Brewers: Money could be tight for the small market Brewers this off-season

Jun 21, 2018; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers general manager David Stearns (right) talks to owner Mark Attanasio before a game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 21, 2018; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers general manager David Stearns (right) talks to owner Mark Attanasio before a game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

The Milwaukee Brewers made a club record fourth consecutive post-season appearance in 2021, once again ending in heartbreak.

The club is well positioned for continued success next season due to the core of their team still being under contract. However, to make any kind of significant improvements or additions to the club on paper, it could potentially require the team to deal from a position of strength (starting pitching), or see ownership open up their pocket books to stretch the payroll to new heights.

Per Roster Resource, they calculate the Brewers to have roughly $112.4 million on the books for 2022 before any potential additions are made. That mark alone (112.4 million) would represent the second highest opening day payroll for the Brewers since Mark Attanasio purchased the Brewers in 2005. It’s important to note that figure doesn’t even account for a full 40 man roster.

Something has to give this off-season, it’s just unclear what that’ll be right now. Let’s take a look at where the money stands, and where it’s going to be allocated entering the off-season.

Brewers on guaranteed contracts

  • Left Fielder – Christian Yelich: $26M due in 2022 / $188.5M total through 2028.
  • Center Fielder – Lorenzo Cain: $18M due in 2022.
  • Outfielder – Jackie Bradley Jr. – $9.5M in 2022 (including $8MM buyout of $12M mutual option in 2023.
  • Starting Pitcher – Freddy Peralta:  $2.4 M due in 2022 / $12.75M through 2024
  • 2nd Baseman – Kolten Wong: $8.5M in 2022 (including $2M buyout of $10M club option in 2023)
  • Pitcher – Josh Lindblom: $2.75M in 2022 (Currently off 40-man roster)

I haven’t felt this way many times in the David Stearns era, but there are some bad contracts on this list. I will not classify Yelich as a bad contract, because signing him after the way he performed in 2018 and 2019 was a forgone conclusion. If he bounces back and is able to re-establish himself as an impact bat all will be well.

Lorenzo Cain is being paid a lot of money, but that’s the cost of business when you sign a player like him in free agency. You’re not likely to be getting your money’s worth at the end of the deal, but he’s still an important and productive player for Milwaukee. You’re just going to have to accept that at this point in his career, he’s a bottom of the order center-fielder that can still play exceptional defense and come up with some timely hits. His presence in the clubhouse cannot be understated.

Then there’s Jackie Bradley Jr., who is one of the clear misses under David Stearns. The signing seemed to make sense at the time, but after a comedically bad season on offense (.163 average, 6 home-runs, 29 RBI and 7 stolen bases), the contract looks pretty bad. He’s already opted into next season, which was to be expected.

jSo, the Brewers either need Jackie Bradley Jr. to repair his value on the field should they look to trade him, or package off an actual asset to get out from his current deal. Thankfully Jackie Bradley Jr. still provides gold glove caliber defense, so he can still give the club something of value.

Arbitration Eligible Brewers complete with salary projections

Josh Hader: $10.0 Million

Brandon Woodruff: $7.1 Million

Omar Narvaez: $4.1 Million

Corbin Burnes: $4..0 Million

Willy Adames: $4.0 Million

Eric Lauer: $2.7 Million

Luis Urias: $2.4 Million

Adrian Houser: $2.3 Million

Brent Suter: $2.3 Million

Daniel Vogelbach: $2.0 Million

Rowdy Tellez: $1.9 Million

Jace Peterson: $1.3 Million

Jandel Gustave: $800K

This list, while extensive, does contain several irreplaceable core members who will be expecting a pay hike, and deservedly so.

Brewers Pre-Arbitration Players

Devin Williams, Mike Brosseau, Keston Hiura, Jake Cousins, Miguel Sanchez, John Curtiss, Tyrone Taylor, Aaron Ashby, Angel Perdomo, Mario Feliciano, Hoby Milner

The Brewers pre-arbitration class includes some key players, including setup man Devin Williams, Tyrone Taylor, and former top prospect Keston Hiura. Also in this group are some valuable future contributors in Aaron Ashby, Jake Cousins, and Mario Feliciano.

New acquisition Mike Brosseau is among this group as well and John Curtiss, who will miss all of the 2022 season, is still pre-arbitration.

While the pre-arb guys aren’t the biggest strain on the payroll, they do make up a good chunk of the roster and will be adding the final few million dollars on it and need to be considered. Combined with the heavy arbitration class and the big guaranteed contracts, it’s a lot of money for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Next. Brewers 2021-2022 Complete Offseason Preview. dark

So, in conclusion the Milwaukee Brewers are going to be pushing their financial limits entering the off-season. If they’re going to improve the club and make a push for their second consecutive NL Central title they’ll either have to get creative on the trade market, or make some cost effective signings of role players to contribute in 2022. I’m most interested to see if ownership opens the pocketbooks, or if David Stearns and company are forced to make some tough decisions to keep this team in contention.