Spring training is upon us which means so has the time when numerous players sign contract extensions with their organizations. San Diego Padres fans already have learned that their rising star Fernando Tatis, Jr has been signed to a 14 year $340MM deal after playing just 143 career MLB games.
Last spring, the Milwaukee Brewers gave Christian Yelich a seven year, $190MM contract extension, the largest in team history. While the Brewers will not be topping the deal Yelich received last spring, a Brandon Woodruff contract extension may be upon us and could prove to be very beneficial for the Brewers long term.
The Brewers should approach Brandon Woodruff with a contract extension offer this spring.
Over the past two seasons, Woodruff has emerged as a high quality starter. He has made 35 starts for the Brewers and pitched 195 innings over this time frame and has pitched to the tune of a 3.41 ERA and a 10.8 K:9 ratio.
Woodruff’s stuff has always been viewed as electric, but a switch seemed to flip for him as a starter approximately one-third to half-way through the 2019 season. However, after stringing together a fair amount of quality starts, he unfortunately injured his oblique shortly after the All Star break in 2019. This kept him sidelined until the Wild Card game against the Washington Nationals.
In 2020, despite the shortened and unique season, Woodruff built upon the momentum he had generated in 2019. He made 13 starts, pitched 73.2 innings and had a 3.05 ERA. Additionally he was credited with a “complete game” as he pitched all 7 innings of a double header against the Cardinals.
Woodruff’s biggest issues in 2020 generally came during the second or third time through an opposing teams lineup. Often times that was when a crooked number was put up on the board. If he can figure out a better approach for the middle innings of games his numbers should only continue to improve.
2021 is Woodruff’s first year of arbitration and the Brewers and Woodruff were able to avoid arbitration and settle on a $3.275MM deal. As a super two player, Woodruff will undergo four total years of arbitration and is under club control until 2024.
If the Brewers were to extend Woodruff they likely would have to buy out all of his arbitration years plus a year or two of free agency.
This would be at minimum a four or five year contract extension. Playing in his age-28 season, this long of an extension would help ensure he remains a Brewer through his prime years.
More recently across the league, pitchers Aaron Nola and Blake Snell received contract extensions with buyouts of their arbitration years. At that time Nola had finished third in Cy Young Voting while Snell was the Cy Young award winner. Both players extensions were around the $10-11.25 MM mark in terms of average annual value.
To date, Woodruff has not received any Cy Young votes, but the potential is there if he continues to pitch well. An extension this spring would most likely be below $10MM average annual value but the question would be how much lower? My guess would be $6MM at the absolute low end and $8MM at the high end.
All together, if he were to be extended four more years I would expect a deal in the $24-32MM range. If the extension was for five years, my guess is the total money would increase to the $30-40MM range.
Extending Woodruff this spring may be of benefit for the Brewers for he has been improving as a starter each season and if this continues to the point where he finds himself receiving Cy Young votes, an extension now could be made at a very club friendly price.