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  • Brewers Winter Decisions: Wade Miley Mutual Contract Option Edition

    Matt Rectenwald

    This is the second piece of a series in which I will take a look at individual decisions that Matt Arnold and his team will have to make over the next couple of months. I'm looking at each as if I were the GM, and will go through the factors that I consider in making the decision.

    Today: The Brewers and Wade Miley have a mutual contract option. Let's make a call on it.

    Image courtesy of © Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

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    If both the Brewers and Wade Miley exercise their contract option for 2024, he will earn $10 million. If either party declines, Miley will receive $1 million and become a free agent.

    Factor 1: Affordability vs. Performance
    Miley will be 37 years old next month. When healthy, he's pitched effectively. Unfortunately, over the past four years, that good health has been elusive. He started 23 games in 2023 for the Brewers, posting 2.5 WAR. In 2022 with the Cubs, he pitched in just nine games (eight of them starts) and posted 0.1 WAR. The 2021 season was arguably the best of Miley's career. As a Cincinnati Red, he started 28 games and earned a career-high 5.3 WAR. He was also with the Reds for the 2020 season, but even in that truncated campaign, he was only able to toe the rubber six times (four starts) and posted a -0.1 WAR. His four-year average, then, is 2.0 WAR. 

    Based off that number, the Brewers would be paying Miley $5.1 million per WAR. Milwaukee earned a cumulative WAR of 36.9 in 2023, winning 92 games with a payroll of approximately $135 million. That means that they paid $3.7 million per WAR.

    Recte's View as the GM: It's a bit higher than I would like to see, particularly considering the risk involved.

    Factor 2: Risk
    There's significant risk here. Given his age and injury history, it's completely unreasonable to think that he would give the Brewers a full season of starts. It would be fair to say there is a better-than-even chance that Miley would underperform his four-year average in WAR. Another factor to take into consideration here would be the decision Milwaukee will have to make on Brandon Woodruff. With Woodruff out, it does open up some salary space they would have put into Woodruff and now can go to Miley. Still, it's a gamble if he can give the Brewers enough starts to make it a wise investment.

    Recte's View as the GM: Very high risk. 

    Factor 3: Roster Fit
    Milwaukee's starting rotation is very much in flux moving into next season. That may be an understatement. We know Woodruff is (in all likelihood) lost for the season. If the Brewers were ever going to trade Corbin Burnes, this offseason is the last chance to get peak return (we'll talk about that in a subsequent article). Freddy Peralta is the "for sure" man in the rotation. Given the commotion in this group, the Brewers may lean toward bringing Adrian Houser back (he's an arbitration eligible player). Colin Rea will be a free agent, as will Julio Teheran. The bigger names in the farm system (such as Carlos Rodriguez and Jacob Misiorowski) are probably not guys who will break camp with the club, though they could factor in later. Aaron Ashby is coming off of a missed season, and wasn't particularly effective as a starter before the injury. Whew. That's a lot to unpack. One could say that the success or failure of the 2024 season will be tied to the decisions made in building the rotation, and depth when the inevitable injuries hit. That being said, there is plenty of opportunity for Miley if he is brought back. Also, not for nothing, he's a beloved member of the clubhouse and all-around good guy.

    Recte's View as the GM: There would certainly be a spot for him in the 2024 rotation.

    At the end of the day, any GM takes many different factors into play when making these decisions. In regard to Miley, I believe the major discussion points are those reviewed above. This isn't a cut-and-dry decision by any means, and the mutual option makes it even murkier.

    Recte's Final Decision as GM: The Milwaukee Brewers exercise their club option on Miley. The loss of Woodruff almost makes this a certainty. In the grand scheme of things, $10M isn't a massive investment in terms of a starting pitcher with the ability to produce 3-5 WAR. There's always going to be some element of risk in building a roster. I'm certainly aware that I have to limit the risk to salary. In Miley's case, it's a risk I'll have to take.

    Do you agree with my choice? What would you do with Miley? Let's discuss it in the comments.

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  • Brewer Fanatic Contributor
  • Posted

    Thank you for this. Reading on another site, option decisions need to be made within 5 days of the conclusion of the World Series. So at least we should get some early clarity on Miley's status for 2024.

    Unlike many offseasons, which for the Brewers start incredibly slow, see a key trade, then remain incredibly slow until we cherry pick a few free agents when the temperature outside reaches single digits, this year's offseason may start with some serious bangs in November - decisions on Miley and Canha. Counsell's own big decision and possible immediate replacement. Attempts to perhaps quickly re-sign some combination of Santana, Donaldson, Caratini, Rea, Teheran, Ruf...

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  • Brewer Fanatic Contributor
  • Posted

    Maybe Miley comes back after declining the option for something like 2 years/$15 million or 3 years/$21 million.

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    I was also thinking it more depends on what the market is on him. He hasn’t proved himself to be less injury prone and the Brewers do not often pay much over Market price. I think the Brewers like him and he likes the Brewers. If he feels like pitching for 2 more years, you offer him 5-7mil, I just don’t think he gets more than 7m on a single year contract. My guess would be 6m for ‘24 and 8m for ‘25 with a 2 million buy-out. If he likes guaranteed money 2 yrs 12m. Hope the brewers keep him. They tend to like quality over quantity and more willing then most to take on some injury proneness.

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