Brewers: Projecting Burnes And Woodruff Contract Extension Estimates

Jul 13, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; National League pitcher Corbin Burnes of the Milwaukee Brewers (39) reacts during the second inning of the 2021 MLB All Star Game at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 13, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; National League pitcher Corbin Burnes of the Milwaukee Brewers (39) reacts during the second inning of the 2021 MLB All Star Game at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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A few years ago the Milwaukee Brewers knew they had something special in three specific pitchers. Those players are Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, and Freddy Peralta. In 2021, that pitching trio was one of the most dominant groups in the league.

With success, comes paying players. Thankfully the Brewers locked up Freddy Peralta long term in 2020 with a five year $15.5MM deal. He does have two additional club options after that which could raise his total to $30MM. Based on how well he pitched in 2021, this deal may heavily favor the Brewers.

Woodruff, a super two player, is entering his second season of arbitration. He is projected to more than double his salary in 2022. As a player who finished fourth in the ERA race and should receive Cy Young votes, this pay increase is not surprising.

Burnes is entering his first year of arbitration. He did win the ERA title in 2021 and is a front runner to win Cy Young. While all of that is great news, it also means Burnes is due for his first pay raise and is currently projected to make $4MM.

Now that this entire core group of pitchers is out of their pre-arbitration years, the Brewers have decisions to make on how to proceed. In a recent press conference, David Stearns hinted that contract extensions may be in play for Woodruff and Burnes.

Two good references to use from around the league in this situation is Aaron Nola and Blake Snell.  Both pitchers had their arbitration years bought out by their respective teams. Their contracts have them sitting at an AAV around $10-11MM per season. Snell won a Cy Young award before his extension and Nola was a runner up.

Woodruff currently has three years of arbitration remaining. At age 28, it would be wise for the Brewers to look for a 4-5 year extension at least. This would keep him here throughout his prime years and ensure good pay. This could mean that there is an outside chance Woodruff may accept a deal with an AAV under $10MM, but likely not by much. At five years that would ensure he makes at least $50MM, if not much more.

At 26 years old, Burnes is younger than Woodruff and also has three years of arbitration left.  Given his ascension as one of the best pitchers across the league over the past two seasons, a contract extension would definitely have to be greater than $10MM on an average basis. For Burnes, at least 5 years, $60MM+ would be appropriate.

For both pitchers, if an extension were to be worked out, Milwaukee would likely backload the deal, similar to Peralta’s arrangement, although for much larger sums of money.

While this is a lot of money to throw at two players, it could save the Brewers money down the road. It also could help avoid awkward arbitration situations like what has happened to Josh Hader in the past.

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It is clear the Burnes and Woodruff and key pieces going forward on the Crew’s quest for a World Series Championship, so let’s pay them what they are worth and continue on!

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