Nearly every offseason, Brewers fans are reminded that big market teams dominate the free-agent market. Key players from Brewers playoff teams establish themselves in Milwaukee and then hit the market for a big payday from teams with seemingly endless cash flow. In the last decade and a half, Brewers fans have said goodbye to players like Prince Fielder, C.C. Sabathia, and Avisail Garcia who earned the right to capitalize on their production with a big contract.
Why Don’t The Brewers Re-Sign Key Players?
One of the biggest questions discussed on Brewers’ social media pages is why don’t the Brewers re-sign their own players? Why would Milwaukee let Avisail Garcia sign with the Miami Marlins when he was a big part of our offense?
The easy answer is this: the Brewers can’t afford it.
While it is true there is no salary cap in baseball, that doesn’t mean the Brewers don’t have a budget. As one of the smallest markets in the MLB, the Brewers aren’t really bringing in a ton of profit. In Spring Training 2020, Brewers Owner Mark Attanasio said that the Brewers had been “operating in the red” for a while.
In the same interview, Attanasio said he has never said no to a player acquisition because of cost. However, from David Stearns’ and Matt Arnold’s perspectives, the cost is a huge factor. Why re-sign an expensive veteran or when you could be looking elsewhere for a replacement.
Why Did the Brewers Let Avisail Garcia Walk?
In the case of Avisail Garcia, the Brewers didn’t see him as worth the one-year, $18.4 million qualifying offer. Had they offered him the qualifying offer, the Brewers could’ve received a compensatory draft pick if Garcia signed elsewhere. However, if that draft pick is attached to a free agent, it’s unlikely that a team like Miami would have offered a deal like that to Garcia. That’s because they aren’t willing to lose out on draft picks for a non-superstar.
The simplest answer is that the Brewers are forced to pick and choose which of their veterans they are going to re-sign and which they are going to let walk. They have too small of a market to have the funds to re-sign everyone. When free agency rolls around, the hardest decisions are left with Stearns and Arnold. They definitely have a long-term plan for the Brewers. One that is likely focused on how the Brewers can afford to re-sign Cy Young Award Winner Corbin Burnes, and All-Star Brandon Woodruff.
Why Don’t the Brewers Sign Any Big Name Free Agents?
At the beginning of every offseason, fans from every team are infatuated by the big-name free agents who finally hit the market. This offseason, the market was flooded with superstars at pitcher and shortstop. Although the Brewers have found success with Willy Adames at shortstop, and have one of the best one-two punches in any rotation in all of baseball, Brewers fans have voiced their desire to make a run at a superstar free agent.
Names like Corey Seager, Trevor Story, and Kris Bryant are obviously very attractive for a team like Milwaukee that is missing a key power bat in their lineup; however, does their production make them worth contracts that exceed $200 million?
If this was a video game or fantasy baseball, I’d sign any of those guys seven out of seven days of the week and twice on Sundays. Unfortunately, there’s so much more risk when committing that much of your payroll into one of two guys. The Brewers have already gotten burned by Christian Yelich’s contract and that doesn’t even begin until the start of the 2022 season.
Trust in Stearns
David Stearns is one of, if not the smartest, baseball minds in the MLB. Stearns can see a player’s value before it is even shown on the field. He could be working on signing one of those big-name free agents right now. Or he could be waiting to reassess the market until after the lockout is over. Regardless, he is one of the last baseball executives to throw excessively large contracts around without doing his homework first.
Overall, the simplest answer for why the Brewers don’t sign big-name free agents is because the nine-figure contracts are not worth it. With baseball geniuses at the helm, the Brewers can get nearly the same level of production through multiple players, but at a fraction of the cost. It often isn’t pretty, the Brewers get the job done and make the playoffs. But if they want to get over the hump and make a true World Series run, Stearns and Arnold might have to cave in and pick up one or two superstars along the way.
What to Expect From the Brewers this Offseason
The Brewers likely won’t make a huge splash like the Mets and the Rangers already have. However, the Brewers could make a run at players like Nick Castellanos and Anthony Rizzo if the price is right.
The most likely outcome is that the Brewers will hold onto the pieces they currently have and continue to develop their prospects. If given the right opportunity, the Brewers could sign a stopgap first baseman like Jose Martinez to fill the hole. But in the end, the Brewers have a budget. This doesn’t seem like the year they get crazy with spending, especially with the impending lockout.