With the Milwaukee Brewers having significant space in their payroll right now, should they consider using that space in a trade?
Much has been made on social media recently about the Milwaukee Brewers’ aggressive moves to clear payroll space.
After making a series of moves, via trade and through decisions on whether to decline contract options or non-tender guys, the team currently has a payroll that is significantly below where it was last season.
With tens of millions of dollars in potential payroll space to work this off-season, it’s worth discussing what the Brewers could do with all that money.
One option they have, which we’ve already discussed extensively, is using that payroll space to significantly improve the team in free agency. I wrote a few weeks ago about three realistic targets Milwaukee could land if they decide to invest heavily in a top player on the open market.
Another option they have is using their extra payroll space as a way to take on major salary in a trade. Milwaukee could take on two kinds of players who are on big money contracts.
Which big name could the Brewers target?
One type of player they could land in a trade, who’s on a major salary, is someone like Boston Red Sox’s star outfielder, Mookie Betts. With the Red Sox looking to avoid paying the dreaded luxury tax next season, and beyond, there’s a distinct possibility that they’ll use Betts as a way to clear payroll space, especially since Betts has indicated that he plans to explore free agency at the end of the 2020 season.
Making a trade for an impact talent like Betts, even on a one year deal, is likely to cost Brewers some significant pieces. They’d probably have to part with their top prospect, shortstop Brice Turang, and at least one or two other prospects of note to get a deal done. Or, they’d have to trade away some Major League pieces with prospects, much like the St. Louis Cardinals did last winter when they traded for Paul Goldschimdt.
Doing such a deal, however, could be worth the risk given that Betts is, by many metrics, one of the best three position players in baseball. Even if he was in Milwaukee for just one season, Betts is exactly the kind of player that could take the Brewers from being a playoff contender next season to a legitimate threat to win a title. Milwaukee would be wise to explore to a deal like this with any of the major market teams that are looking to move salary this off-season.
Are there other options worth looking at?
A more realistic trade option that the Brewers could explore, though, would be to use some of their payroll space to take on a bad contract or two in order to land other controllable pieces.
Not many trades of this nature have happened in baseball recently, but they are common in other sports with a salary cap structure. Given that the big spending teams are eager to stay under the luxury tax, the Brewers could leverage their ability to take on salary as a way to help restock their farm, or acquire a controllable pieces that help them at positions of need.
The best example of a trade like this happening was when the Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves, and Miami Marlins made a 13-player mega-trade in 2015. The Dodgers were able get a couple of important pieces back in that trade, most notably starting pitcher Alex Wood.
In this potential scenario, it’s doubtful that Milwaukee would want to take on contracts that goes out more than a year or two. After all, they’ll need to maintain substantial payroll flexibility moving forward if they want to remain a contender on an annual basis. However, taking on a bad contract or two could be another way for the team to land some of the pieces that they need to improve their team next season and beyond.
It’s pretty unlikely that Milwaukee will make a trade of this nature early in the off-season. The team will certainly want to see how free agency plays out before they bring in salary via this way.
However, if they miss out on the top on the market, don’t be surprised if the Brewers explore improving their team by taking on major salary in a trade. It’s yet another in a line of options that the team has at it’s disposal to address their roster this off-season.