Brewers Free Agents
Last winter, the Brewers signed several players to one year contracts with club options for 2021. Brett Anderson was the only one who didn’t have a club option attached to the end of his deal. As such, he’s the only guaranteed free agent the Brewers have this winter.
Anderson put up a solid, yet unspectacular 2020 performance. He ate up some decent innings for the Brewers, but dealt with some blister issues. There’s a chance the Brewers could have interest in bringing Anderson back for a similar price, but his injury history is still of concern.
He signed a $5MM contract for 2020 and if he were to return, it’d likely be for a similar price. A qualifying offer is out of the question for him.
Mutual Contract Options
This is simultaneously the easiest call the Brewers have this offseason and the most pressing question they’ll face. In case you didn’t already know, 2020 was the last guaranteed year of Ryan Braun‘s contract and he has a $15MM mutual option for 2021 with a $4MM buyout.
Given Braun’s injury history, age, and performance, declining that option is an easy call for the Brewers to make. With no guaranteed contract for next year, Braun has talked about possibly retiring after the 2020 season. He’s still unsure of his decision, and he will reportedly take until New Year’s or possibly spring training to decide if he wants to return.
The Brewers can’t put their whole offseason on hold waiting for his decision, especially when it could take that long. Should Braun decide that he wants to play in 2021, he’ll likely want to return to the Brewers instead of signing elsewhere. A Braun return, while it would be great for fans, could also complicate the already tight payroll situation, even if he’s only getting paid a few million dollars, but we’ll get to that later in the article.
While declining the option is obvious, whether Braun wants to play in 2021 or not is less clear. This will be a huge story for the Brewers offseason.
Club Option Decisions
Eric Sogard, Ben Gamel, Jedd Gyorko
The Brewers used to have several more players in this category after their strategy during the 2019-20 offseason. David Phelps was traded to Philadelphia while Justin Smoak and Brock Holt were designated for assignment. All that remains from that free agent group is Eric Sogard and Jedd Gyorko.
Ben Gamel, meanwhile, signed a one year deal with a club option last year to avoid arbitration. Gamel still has two years of team control remaining and if the Brewers decline his $2.55MM contract option this winter, he’ll still be under team control and would simply go through the arbitration process.
For Sogard and Gyorko, both of their options are worth $4.5MM while Sogard has a $500k buyout and Gyorko has a $1MM buyout. Based on 2020 performance, Gyorko seems like a sure bet to have his option picked up. Sogard, meanwhile, isn’t a clear cut case.
While Sogard did have some big moments in clutch situations and was everything the Brewers needed defensively, his slash line of .209/.281/.278 is not very appealing. While a full season next year could lead to a bounceback, is it worth paying $4.5MM to find out? That’s what Stearns is going to have to answer.