The Brewers had a quiet non-tender deadline day Monday, but that sort of thing will happen when you spend the past few months cutting loose anyone you likely would have non-tendered, anyway. They ended up tendering contracts to the only two arbitration-eligible players they had left, Marco Estrada and Juan Francisco.
Estrada, projected by MLB Trade Rumors to make around $3.5 million after arbitration this winter, figures to be a lock to join Kyle Lohse, Yovani Gallardo and Wily Peralta in the starting rotation. After missing two months with a hamstring injury, Estrada was one of the Brewers’ best starters — he held opponents to a line of .165/.207/.260 over his last nine starts and struck out 56 while walking just 11 over 58.2 innings. In 53 career starts, he has a 3.94 ERA and carries a K/BB ratio of 4.28. In a world where Phil Hughes is going to make $8 million a year for the next three years, you give Marco Estrada $3.5 million without batting an eye.
So while it sounds like tendering Estrada a contract was a no-brainer, apparently there was some debate when it came to Francisco. While flashing tons of power (13 home runs in only 270 plate appearances), he struggled to make contact (striking out in 35.2% of his plate appearances) and struggled even more adjusting to a new defensive position. His defense was so bad at first, FanGraphs had his WAR in Milwaukee at -1.3 in just 89 games as he struggled to do things like catch the baseball.
Still, even as a defensive liability, Francisco could still provide a decent amount of value to the 2014 Brewers in a bench role. His raw power may be unrivaled by anyone else on the roster, and his ability to backup both first and third base is a plus when you consider Aramis Ramirez’s age and injury history. At the very least, you could do worse for the $1.5 million or so he’s projected to earn through the arbitration process. It seems pretty clear that the Brewers won’t be content going into next season with Francisco as the starting first baseman, but it’s hard to mind him being Plan B or C. It’s also hard to give up on that kind of power.
As for the guys the Brewers let go before even getting to today’s deadline — John Axford, Mat Gamel and Burke Badenhop — they’ve seen mixed results. Badenhop was not among the non-tenders announced by the Red Sox Monday, while Gamel was non-tendered. Axford was still waiting on official word from the Cardinals a couple hours before the 11 p.m. central time deadline, but previous reports had him unlikely to be tendered, facing a payday north of $4 million in arbitration.