Brewers Payroll Outlook
This will be the biggest question for every front office and team owner this offseason. After a year with no fan revenue and huge financial losses, how much will the team have to curtail spending on the payroll next year?
The Brewers are coming off back-to-back seasons being at an operating loss. They lost money in 2019 even with fans and lost a bunch more money in 2020. After a nearly $130MM payroll in 2019, the Brewers dropped down to what would’ve been around a $97MM payroll for 2020.
With the shortened season, they ended up paying less than that due to the pro-rated nature of salaries this year. But where can we expect the full season payroll to be at next year?
Stearns has already commented that payroll is likely to be a little bit tighter heading into 2021. With that being said, let’s assume the Brewers will be looking at a payroll at around $90-95MM for next year.
Currently, the Brewers have $55MM on the books for 2021 in guaranteed deals, with over $41MM of that tied up in three players (Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, Avisail Garcia). Let’s say Gyorko’s and Gamel’s options get picked up, that brings them to $62MM in payroll.
Should Knebel and Hader get tendered an arbitration deal and don’t get traded, Knebel will likely still be above $5MM and Hader might jump up to $7MM or so, which brings us to $74MM in salary already.
Brandon Woodruff will be arb-eligible and he’s going to get several million dollars, let’s say $5MM as a conservative guesstimate, and then probably around $6MM combined between Orlando Arcia and Omar Narvaez if both return, that has us at $85MM in salary before any free agent or trade additions are made and before the pre-arbitration players are factored in.
What if Braun wants to return? He’s going to cost probably somewhere between $2-4MM on a one year deal.
Based on the look of this payroll structure, things are going to be very tight financially and the Brewers may be quickly priced out of their top targets in free agency this winter.
In order to make the additions they need, it looks like the Brewers may need to make some difficult cuts from their current payroll. A non-tender of Knebel or a trade of Josh Hader could be the easiest ways to accomplish this.
Trading Josh Hader makes the most sense in this regard because it could also bring back the offensive talent the Brewers need while clearing the payroll space. It knocks out two birds with one stone, if you will.
Will that happen? Who knows. But with the payroll picture the Brewers are currently looking at, it may be necessary.
How can you build a roster capable of winning a World Series? Stearns is once again going to try to figure out the answer to that question, but he’ll have to do so with less information than normal and less financial assets than normal.
Sound unfair? Perhaps, but every team in baseball is operating with the same lack of information and a depressed amount of financial assets available. This is where the best GMs in the league separate themselves from the average GMs in the league.
This offseason will be the biggest challenge any GM in baseball has ever faced. Although he’s among the youngest, Stearns is as prepared for this challenge as anyone.