Eric Sogard signed with Milwaukee on a minor league deal last off-season. He had one of the most amazing stretches of baseball in May and June where teams just couldn’t get him out. His average was around .330 and he drew a ton of walks and was the ideal leadoff hitter for Craig Counsell.
The rest of the league definitely took notice though. Sogard may have overachieved this year as his career average is around .240. He will have plenty of options but he might prefer Milwaukee.
So both him and Swarzak are interested in returning. Can’t blame them. But will the Brewers be as receptive to bringing Sogard back next year? He will be 32 next season and the Crew already has a number of middle infield types on the roster and young prospects waiting in the wings.
If he does return, it’s unlikely he’ll get more than a one year deal. Mauricio Dubon is just about ready to take over and Jonathan Villar could get one more chance to repeat his 2016 success.
If Sogard is interested in more than a one year deal, he will likely have to get that somewhere else.
INF Neil Walker
Neil Walker came to Milwaukee during the August waiver trading period and was instrumental in keeping the Brewers in the race down the stretch. He’s another second base type that the Crew might like to keep but it’ll be very difficult to keep both and keeping Walker is difficult by itself.
Walker was given a qualifying offer last winter and played on a $17.2 million contract this year. That’s more than David Stearns will be willing to pay him next year. Plus, Walker will want to test free agent waters.
Read that as: I’m going to leave but I’ll come back if no one pays me. Sounds similar to what CC Sabathia said after 2008 how he liked it here and wouldn’t mind staying but will test the market and left for New York when they threw $180 million at him.
Walker won’t get $180 million but he also won’t be coming back to Milwaukee. He’ll only come back to the Brewers if he doesn’t get any good offers anywhere else. He’ll be gracious to the fans and the team as he hits the market but he has no plans to return.
He’s another 32 year old impending free agent and he could easily command the most money of any of the Brewers free agents. A multi-year deal is not off the table with other franchises but if he comes back, it’ll be a one-year deal only.