The Milwaukee Brewers let Stephen Vogt go into free agency earlier this offseason. Since he still doesn’t have a deal, could the Crew bring him back for 2019?
2018 was a lost season for Stephen Vogt. The veteran backstop injured his shoulder in spring training and then re-injured it on a rehab assignment during the season, leading to year-ending shoulder surgery. The Milwaukee Brewers had to acquire Erik Kratz to fill the hole Vogt left behind.
Kratz turned into a little bit of a fan-favorite himself, and he’s been brought back on a $1.2 million deal, which avoided arbitration. With Kratz, Manny Pina, and Jacob Nottingham in the major league mix, is there room for Vogt on the roster?
What Could Stephen Vogt Bring?
In 45 games with the Crew in 2017, Vogt hit .254 with a .789 OPS, eight home runs, and a 100 OPS+. So he was really nothing more than a league average hitter in that time, but he brought a decent amount of power in those games he played in.
Even being a league-average hitter would be an upgrade over what the Brewers had at catcher last season. Manny Pina had an 87 OPS+ and Erik Kratz had a 69 OPS+.
The Milwaukee Brewers have been looking for more offense from the catcher position since they traded Jonathan Lucroy back in 2016.
What About Jacob Nottingham?
Jacob Nottingham is supposed to be the catcher of the future, but there’s a still a lot unknown about whether Nottingham can hit in the big leagues.
2019 is the year Nottingham needs to break out and take the job. He struggled in Double-A for a few years, did well in Triple-A in 2018 and earned a few cups of coffee.
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By bringing back Vogt, that’s going to take playing time away from Nottingham at the big league level. While the Brewers need to know what they truly have in Nottingham, they’re also in the middle of their championship window and need to get offensive production from each spot in the lineup. Going with an unproven commodity in Nottingham may not be their best option.
If the Brewers believe in Nottingham, there’s no need to bring back Vogt, but if they don’t believe in his ability to take the starting catcher job eventually, then they’ll need another option.
Could Vogt Come Back?
There has not been any rumors about the Milwaukee Brewers and a reunion with Stephen Vogt. Erik Kratz already has the role as the veteran backup catcher, but Vogt has a better track record with the bat. Vogt is also a strong game-caller, although his ability to catch base-stealers isn’t great.
All Vogt would need is a one year deal, possibly a minor league pact. If his shoulder still isn’t better, he won’t cost much and he could still stick around with the team. He stayed with the team last year despite his injury and was an important leader in the clubhouse and even took out the lineup cards on day games late in the year.
With Pina, Kratz, and Nottingham all available at the big league level, the Brewers could see Vogt as an offensive upgrade to this group, and try to bring him back. But with three readily available catchers, Vogt could just make the room crowded, it’s most likely only two of those players can make the Opening Day roster.
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If Vogt comes back, he’ll push Nottingham back to Triple-A. If the Milwaukee Brewers truly don’t believe in Nottingham, then Vogt should come back for insurance at the position.