The Brewers need to make decisions on players with contract options for 2021 this week. Whose options should Milwaukee opt to pick up?
Now that the 2020-2021 offseason has officially begun, the Brewers finally get to start making the decisions that will help construct next season’s squad. Up first for general manager David Stearns is determining which players’ contract options get picked up for 2021.
The Brewers have four players who have contract options for next season – Ryan Braun, who has a mutual option for 2021, and Ben Gamel, Jedd Gyorko, and Eric Sogard, who all have club options for this upcoming season.
Based on payroll projections for next season, Milwaukee won’t have the payroll flexibility in 2021 to be able to pick up all four of these contract options, which would total up to $26.55MM. So who’s option, if anyone’s, should Stearns pick up for 2021?
Ryan Braun – $15MM Mutual Option
This is the easiest of all the decisions and it all comes down to one reason: money. If the Brewers end up having a payroll in the $90MM to $100MM range as expected, there is just no way Ryan Braun’s pricey option will fit in the team’s budget for 2021.
Even if Milwaukee had more payroll to work with, it would be hard to guarantee Braun back in a Brewer uniform. He needed a hot September just to get back to a .233/.281/.488 slash line and only played in 39 of 60 games due to injury. Add the fact that there may be no DH in the NL next season and that makes it likely that the team moves on completely, let alone picks up his option.
Ben Gamel – $2.55MM Club Option
Ben Gamel is a unique case because he is the only player on the team who has a contract option for next year but would still be under team control if it’s declined. He would instead head to his second to last year of arbitration.
Gamel slashed .237/.315/.404 and had a 92 OPS+ last season which you’ll generally take from your backup outfielder. But this one again comes down to simple math. Gamel’s arbitration projection is between $1.7MM and $2.1MM making it all but certain that the Brewers decline his option and go the arbitration route.
Jedd Gyorko – $4.5MM Club Option
Of everyone on the list of players with contract options for 2021, Jedd Gyorko easily performed the best in 2020. He led all Brewers regulars in wRC+ (118), slugging (.504) and OPS (.838), leading him to be graded quite well in our 2020 report card series.
Of all the players that the Brewer signed to contracts with options last offseason, Gyorko had one of the strongest track records of past success and last season showed he still has the ability to perform at that level. At $4.5MM, the Brewers shouldn’t hesitate to pick up his option.
Eric Sogard – $4.5MM Club Option
After being designated for assignment by the Brewers in 2018 and having a bounceback season in 2019 with the Blue Jays and Rays, the Brewers brought Eric Sogard back in 2020 hoping he would continue his strong 2019 momentum. Unfortunately that did not end up being the case.
Sogard started the season as an on base machine, reaching base at a .400 clip through the team’s first 13 games, but he dipped dramatically to finish 2020 slashing .209/.281/.278. With a heavy upgrade in offense needed for the Brewers in 2021, Stearns needs to decline the option and look for some punch elsewhere.
Fans will know what decisions the Brewers will make on these options over the next few days. Then Stearns will be able to focus on the next steps towards assembling a competitive 2021 roster.