A happy Black Friday to you! I hope that you have properly celebrated this most Brave New World of American holidays by properly consuming goods to help the wheels of industry keep spinning. If the hyper-commercialized refrain of this most holy of weekends upsets you, take a gramme of soma and we’ll see you on Monday.
We’re on to part three of our series on Milwaukee’s arbitration eligible players. For a primer on arbitration, visit the link below for the first article in this series, Scooter Gennett. Today’s subject is center fielder and He Who Must Not Be Spelled, Kirk Nieuwenhuis.
Here are the arbitration eligible Brewers (schedule subject to change at the discretion of the author, who is very busy and important):
2B Scooter Gennett – Nov. 19
1B Chris Carter – Nov. 22
OF Kirk Nieuwenhuis – *You are here*
C Martin Maldonado – Nov. 26
RHP Carlos Torres – Nov. 28
RHP Wily Peralta – Nov. 29
RHP Chase Anderson – Nov. 29
RHP Tyler Thornburg – He’s getting tendered
Is Kirk good?
You know, what?
I mean, he’s trying his best! He seems to love the game of baseball, as do most professional baseball players, and I think that’s really nice. Look, it’s a holiday weekend and Kirk is probably with his family. I don’t want to cause any upset feelings.
Kirk finished 2016, his first (only?) season with Milwaukee, with a .209/.324/.385 batting line, 13 home runs, eight stolen bases, and a pair of nice eyes. Both Baseball-Reference and Baseball Prospectus said he was worth 0.6 WAR, while FanGraphs listed him as being worth a full win. Among 40 center fielders who recorded at least 300 plate appearances, Nieuwenhuis ranked 26th by wRC+ (90) and 27th by OPS (.709). His strikeout rate of 33.9% was the fourth highest in the league — not among center fielders, but among everyone. Only Steven Souza Jr. and the Minnesota tandem of free-swinging prospects, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, struck out more reliably. He mitigated that somewhat, however, with a top ten walk rate (14.3%).
Should the Brewers tender Kirk?
It doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it? Nieuwenhuis doesn’t fit any particular need for Milwaukee in the lineup; assuming a full recovery — and an increase in discretion — for young Keon Broxton, he’ll occupy center field between Ryan Braun and Domingo Santana. Should Santana or Broxton struggle, or Braun find himself traded, Milwaukee is loaded at the upper levels of the outfield with talent that will need evaluating: Kyle Wren (if he’s not selected in the Rule 5 draft), Michael Reed, Lewis Brinson, Brett Phillips, Ryan Cordell, Adam Brett Walker, and Victor Roache may all be ready for a legitimate big league in 2017.
The issue, then, becomes two fold: why are you paying a 29-year-old $1.6 million (Nieuwenhuis’ projected salary per MLB Trade Rumors) to fill a bench role that could easily be held by a younger, cheaper, higher upside player; and do you want him holding one of your 40- and 25-man roster spots hostage when those same younger, cheaper, higher upside players are singing John Fogerty? David Stearns needs to answer those questions when he’s making this decision — my answer: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
But *will* the Brewers tender him?
Look, I’m not entirely sure what the deal is here. It doesn’t necessarily seem to make a ton of sense that the Brewers would tender Nieuwenhuis, yet he remains on the 40-man roster today, after the deadline to add prospects to it and protect them from the Rule 5 draft. One pitcher who is entirely familiar with the process is a near certainty to be drafted — Wei-Chung Wang.
It is perhaps the cruelest of inhumane twists that Milwaukee jeopardized a contending team by wasting a 25-man roster spot on Wang in 2014 well before he was ready to face major league hitters, yet won’t spare a place on the 40-man for him during a rebuild that he appears close to being able to contribute. David Stearns wasn’t a part of the front office that chose to to invest so heavily in order to steal Wang from Pittsburgh, so he may not value him the same way. Still, now that he’s almost ready for the job Milwaukee tasked him with three seasons ago, it is frustrating that he’ll get that chance somewhere else.
What I’m saying is I think it was a mistake for Stearns to leave his Wang exposed.
You’re going off on one of your tangents again. We were asking about Kirk?
Ah, dang. The point is that while I can’t see *why* Milwaukee would want to tender him a contract next week, it seems obvious that they will. If the plan was to cut him loose, they surely would have done so before last Friday’s Rule 5 deadline in order to open a spot to protect Wang or Miguel Diaz. My sources could shed no insight on the matter, however, so we’ll have to see what Stearns et al. do.