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  • Brewers Payroll Preview: The Bullpen


    John Bonnes

    If one doubts the significance of payroll in Brewers President of Baseball Operations David Stearns' decision-making, one need only look at the recent trade deadline. There was no legitimate on-the-field reason for a division-leading team to trade away an All-Star closer at the trade deadline. The only reason to do so is money, so let's finish our back-of-the-napkin payroll analysis with a deep dive into the bullpen.

    Image courtesy of © Albert Cesare/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

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    This is Part 4 of a series of stories detailing the payroll situation for the Milwaukee Brewers at a back-of-the-napkin level. Previously, we looked at the total salaries of the infielders, outfielders, and rotation, and came up with a $109M commitment for next year. Today we look at the bullpen.  


    Closer – Josh Hader is gone (and would have made about $15M in arbitration). So is Taylor Rogers, who becomes a free agent. But Devin Williams and his 14K/9 are still around and pretty affordable, given that he is just entering his first year of arbitration. Relievers' arbitration awards are difficult to estimate, and his certainly went up as he racked up saves at the end of the season. Let's expect a boost to $3-4M.  

    Luis Perdomo and Brent Suter can be offered arbitration for one more year. Suter made $2.7M last year, so he's due about $3M. Perdomo will be due quite a bit less, closer to $1M.

    Like almost the entirety of the starting rotation, Matt Bush and Trevor Gott can both be offered arbitration this year and for 2024. Bush will get the more significant raise, about ~$2M, with Gott a half step behind at $1.5M.

    Hoby Milner enters arbitration this year for the first time and had a solid year to garner a nice raise. He'll likely land between $1M and $1.5M.

    The Brewers have a decision to make regarding Brad Boxberger. The contract he signed with them last year has a team option of $3M with a $750K buyout, meaning they need to decide if he's worth $2.25M. I think that they think he is, but if payroll gets tight, they could pivot away and eat the buyout.

    Finally, no matter where Aaron Ashby pitches, whether in the rotation, the bullpen, or Nashville, he's got a guaranteed contract that pays him $1M, so we have to add him to our list. Which, by the way, is complete and looks like this:

     

    image.png

    That final number is awfully close to what the Brewers spent in 2022. So what will they spend in 2023? We'll look at what the team has spent historically and make educated guesses on how much room they'll have left next time.

     

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    At a minimum, the team needs to add a veteran high-leverage arm, preferably LH. One of Hand or Chafin, would work. Both made 6.5M this season and will likely demand a raise due to performance, so whoever can be had for less should be the preferred route.

    A backend of Williams-Chafin/Hand-Bush would be ok, especially with Strez’s breakout and the potential of Uribe making his mark this season.

    Would like both of Hand & Chafin, but $16-$20M id probably too much for Stearns to pay, even with money savings from trading Renfroe and letting Wong walk.

    So here’s my bullpen:

    Williams-Hand-Bush-Uribe-Strez-Milner-Box-Gott

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    There was no legitimate on-the-field reason for a division-leading team to trade away an All-Star closer at the trade deadline.

    An 8.31 ERA and four losses in the two months before the deadline wasn’t a legitimate on-field reason?

    If Hader has been his usual dominant self and the Brewers are seven up at the deadline do you think he still gets traded?

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    13 minutes ago, SF70 said:

    At a minimum, the team needs to add a veteran high-leverage arm, preferably LH.

    Yeah, bullpen will definitely need some external additions this winter, whether via trade or FA.

    In 2021 Brewers relievers went…

    44W-24L | 96 ERA- | 102 FIP- | 4.2 rWAR | 3.2 fWAR | +5.90 WPA

    In 2022 that dropped to…

    36W-32L | 97 ERA- | 101 FIP- | 2.8 rWAR | 2.5 fWAR | +2.26 WPA

    Honestly kinda surprised the ERA- and FIP- are so close given Hader’s massive performance difference from 21 to 22 plus Rogers/Bush second half performance. But those extra eight losses and 3.64 drop in WPA were the real back breaker.

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    35 minutes ago, SF70 said:

    At a minimum, the team needs to add a veteran high-leverage arm, preferably LH. One of Hand or Chafin, would work. Both made 6.5M this season and will likely demand a raise due to performance, so whoever can be had for less should be the preferred route.

    A backend of Williams-Chafin/Hand-Bush would be ok, especially with Strez’s breakout and the potential of Uribe making his mark this season.

    Would like both of Hand & Chafin, but $16-$20M id probably too much for Stearns to pay, even with money savings from trading Renfroe and letting Wong walk.

    So here’s my bullpen:

    Williams-Hand-Bush-Uribe-Strez-Milner-Box-Gott

    I don't think Stearns is trading one of his best hitters in Renfroe. I do believe Wong is either re-signed and traded or just let go.  I hope Stearns can bring in somebody to replace Rogers, but with so many other holes to fill, I don't see him paying $8M.  The pen was horrible after the trading deadline, so I guess it's a possibility unless they pickup somebody in a trade.  Right now as I see it:  Williams-Bush-Cousins-Stzrelecki-Suter-Milner-Houser-New Addition (hope and a prayer).

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    1 hour ago, sveumrules said:

    There was no legitimate on-the-field reason for a division-leading team to trade away an All-Star closer at the trade deadline.

    An 8.31 ERA and four losses in the two months before the deadline wasn’t a legitimate on-field reason?

    If Hader has been his usual dominant self and the Brewers are seven up at the deadline do you think he still gets traded?

    I think he isn't dealt. I think they roll for the title, and the Hader deal happens in the offseason.

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    No reason to give Perdomo a guaranteed contract when can go with guys like Cousins/Topa/Strz/Uribe/Sanchez and option back and forth. Dump Suter and sign a decent lefty. Actually think they may prefer Gott over Boxberger at this point as it sure looks like Boxberger is on the decline. May have to just eat the 750K, would still be cheaper to keep Gott or another option guy over Box. Don't think they keep both Box and Gott though either way.

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    8 hours ago, sveumrules said:

    There was no legitimate on-the-field reason for a division-leading team to trade away an All-Star closer at the trade deadline.

    An 8.31 ERA and four losses in the two months before the deadline wasn’t a legitimate on-field reason?

    If Hader has been his usual dominant self and the Brewers are seven up at the deadline do you think he still gets traded?

    The way I see it, going forward from the deadline to seasons' end they felt Rodgers could reasonably replicate the results Hader would give them, plus they added depth in the other deals, plus two prospects that are much more than lottery tix. All of this is reasonable. But after a miserable stretch, Hader straightened himself out while Bush was worse than what he was in Texas, and Rodgers arguably worse, certainly no better. 

    I think there was plenty of reason, the reasons just didn't click, exasperated by the Rosenthal fiasco.

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