The Brewers’ Busy Week: Free Agents, Arbitration, and Payroll | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

The Brewers were busy last week. The team landed Mark Reynolds, who, despite signing a minor league deal, is expected to compete and possibly platoon with Juan Francisco at first base. Left-handed reliever Zach Duke also signed a minor league contract with the club and will compete for a job out of the bullpen. Finally, the Brewers avoided arbitration with Juan Francisco and Marco Estrada by signing each to one-year deals.

All off-season I’ve explored and updated the Brewers’ payroll and roster. After last week’s flurry of activity, it felt like the perfect time to update those figures. Let’s start with the infield to see how the Mark Reynolds signing and Juan Francisco’s arbitration figures affect the team’s bottom line.


Position Player 2014 Salary
2B Rickie Weeks $11,000,000
3B Aramis Ramirez $10,000,000
1B/3B Mark Reynolds $2,000,000
1B/3B Juan Francisco $1,350,000
SS Jean Segura $500,000
2B Scooter Gennett $500,000
IF Jeff Bianchi $500,000

Unless Mark Reynolds’ spring training is atrocious, he will make the team and earn a base salary of $2M with $500,000 available in performance bonuses. Juan Francisco’s first foray into arbitration ended with him signing for $1.35M. That’s $50,000 less than estimated by Scott Swartz and MLBTR earlier this off-season.

A first base platoon of Mark Reynolds and Juan Francisco will cost the Brewers between $3.35M-$3.85M, depending on Reynolds’ production. Compare that to the offer the Crew made to Corey Hart, which would have cost the team a base salary of $4M with up to $2.5M in incentives.

With Reynolds and Francisco, the Brewers should have replaced, and hopefully surpassed, Hart’s power potential, but their savings will come at the cost of average and OBP. Defensive metrics don’t love any of them at first base. Last season at first, Reynolds posted a (-)5 DRS and Francisco a (-)3 DRS. For comparison, Hart had a (-5)DRS at first in 2012 for the Brewers.

The addition of Reynolds will affect the Brewers in two more interesting way. First, whoever isn’t playing first base will be a legitimate power bat off the bench. Second, Reynolds’ infield versatility (last year he played first, second, and third) could jeopardize Jeff Bianchi’s roster spot. Obviously, it would leave the team without a natural shortstop to replace Jean Segura in a pinch but it could be an option if the team desires a deeper bullpen.

Speaking of, let’s move on to the Zach Duke signing and the rest of the bullpen —


Position Player 2014 Salary
LHP Tom Gorzelanny $2,950,000
RHP Jim Henderson $500,000
RHP Brandon Kintzler $500,000
LHP Will Smith $500,000

Last year, the Brewers’ opening day roster included eight bullpen arms. If all the infielders above break camp with the team, then there will be seven roster spots for the bullpen. The four players above should be locked into their roles. The exception being Will Smith, who could land the fifth spot in the rotation if he impresses in spring training and the team decides that it would be beneficial to have a LHP in the rotation.

Zach Duke, who Curt Hogg profiled for DoU last week, will battle for one of the three remaining bullpen spots. Duke made $700,000 last season. So he shouldn’t be an expensive addition if he makes the team. Besides being a veteran, Duke’s other advantage is that he’s the only left-hander vying for one of the three remaining spots. This may matter if Will Smith does win a job in the starting rotation.

Either way, the final three bullpen spots should cost the Crew around $1.5M-$2M, depending on who makes the cut. The other young, inexpensive, and right-handed arms competing for a big league job include – Donovan Hand, Alfredo Figaro, Mike Fiers, Hiram Burgos, Jimmy Nelson, Johnny Hellweg, Michael Blazek, and Rob Wooten.


Position Player 2014 Salary
RHP Yovani Gallardo $11,500,000
RHP Kyle Lohse $11,000,000
RHP Marco Estrada $3,325,000
RHP Wily Peralta $500,000
RHP Tyler Thornburg $500,000

Marco Estrada signed a one-year $3.325M deal with the Brewers last week. The contract came in $175,000 under what Scott Swartz and MLBTR predicted. Currently, I have Tyler Thornburg penciled in to the fifth spot in the rotation. Ron Roenicke has hinted that Thornburg has the inside track going into spring training but nothing is set in stone. The battle for the last spot in the rotation should be one of the more interesting spring training story lines.

Finally, below are the salaries for the outfielders and catchers. Caleb Gindl should be considered a candidate for the fourth outfield spot. Gindl’s bat was better than Logan Schafer’s last season, but Schafer’s defense and speed are a better compliment to Kris Davis’ skill set.


Position Player 2014 Salary
RF Ryan Braun $12,500,000*
CF Carlos Gomez $7,000,000
LF Khris Davis $500,000
OF Logan Schafer $500,000

*$10M base salary plus $2.5M signing bonus. Braun’s 2011 extension included a $10M signing bonus that is being paid in equal installments from 2012 to 2015.


Position Player 2014 Salary
C Jonathan Lucroy $2,000,000
C Martin Maldonado $500,000

All together, here’s how the Brewers’ 2014 opening day roster and payroll are stacking up –

Position # of Players Total Payroll
Infield 7 $25.85 M*
Outfield 4 $20.5 M
Catcher 2 $2.5 M
SP 5 $26.825 M
RP 7 $5.95 M**
Total 25 $81.625 M

*Total does not include the $500,000 available to Mark Reynolds in performance bonuses.

**Total calculates the three final bullpen spots at the league minimum of $500,000. If Zach Duke does make the team, his salary may run slightly higher.

Once the final roster spots shake out, I would expect the Brewers’ 2014 opening day payroll to land around $83M. That’s a $5M reduction from last season and $15M less than 2012. But $83M is in line with the 2011 team’s opening day payroll.

The Brewers’ off-season was relatively quiet until last week. After signing two free agents and locking up their arbitration players, the Brewers’ roster appears set. Doug Melvin may have a trick or two still up his sleeve, but don’t be surprised if the front office stays silent for the rest of the off-season.

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