The Milwaukee Brewers may be on the verge of completing their third trade this week, and this would be the most consequential trade of them all.
According to a report from MLB Network's Jon Morosi, the Brewers are engaged in trade discussions with multiple teams regarding injured co-ace Brandon Woodruff.
Trade talks surrounding Woodruff have been spurred because of Friday night's non-tender deadline where teams have to decide to tender contracts to arbitration eligible players. A non-tender would make a player a free agent.
Brandon Woodruff is in a difficult spot, having just undergone shoulder surgery that will take out most, if not all of his 2024 season, and this also is his last year of arbitration before free agency. The Brewers, it seems, are not wanting to pay Woodruff his projected $11.6MM arbitration salary just for him to likely not pitch for them and then depart in free agency next year. A trade now would save the Brewers from a large chunk of salary on a player that won't play next year. It allows them to recoup some value and get something for Woodruff rather than lose him for nothing.
However, the Brewers are likely to get just pennies on the dollar for Brandon Woodruff's value. Every team in the league knows he's injured and knows his contract situation. Some other team may be better situated financially to take Woodruff's contract, let him rehab, and then sign him next offseason or get the qualifying offer.
When healthy, Woodruff dominated in 2023, posting a 2.28 ERA in 11 starts with a 0.82 WHIP. He's always been dominant when healthy, but after major shoulder surgery, it's unknown if he'll reach that level of dominance again.
If the Brewers are advancing on trade talks regarding Woodruff, that likely means negotiations for a backloaded 2 year contract haven't progressed enough. A 2 year deal would save the Brewers some money this year when he won't pitch and give Woodruff a full healthy year to bounce back in a familiar place in 2025. By doing that, Woodruff would delay his free agency until he's going into his age 33 season, which will make it difficult for him to land the big contract he's looking for.
The Brewers have four options with Woodruff. They can progress on a 2 year deal and get that signed before the deadline. They can simply tender Woodruff and hope to agree on an extension at a later date, prior to the arbitration filing deadline in January. If they can't, worst case scenario they have Woodruff and give him a Qualifying Offer at the end of next season to recoup a draft pick. The other options are to non-tender Woodruff and lose him for nothing, or trade him when his value is at its lowest to avoid the potential $11.6MM salary on the books.
While there was always a chance the Brewers could trade one of their big three players in their final year of arbitration this winter, Woodruff's injury has thrown a wrench into that whole process. Instead of maximizing their star players' values, a trade now would fall well short of the big return the Brewers would've been hoping for from their co-ace.
The Brewers also don't have to make a Woodruff trade by tonight if that's the route they want to go. They could just tender Woodruff and look to move him later on in the offseason, perhaps they'll get more suitors in the market and try to build up a decent return rather than a last minute deadline rush.
The deadline is tonight at 7 PM CT. Brandon Woodruff's future is likely going to be determined in the next few hours.