The Brewers have had an emphasis on adding young talent in recent years and some players are deserving of contract extensions.
“Acquire, develop, retain”. That was the philosophy David Stearns brought to the Brewers when he was hired as the GM in September 2015. He has acquired numerous impact big leaguers, he has developed prospects into capable players, and now the final step is retaining those players.
Stearns has done this a couple times already. Back in February, the Brewers signed Freddy Peralta to a team-friendly, five year contract extension. Then in March, Christian Yelich inked a nine-year extension to keep him with the Brewers long term.
The Brewers could look to complete a few more contract extensions before next season as well.
Although there is a complicating factor in this: a tightened budget. After a season with no fans, the Brewers lost a lot of money and the payroll is likely to go down from the $97MM total they were projected to have in a full 2020 season.
With very little payroll flexibility to begin with, giving out new money to players already on the roster may be tough to do. However, by signing some of these players to extensions now, the Brewers may end up saving themselves money in the long run.
1. Brandon Woodruff
Brandon Woodruff is about to become expensive for the Brewers, with or without an extension. Woodruff is entering his first year of arbitration this winter and that means his price is going to be jumping up for the next few years.
Arbitration projections have Woodruff pegged for anywhere between $2.3MM and $4.5MM for a 2021 salary. Should Woodruff continue to pitch the way he has for his first couple of seasons, that cost will continue to go up and the Brewers won’t have much control over that.
Instead, the Brewers could look to get some cost certainty over Woodruff’s salary for the next couple years with a contract extension.
Similar to Peralta’s deal, any extension with Woody would be backloaded, starting with smaller salaries, with something that might reflect what he would’ve earned this first year in arbitration and then gradually increasing as the deal goes on.
Woodruff is under team control for the next four seasons, through 2024. That means any extension with Woodruff would need to be at least five years guaranteed for it to be worth it for both sides and buy out at least one year of free agency.
One possible framework could be the extension of Blake Snell with the Rays in spring 2019. When Snell had four seasons of control left, Tampa Bay signed Snell to a five year, $50MM contract extension that bought out one year of free agency and avoided any arbitration cases. Snell was also coming off a Cy Young award that year as well.
That deal was back-loaded, starting with a $1MM salary in 2019 and ending with a $16MM salary in 2023.