Brewers finalize two free agent deals, DFA hero of 2023 win over rival Cubs

After the day's moves, the 40-man roster is maxed out again.

Sep 17, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Brandon Woodruff (53)
Sep 17, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Brandon Woodruff (53) / Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Brewers finalized deals with two free agents on Wednesday. One was for an old friend making a surprise (to some) return to the team, while the other was a deal that had been in the works for a while.

Starting pitcher Brandon Woodruff and catcher Gary Sanchez had their deals formally announced by the Brewers on social media earlier today. The former gets a two-year deal with a third year option while the latter is getting one year plus an option.

Woodruff, who was non-tendered by the Brewers last fall, was linked to a number of teams during the offseason, including the Mets who are run by ex-Milwaukee GM David Stearns. The fact that the righty may not pitch at all in 2024 made contract negotiations with any team tough, though, and he remained a free agent heading into February.

Always leaving a reunion open as a possibility, the Brewers finally made it happen with the team in camp for spring training. As expected, the deal is backloaded with $17.5MM of guaranteed money. That breaks down as $2.5MM this season, $5MM in 2025, and either a $10MM buyout or $20MM mutual option for 2026.

Woodruff appears to have some motivation in returning to the Crew in quotes captured by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writer Todd Rosiak. "I guess I have a lot of unfinished business in a Brewers uniform," he said.

Also injured late in 2023 was new Brewers catcher Sanchez, though to a much lesser extent with a wrist injury. Still, enough showed up on his physical that concerned the Brewers front office to make the two sides renegotiate, stalling out a deal that had been announced two weeks ago.

While the original deal was reportedly planned to be $7MM for this year plus an option for 2025, it is now a $3MM deal for this season but with incentives that still allow him to earn that potential $7MM. The option for next year remains.

Prior to those moves, the 40-man roster was maxed out. Woodruff heads straight to the 60-day IL, meaning only one roster spot needed to be cleared to accommodate both moves. To make that happen, the Brewers designated utility man Jahmai Jones for assignment.

Milwaukee acquired Jones midseason in 2023 and he would play in just seven games, going 2-for-10 with a walk and five strikeouts. However, he had one of the most memorable moments of the season when he hit a game-tying, three-run double in his very first at bat with the team in a game against the rival Cubs, a game the Crew would go on to win.

With those moves locked up, there finally are no more pending deals lingering over Brewers fans' heads. Perhaps now attention can be turned to the team's spring training least until the next deal is announced.