Last off-season the Milwaukee Brewers largest free agent contract was handed out to Avisail Garcia to the tune of two years, $20MM with a third year club option in which he could altogether make just over $30MM.
Despite being a shorter deal, the Brewers did elect to have Avisail Garcia’s contract backloaded, with season two equaling $10.5MM and his club option netting $12MM if exercised.
At the time of the signing, Garcia was coming off a productive season for the Tampa Bay Rays in which he set a career high in home runs (20). Since becoming an everyday player in 2015, Garcia’s slash line has been .271/.326/.424/.750.
During this stretch he has seen highs of a .330 batting average, 80 RBIs during an All-Star 2017 season to the lows of an injury filled 2018 season in which he hit just .236 and had an OBP of just .281. He did have two separate stints on the injured list that season due to hamstring injuries.
When healthy, Garcia has proven to be a productive player offensively and a solid corner outfielder. That being said, all three of these things did not happen for Garcia in 2020 with the Milwaukee Brewers.
With Lorenzo Cain opting out, he was forced to play centerfield. He battled a nagging ankle injury most of the season, and his offense suffered a result. It is fair to say his 2020 stat line of .238/.333/.326/.659 is not what the team had in mind.
Where do the Brewers go from here? On paper, an outfield trio of Garcia, Cain, Christian Yelich could rank among the league’s best, but also carries a cost of $41.5MM of the payroll entering the 2021 season.
Yelich is set to make $14MM of this money in 2021 and will be worth every dime if he returns to form. Cain is set to be the highest paid Brewer in 2021 at $17MM and is signed through the 2022 season. After opting out of the 2020 season Cain will hopefully be returning healthy, rested, and ideally show enough to early on to reclaim his leadoff role in the Brewers offense.
That leaves Avisail Garcia. He is set to see a $3.5MM salary increase in 2021 and if he remains healthy he could be a part of the solution to a dreadful Brewers offense especially if players like Yelich, Cain, Keston Hiura, and Omar Narvaez all perform to expectations.
The question I am proposing is that even if Garcia remains healthy, is his offensive production enough to help this team, or would signing a different run producing free agent make more sense?
Throughout Garcia’s MLB career he has surpassed the 60 RBI mark only twice in his career. In 773 career starts, Garcia has played 422 games in either the four or the five spot offensively, which equals 54.5% of his games. To me, this does not scream RUN PRODUCER at all.
If the Brewers were able to find a trade partner for Avisail Garcia they could not only bolster their team with the return haul from trading Garcia, but they could also allocate his salary elsewhere to the tune of a free agent. Run producing options around the $10MM mark that fit positions of needs for the Brewers include: Carlos Santana, Joc Pederson, and Jackie Bradley Jr. Players like Justin Turner and Nelson Cruz will likely be just outside the Brewers window still.
There are a lot of unknowns both in retaining Garcia and trading him in hopes of acquiring a run producer from the free agent market. Of course other options would include packaging Garcia with others, say Orlando Arcia, or prospects and acquiring a player that way as well.
Either way, I think the Brewers have all the power in this position for they do not need to move on from Garcia, but if the right opportunity presents itself I would not be shocked to see it happen.