Wow!! Just days after I laid out on this website why the Brewers should and most likely would tender 2016 National League home run (and strikeout) king Chris Carter, David Stearns shouted a big “screw you, idiot,” at me, as it was reported on Monday that Carter would not be tendered a contract. The puzzling move, and the question of who would play first base for Milwaukee in 2017, was quickly answered when Milwaukee announced a three-year deal with KBO star Eric Thames.
This article isn’t about Eric Thames. There are already a lot of those — go read this one from my pal Nick — and I don’t especially care. He’s going to strikeout more than Chris Carter, hit less home runs, and maybe be slightly better on defense. Hooray.
Today, we’re continuing our discussion of arbitration decisions, and the above is merely to point out that you probably oughtn’t even bother reading anything that I write here at all, because I don’t know what the dang heck I’m talking about anyhow, obviously. Chris Carter is gone! So long, and thanks for all the dingers.
Today we’re onto veteran backstop Martin Maldonado. Here’s the links for all the players we’ve covered so far, as well as those still to come:
2B Scooter Gennett – Nov. 19
1B Chris Carter – Nov. 22
OF Kirk Nieuwenhuis – Nov. 25
C Martin Maldonado – Hi!
RHP Carlos Torres – Dec. 1
RHP Wily Peralta – Dec. 1
RHP Chase Anderson – Dec. 1
RHP Tyler Thornburg – Dec. 1
Is Martin Maldonado good?
It depends on what you value at the catching position, and also how much you buy into the shiny new catching defense statistics at Baseball Prospectus. If you value hitting behind the plate, the answer is no. Maldonado possesses .217/.299/.342 career slash line, and while his walk rate jumped in 2016 (13.8% from 9.0%), he had another season of far below league average offensive production (77 wRC+). If you value scouting reports on defense merits, the answer is yes — Maldonado is widely considered to be among the best defensive catchers in baseball. If you value BP’s FRAA stats, which seek to quantify defensive catching efforts, the answer might be no again; Maldonado ranked 25th in the new metric in 2016, behind a number of backstops who had fewer defensive opportunities.
tl;dr: No, not really.
How much is he going to cost?
Probably not much! Maldonado signed a two-year, $2 million deal before 2015 which bought out his first year of arbitration eligibility. This followed a 2014 season in which he nearly replicated the results from his debut 2012 season, which has turned out to be his best. In the interim, he has been worse than advertised, failing to reach even the modest offensive benchmarks expected of a backup, defense-first catcher. MLB Trade Rumors projects a $1.6 million salary for Maldy — that’s a bit on the high side for me. It’s hard to imagine Maldonado is due for a raise after posting a wRC+ of 65 over the past two season.
tl;dr: About a million dollars
Should the Brewers tender Maldonado?
You know what, probably. Maldonado’s profile as a defense-first backstop whose contributions behind the plate are barely enough to cover his offensive deficiencies is the prototype for a backup catcher, but that still has value. Tyler Flowers, who finished the 2015 season, and his career with the White Sox, with a wRC+ of 83, was signed to a two-year, $5.3 million contract by the Braves last offseason (it worked out, by the way: Flowers had a career year in 2016). While Maldonado is never going to be the starting catcher on a playoff team, his skill set is worth what the Brewers would have to pay, and after the shocking DFA of Carter, they’ve got plenty of money to play with. This isn’t a team that needs to think about pinching pennies.
Still, while Maldonado has value to a major league baseball team, it’s hard to see how he fits into Milwaukee’s plans. The Brewers have two other catchers on the 40-man roster, and both of them are David Stearns acquisitions that are younger and have higher upside than Maldy. Of particular note is Andrew Susac, who was half of the return from San Francisco for set-up man Will Smith at the trade deadline. Susac has nearly 600 Triple-A plate appearances, and the team’s heavy investment in his acquisition makes it likely that he’ll be expected to be the team’s starting catcher in 2017. Maldonado would make a serviceable backup for Milwaukee, but so would Manny Pina, who won’t be arbitration eligible until 2019 and outperformed Maldy in his September cameo.
Expecting the Brewers to retain Maldonado with the sole purpose of trading him, however, is a flawed line of thinking. Stearns has already made clear with his handling of Carter that he won’t shell out money for arbitration eligible players simply with the hope that he’ll be able to be flipped for prospects. If he’s tendered a contract before Friday’s deadline, expect Maldonado to be a part of the 2017 Brewers.