The Milwaukee Brewers have made their first big move of the offseason and depending on who you talk to, it could be a bit of a surprise.
On Tuesday, the team announced that they were exercising the club option on second baseman Kolten Wong‘s contract. The former first round pick and two-time Gold Glover will now get to spend a third season in a Brewers uniform.
Wong was one of two players, the second being relief pitcher Brad Boxberger, in which the team had to decide whether to pick up contract options for 2023. As an $8MM decision ($10MM option vs $2MM buyout), the former was the more expensive of the two.
The Brewers have exercised second baseman Kolten Wong’s 2023 contract option.
Wong has already found himself on the wrong end of this situation once in his career. After a 2020 season in which he won his second straight Gold Glove award while also hitting .265 with a .350 OBP, the St. Louis Cardinals declined to pick up his $12.5MM contract option for the following season.
After staying largely silent that offseason, the Brewers finally struck and brought the former division foe into the fold, signing him to a two-year contract with a third-year option in February of 2021.
The move worked out great for Milwaukee that season. Wong stepped right in as the not only the team’s new second baseman, but also the leadoff hitter in the majority of their games. The result was a .272/.335/.447 with a career high 14 homers and 110 OPS+, not to mention finishing as a Gold Glove finalist once again.
2022 started with a step back for the veteran as his offense dipped, eventually resulting in a drop from the leadoff spot, and he saw uncharacteristic struggles on defense. Wong turned things around in a big way, however, and finished with a solid .251/.339/.430 slash line and new career highs in homers (15) and OPS+ (118).
Still, it wasn’t a guaranteed decision to bring Wong back. With possibly declining defense and a potential replacement-in-waiting in prospect Brice Turang, who is cheaper and has a very similar profile, it would have been understandable if the Brewers decided to move on.
Instead, they opted to go with the sure thing, which is never a bad strategy. As a rule 5 eligible player, Turang is all but guaranteed to be added to the 40-man roster anyway, so Wong’s return may just either delay Turang’s debut or mean that Milwaukee now won’t consider a reunion with one of their recent free agents in utility man Jace Peterson.
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The first big decision of the Brewers offseason is in the books. It will be interesting to see how this move determines what other ones they make over the coming months.