With the MLB offseason officially in full swing with the completion of the 2023 World Series (congratulations to the Texas Rangers), teams and players are in the middle of a five-day window to make decisions on contract options for the 2024 season.
The Milwaukee Brewers entered the offseason with four such players with contract options to decide upon. Three of those players already know their fates as the team declined options on relief pitchers Justin Wilson and Andrew Chafin while starting pitcher Wade Miley declined his half of a mutual option, making all three pitchers free agents.
That leaves one player who still needs a decision on his 2024 contract option, outfielder and first baseman Mark Canha. It's the Brewers who get to make the decision whether to pick up his contract option, which is for $11.5MM with a $2MM buyout.
Generally sitting in the bottom half of the league each year in terms of payroll, Canha's option is at a level that the Brewers haven't traditionally picked up over the years. But considering the state of a key position for Milwaukee, this time they should very much consider breaking trend and retaining the veteran for another year.
Despite the price, the Brewers need to pick up Mark Canha's $11.5MM contract option for 2024.
Canha, a veteran of nine MLB seasons, came to the Brewers after they traded for him at last season's trade deadline. Prior to the trade, he had spent one and half seasons with the New York Mets after beginning his career with seven seasons as an Oakland Athletic.
With the offense scuffling at many times during the season, Canha helped spark things down the stretch, finishing second on the team to William Contreras in RBIs (33) and OBP (.373) from August 1st to the end of the year, punctuating his production with an epic grand slam late in the season.
Upon acquiring Canha, many thought it to be a foregone conclusion that he was being brought in as a rental and that his pricey option for 2024 was likely to be declined. But there are two reasons why the Brewers should highly consider not doing so - his production and the state of the first base position.
Milwaukee needs to make every attempt to avoid rolling out an offense that was as inconsistent as it was for much of 2023. Even with a dip in production with the Mets to begin last season, he still was on track for an OPS+ of 100, considered right at an average hitter, and hadn't been below that level since 2017. It was 120 during his two-month stint with the Crew.
And though he has played outfield for most of his career, he also has played about 15% of his career games at first base, and that's where the Brewers could use him going forward. With Carlos Santana a free agent and Rowdy Tellez a strong candidate to be non-tendered this offseason, Milwaukee may not have much of a plan at first base as of a month or so from now.
The free agent market at the position is not particularly strong either. As it stands, Rhys Hoskins and Joey Gallo are the two top available players at the position, after which the quality takes a decent drop off. Those two will likely command even more money than Canha as well.
The Brewers could also decline Canha's option and look to bring him back on a more team-friendly contract, but that would run the risk of 29 other teams snatching him away. Yes, it will cost some money, but sometimes you need to pay for decent offense. The team need that and a plan at first, so pay the money and pick up that option.