Brewers 2023 Payroll Outlook
The budget will be tight.
You may be tired of hearing it, you may not want to hear it, you may think it’s a lie and that Mark Attanasio has millions of dollars he can spend but simply won’t because he’s cheap, but it doesn’t matter. The plain truth is, the Brewers payroll budget will be tight.
Christian Yelich will be earning another $26MM in 2023, which takes up a good chunk of the budget. Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Hunter Renfroe are all projected to earn over $11MM each, which takes the payroll to nearly $60MM just for those four players combined.
With the large arbitration class earning around $30+MM in raises, that quickly eats up the payroll space made available by the departures of Lorenzo Cain ($18MM), Andrew McCutchen ($8.5MM), and Omar Narvaez ($5MM). Because of that, the payroll doesn’t even decrease much from the departures and they don’t get extra money available to improve the roster externally.
Currently, Fangraphs has the Brewers projected for a $118MM payroll in 2023. That number does not include the option decisions on Wong and Boxberger and only includes the 34 players currently on the 40 man, prior to any offseason moves.
For reference, the Brewers carried a $131MM payroll in 2022, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts. That was the highest payroll in franchise history.
They are looking once again at a record payroll in 2023. After all, they’re just $14MM away from setting a new record and they haven’t even made any moves yet. Pick up Wong’s option? All of a sudden that payroll is at $128MM. Pick up Boxberger’s too? You’re already matching your record $131MM payroll all without a single free agent signed.
Are there contract extensions to be had? There should be. That would also raise the payroll significantly.
Frankly, the question isn’t going to be whether they set a record payroll in 2023, it’s by how much.
The Brewers could make some modest free agent pickups and their payroll would probably jump to the $140-150MM range. That’s if they keep most of the rest of the team. There could very well be more trades from the group of players making a lot of money.
Don’t worry too much, I wouldn’t anticipate a trade of any of Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff or Willy Adames. But with outfielders aplenty, could the Brewers trade the final year of control over Hunter Renfroe to make an addition at an area of need while clearing his projected $11+MM salary? They would have a solid replacement ready in any of their outfield prospects (most likely Joey Wiemer for RF) at league minimum salary and could address a different roster need with the return.
That would be a tough blow however since Renfroe had a fantastic season in 2022 and proved to be an important and valuable addition to the club. He had the highest qualified batting average on the team and slugged 29 homers. Trade that guy? Yeah, it could potentially happen.
There is very little wiggle room with the Brewers 2023 payroll. That could lead to more tough decisions with the roster with guys like Renfroe or Wong, similar to the tough decision they made about Josh Hader mid-season.
This payroll is going to have to be at a minimum of $130MM but in order for the team to improve, they’ll have to push to at least $140MM and may likely have to go to $150MM or higher. Will Mark Attanasio actually push it to $150MM and above? We’ll find out (but don’t hold your breath).
Now that the offseason is here, it’s time to get to work reshaping this roster and building hopefully a World Series winning Brewers roster in 2023.