Avisail Garcia has a big decision to make soon. Whatever decision he makes will have a major impact on the Brewers plans this offseason.
Milwaukee’s best home run hitter in 2021 has a mutual option for 2022 after reaching a plate appearance threshold earlier this season. Now, instead of his $12MM option only being decided by the club, Garcia gets a say as well.
As David Stearns pointed out in his end of season press conference, Garcia gets to make his decision first, and if he chooses to opt-in, then the Brewers must decided whether to pick up their end.
Should Avisail Garcia choose to enter free agency or return to the Brewers on his mutual option?
Should he stay or should he go? That is the question, first posed by The Clash in 1982, and now being pondered by Avisail Garcia. If he goes, there could be trouble in the Brewers outfield. If he stays, there could be double trouble with the Crew’s payroll.
Alright, 1980s music references aside, this is an important decision for Garcia.
At 30 years old, Avisail Garcia can enter free agency while still in a solid position to land a long-term contract and he’s coming off a career-best season. Given that, it might be a obvious call to opt out and become a free agent. However, there are some other factors worth mentioning.
There’s a lot of uncertainty around this offseason. Free agency and salaries were stifled last offseason as teams recovered from a season with no fans and a much higher level of uncertainty about future revenues. Capacity limits were in place for the first half of the season in most places, which again capped revenues.
Teams certainly recovered some of the losses and made something other than TV money in 2021, but there’s still a strong chance the excuse will be used to try to lower salaries in free agency as they try to minimize the impact of those losses on future years. The way to do so, teams will likely argue, is to carry a lower payroll until their financial situations are much better.
You can believe this argument or not, I don’t care. We truly won’t know the full financial impact on teams from last year and limited capacities this year, but the argument will still be made.
Another complicating factor this offseason is the labor talks. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires December 1st and a new deal will need to be agreed to before we get baseball again. A lockout or strike could halt offseason activity. New rules could help free agents, or they could end up hurting free agents. No one really knows what kind of deal and new rule changes will be agreed to, and that leaves more uncertainty.
With this much uncertainty surrounding this offseason, perhaps it would be wise for Garcia to simply opt in to his Brewers deal and play next season for $12MM on a playoff team that he’s comfortable with and play with one of his best friends, Willy Adames.
The everyday right field job would still be his as Jackie Bradley Jr. isn’t going to be out-hitting Garcia for that spot anytime soon. He’d earn a comfortable salary and then would enter free agency again next year as a 31 year old. It might be slightly tougher to land a long-term contract as a 31 year old corner outfielder, but there should still be plenty of interest.
But, at the same time, if he does that he runs the risk of decreasing his free agent value with his play on the field. He could suffer an injury, or have a poor season at the plate, which would seriously hamper his earning potential on the open market next year. Even if free agency would be better suited for him the next year with teams having a full season of full capacities with fans and more money available to push payrolls, it’s a massive risk.
If he opts out right now, he knows and teams know that he’s healthy and coming off a great season. That is a fact. That may not be the case in 2022. He may not be healthy, and he may not have a great season next year. Even if he does have a great season in 2022, he will be a year older and getting the contract he’d want in free agency would be that much tougher.
For Garcia, the expectation should be that he will opt out. There are risks with doing so, but also potentially big rewards. There are also risks with accepting his option, but the potential rewards are not quite as big.
If Garcia does opt out, that doesn’t mean there’s no chance he returns to Milwaukee, but they will have some competition, and with a pipeline full out outfielders getting close to big league ready, a tight payroll, and an already highly paid outfield trio, we may have seen Garcia take his last at-bat in a Brewers uniform.