Free agency is a fickle beast in Major League Baseball, especially for the Milwaukee Brewers. They're a small market team without a big budget and the cost of players can be crazy high sometimes.
In the first offseason at the helm for the Brewers, GM Matt Arnold didn't do a ton in the free agent market to improve the team, relying more on trades to make the necessary changes. However, the few free agent moves he did make have hit. Wade Miley and Brian Anderson have been excellent additions thus far.
Rumors were certainly flying about other names on the market and the Brewers were connected to several others and there were plenty of different directions the Brewers could have gone, but didn't.
Here are three free agents the Brewers were smart to not sign last offseason.
#1 - Christian Vazquez, C, Twins
I'll admit, I was supporting the Christian Vazquez to Milwaukee hype train. He was a reasonably priced free agent and would've provided a clear upgrade over Omar Narvaez. This was of course before the Brewers made the trade for William Contreras.
The trade market was ripe for catchers last offseason and the Brewers got themselves a good one. Contreras has consistently been getting on base for Milwaukee since his arrival and is hitting .289 with a .795 OPS and 120 OPS+. Christian Vazquez ended up signing a three year deal with the Twins.
How has Vazquez been doing? He's hitting just .231 with no homers, a .580 OPS, and a 64 OPS+ to start the year.
The Contreras trade was an excellent move just on its face. But if the Brewers didn't get involved in that three team deal, they would've had to look elsewhere on the catching market. That may have led them to sign Christian Vazquez. Instead, the Brewers are in a much better spot behind the plate.
#2 - RHP Corey Kluber, RHP, Red Sox
As Toby Keith once said, "I ain't as good as I once was". That definitely applies to Corey Kluber. From 2014-2018, Corey Kluber was one of the most dominant pitchers in the league. Since then, as he's aged and injuries have piled up, Kluber has not been anywhere near as good.
The Brewers were on the search for some veteran rotation depth this offseason and there had been prior smoke around Milwaukee and Kluber. There wasn't much this past offseason but in years previous there was interest so it would've made sense if there was some remaining interest.
Corey Kluber ended up signing a one year deal with the Red Sox, and in his first seven starts, he has a 6.29 ERA. His walk rate has jumped and he's already allowed nine homers in his seven outings. Not good.
Instead of signing Kluber for $10MM, the Brewers signed Wade Miley for $4.5MM and have gotten a 2.31 ERA through his first six starts and a career low walk rate.
Sure the Brewers could've gotten a bigger name in Kluber, and sure they took the "cheaper" option in Miley, but Miley has been better this year and the Brewers are looking very smart to have avoided bringing in Kluber.
#3 - Brad Boxberger, RHP, Cubs
When the Brewers let Brad Boxberger walk in free agency after a 2.95 ERA season in 2022, many Brewers fans were upset. Milwaukee didn't want to pay Boxberger his $3MM club option and he instead signed with the division rival Cubs for a similar price.
While many lamented that move early on, so far, the Brewers are proving to have made the right call.
Boxberger has a 4.50 ERA in 12 IP with seven walks allowed already. That's a 5.3 BB/9 and he's at a career low 7.5 K/9. Boxberger has also already served up three home runs in 12 IP. For comparison's sake, Box gave up just six homers in 64 IP last season with Milwaukee.
It's still early in the season and reliever sample sizes are always small, but it's looking like the Brewers made the right call to move on from the veteran setup man.