The Dec. 2nd deadline to tender contracts to arbitration eligible players is fast approaching. Here we examine Brewers non-tender candidate Corey Knebel.
For the third consecutive offseason, Corey Knebel‘s contract value sits at $5.125MM. This initial pay raise dates back to a very successful 2017 season with the Brewers in which he recorded 39 saves, had a 1.78 ERA, and posted 14.9 strikeouts per nine innings.
Knebel’s 2018 season was very mixed. He initially got off to a rocky start and eventually missed substantial time with a hamstring injury. He did bounce back and was a dominant force in the Brewers bullpen that September and postseason.
Unfortunately, before the 2019 season officially began, Knebel underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the entire season. Due to missing the season with injury his arbitration value of again $5.125MM remained unchanged entering the 2020 season. The Brewers now have to decide if they want to tender Knebel to another $5.125MM contract for 2021 or not.
Corey Knebel’s Return To The Bullpen
Knebel’s first ‘season’ back after TJS was very mixed. He began the year with a fastball sitting in the low 90s but displaying excellent command of his curveball. Unfortunately, he did not see many positive results in game action early on in 2020 and eventually was placed on the injured list with a hamstring injury.
Minus the velocity concerns, walks and home runs were a big problem for Knebel in 2020. In 13.1 total innings pitched he surrendered eight free passes and gave up four home runs. In his dominant 2017 season he pitched 76 innings and held opposing hitters to just six home runs.
Upon returning from the injured list, we saw Knebel gain a few ticks in velocity with his fastball. He did indicate the hamstring and altered pitching mechanics were contributing factors to his decreased velocity early on and that his elbow was indeed pain-free.
Knebel managed to string together a respectable September in which he pitched 6.2 innings, allowed two earned runs, and struck out eight batters. His strong individual finish to the 2020 season does provide hope that he will return to form if 2021 is indeed a full 162 game season.
In an offseason in which owners across the MLB are looking to save money wherever possible, I do still believe that Corey Knebel’s upside is worth the $5.125MM price tag. I don’t think Knebel will be non-tendered because then the Brewers would get nothing in return for someone they know is great when he’s right.
While most of Knebel’s struggles in 2020 came early on in the season, he did show increased velocity, multiple instances of scoreless outings in September, and hope he can return to form upon entering the 2021 season. When healthy, Knebel is a clutch high leverage reliever with closing experience. Having an effective Corey Knebel in 2021 would certainly help bolster this already very good Brewers bullpen and is one reason why I think he will be tendered a contract.
Corey Knebel is one of many tender deadline decisions that the Brewers have to make prior to the December 2nd deadline. Be sure to stay tuned to Reviewing the Brew for our takes on potential non-tender candidates.