Not every contract the Brewers sign is a good one. Over the years, the Brewers have had their share of duds when it comes to player acquisition.
Free agency is a risky endeavor. Players who were good in the past may not necessarily be as good in the future, and teams can end up paying for past performance rather than how the player will perform under their current contract.
That realization by front offices has led to a depressed free agent market in recent years, which has of course upset the players’ union and has partially led us to the lockout fiasco baseball finds itself in in the 2021-22 offseason. Still, teams do need to look to free agency to supplement their rosters and not every contract turns out poorly.
However, the focus of this article will be on those contracts that did not go well. While the Brewers haven’t typically been the big spenders in free agency, they have splurged every now and then, and some have backfired.
What are the worst contracts in Milwaukee Brewers franchise history?
Worst contract in Brewers history #5: Jackie Bradley Jr. – 2 years, $24MM
It stunned seemingly everyone that Jackie Bradley Jr. was available on the free agent market late into spring training in 2021. He had a fairly productive career with the Boston Red Sox and was an excellent defender in centerfield. Sure he was prone to cold stretches offensively, but he was certainly deserving of being on a roster.
So the Brewers decided that they would sign him to a contract. Sure, they already had Lorenzo Cain for center field and Avisail Garcia for right field, and Christian Yelich for left field, but why not also bring in Bradley?
Bradley went on to have the worst season of his career. He hit just .163/.236/.261 with just six home runs. His 30.8% strikeout rate was well above his career average and he hit fewer home runs in 134 games in 2021 than he did in 55 games in the shortened 2020 season.
Bradley still brought value defensively, but he was a major black hole on offense. If the Brewers could’ve used a DH in place of position players, they absolutely would’ve used it on Bradley. Despite being known as a hitter prone to hot and cold stretches, 2021 was just one long cold stretch. There was never a point in the season where he got hot and looked like a legitimate major league hitter.
There was a player option on 2022 that Bradley unsurprisingly picked up after his poor season. That locked him in for $9.5MM for 2022 and ensured at least an $8MM buyout for 2023. The Brewers would’ve been stuck paying for all of that had it not been for the Boston Red Sox. Boston came in and was willing to take on the entirety of Bradley’s contract and give Milwaukee Hunter Renfroe.
If Bradley had stayed in Milwaukee through his full contract, he likely would’ve ended up much higher on this list. Instead, he comes in at No. 5.