The Milwaukee Brewers have a very important decision to make over the next day or so: Should they give Avisail Garcia a Qualifying Offer this offseason?
The Qualifying Offer has been around since 2012 and serves as a way to offer draft pick compensation to teams that lose big money players in free agency. The Brewers have never given out a QO to one of their own free agents, but they have signed three players who rejected QOs in that offseason (Kyle Lohse, Lorenzo Cain, Yasmani Grandal).
This year, the Qualifying Offer is set at $18.4MM, meaning whoever is offered the QO can accept it and return to their team for next season at that salary, or they can reject it and the team that signs them will have to forfeit an early draft pick next season and the team they left receives a compensatory draft pick.
For the Brewers, the idea of gaining an extra draft pick is enticing, but Stearns hasn’t pulled the trigger on giving a QO before. He also hasn’t had any good opportunities to do so. But will that change with Avisail Garcia?
Should the Milwaukee Brewers give Avisail Garcia a Qualifying Offer? Let’s weigh the pros and the cons of this decision.
What makes these decisions easy for front offices is when they know for sure that the player will reject the QO. Then it’s simply a paper move to get an extra draft pick with little concern for the potential impact on their payroll. However, Avisail Garcia isn’t exactly a clear candidate to reject the QO.
Garcia declined his end of a $12MM option, but the QO is $18.4MM, which is likely in line with or probably above what he would earn on an average annual value (AAV) basis in free agency. He’s likely looking for a long term deal, but if he’s expecting something more in the $15-16MM range, the QO suddenly sounds appealing.
If he accepts, Garcia could earn the big payday in 2022, enter free agency next offseason at 31 and he would not have draft pick compensation attached to him as players can only receive the QO once in their careers. Not having that draft pick attached will help his market as teams have historically been hesitant to deal with QO free agents and lose those precious draft picks.
However, if he accepts, he could also lose his last best chance to sign a long-term contract. He’s coming off a career year in 2021 and there’s no guarantee that happens again in 2022. If he gets hurt, or has a poor season then he’s going to have a tough time finding the contract he desires.
If he declines, Garcia will enter free agency coming off a great year with some ups and downs, but the draft pick compensation attached could hinder his market and he may not be able to beat the AAV of $18.4MM.
That’s the risk vs. reward that Garcia has to deal with, but of course none of that matters if the Brewers don’t even give him the Qualifying Offer, which is another tough decision with pros and cons to weigh.
On the Brewers end of things is another tough decision. Their current outfield construction includes Cain, Christian Yelich, and Jackie Bradley Jr. All three of whom are highly paid and will account for roughly $55MM on the 2022 payroll. With several core players hitting arbitration paydays, salary is going to jump up next year before the Brewers even add anyone this offseason.
Since there is the risk that Garcia could accept a QO, the Brewers must be willing to accept that risk if they’re going to offer it. If Garcia accepts, that is going to seriously alter the payroll plans, as $73.4MM would then be allocated to just four players, all of whom are in the outfield, and there’s only three starting spots.
In order to make that work, the Brewers would likely have to trade someone like a JBJ or even a Cain or Josh Hader to make the payroll work. They need those types of contingency plans in place if they’re going to give Garcia the QO. Do they want to do any of those things? Perhaps, perhaps not. Cain has more value on the Brewers as a team leader and veteran presence than he does in a trade to another team. JBJ has a negative trade value and Josh Hader is their best reliever and trading him simply for salary relief because of Garcia would be painful.
The havoc that could be wreaked on the Brewers payroll with Garcia accepting the QO would have ripple effects on the rest of the roster, and would likely prevent them from adding other free agents to help fill out the roster. This offense needs more help than just Avisail Garcia, although the internal improvements of Yelich and Keston Hiura would also go a long way.
On the field, however, it may not be the worst thing if Garcia accepts a QO. The Brewers are going to be entering a transition stage in their outfield. Both Cain and JBJ’s contracts are up after 2022 and neither are likely to come back on new deals. Milwaukee has several talented outfield prospects coming up through the minors. Garrett Mitchell, Joey Wiemer, Corey Ray, and Joe Gray Jr all should be close to, if not already ready for the big leagues for the 2023 season.
There will be open spots for these prospects and the Brewers would be right to give them the opportunity to lock them down. Especially with the rest of the core like Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, and Willy Adames getting more and more expensive as the years go on, the Brewers will need to supplement their roster with young, cheap talent in order to make their payroll affordable.
So if Garcia returns on the QO, then he’s a free agent in 2022, leaving right field open for one of these prospects. If he leaves, Tyrone Taylor can get a chance to prove he’s worthy of a starting job in 2022. Signing someone long term like Nick Castellanos, as some have suggested, would only block these young prospects and make the payroll much more difficult to manage in 2023 and beyond.
Obviously, if Garcia rejects the QO, the Brewers can let him walk, take the draft pick compensation, and replenish their farm system. That would allow them to search for offensive upgrades uninhibited. It would likely be the outcome Milwaukee is hoping for.
Both sides have the pros and the cons to weigh, but the Brewers must make their decision first. In my opinion, the pros outweigh the cons for Milwaukee and they should give him the QO. Garcia would then have 10 days to decide whether or not to accept, and he has his own set of pros and cons to weigh.
We’ll see if Stearns pulls the trigger on his first QO to one of his own free agents.