With the MLB non-tender deadline set for Friday night at 7 PM CST, the Milwaukee Brewers will have decisions to make regarding some of their arbitration eligible players.
Jeremy Jeffress was the other half of the Brewers blockbuster trade with Texas that saw Lewis Brinson and Luis Ortiz come to Milwaukee. Jeffress did a great job as the closer when he was here. However, he struggled in the Lone Star State.
Almost exactly one year later at the trade deadline the Texas Rangers sent him back to the Milwaukee Brewers for almost nothing in return. Jeffress improved upon his abysmal performance in 2017 once he returned home. He pitched to a 3.65 ERA in 22 games including one start. He was used in almost every situation once he got settled back in.
Could Jeffress get non-tendered?
Jeffress is an interesting scenario. It’s obvious that he’s comfortable with the Milwaukee Brewers and performs well here. He doesn’t do as well when he’s with any other organization. He has a strong support system within the organization and that plays a role in all this.
Pitching wise, keeping him makes sense. He did a good job as the closer in 2016 and can perform in high-pressure situations, which would help to build a bridge to Corey Knebel. Jeffress has posted an ERA at or below 2.70 every year in a Milwaukee Brewers uniform except for last year when he joined the Crew mid-season. The former first round pick has thrived with Milwaukee and can do anything Craig Counsell asks of him.
On the flip side, it almost makes sense for the Brewers to non-tender Jeffress. They know that Jeffress is only successful here and if they don’t tender him a contract he becomes a free agent. By now most other teams have probably realized Jeffress is only good in Milwaukee and won’t pursue him. He will want to come back anyways to stay at home where he belongs.
He’s projected to earn $2.6 million in arbitration. By non-tendering him they aren’t bound by arbitration rules. The Brewers can sign him to a smaller free agent deal. It wouldn’t surprise anyone to see Jeffress sign a contract before the tender date and avoid arbitration altogether. The Brewers could easily offer him a contract in the next few days and tell him to either accept or be non-tendered.
With additions and improvements likely to be made to this bullpen, what the Milwaukee Brewers do with Jeffress will be a telling sign for the rest of the off-season. If they opt to tender him, that means the Brewers believe the bullpen is just about ready for contention. If they let him go that means David Stearns is looking to make major additions to get this team ready for the playoffs.
What’s the final verdict?
There’s a good chance that Jeffress gets a contract. He’s been such a quality pitcher in Milwaukee. Now that he can settle down and be at home where he belongs, his performance will improve. It all depends on whether or not the Brewers view his projected price tag of $2.6 million as too high for him.
Jeffress pitched late in games, the middle of games and even started a game for the Brewers in 2017. He could fill a similar role once again if he returns. He won’t get his closer’s role back unless something happens to Corey Knebel. However, he could develop into an effective jack of all trades for Craig Counsell.