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Tough contract decisions loom for Brew Crew

Milwaukee likely to tender Nelson, Knebel by Friday's 7 p.m. CT deadline
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers and other clubs are expected to add more names to the slow-moving free-agent market on Friday, which is the deadline to tender 2018 contracts to players under their control.

The Brewers have until 7 p.m. CT to tender their remaining arbitration-eligible players: starter Jimmy Nelson; relievers Jared Hughes, Jeremy Jeffress and Corey Knebel; and infielders Hernan Perez and Jonathan Villar. If the club opts to non-tender any player from that group, he becomes a free agent.

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers and other clubs are expected to add more names to the slow-moving free-agent market on Friday, which is the deadline to tender 2018 contracts to players under their control.

The Brewers have until 7 p.m. CT to tender their remaining arbitration-eligible players: starter Jimmy Nelson; relievers Jared Hughes, Jeremy Jeffress and Corey Knebel; and infielders Hernan Perez and Jonathan Villar. If the club opts to non-tender any player from that group, he becomes a free agent.

Milwaukee signed Stephen Vogt to a one-year contract on Friday, avoiding arbitration.

Hot Stove Tracker

Two other Brewers, starter Chase Anderson and reliever Carlos Torres, were also eligible for arbitration at the start of the offseason, but Anderson signed a two-year contract extension on Oct. 26 and the Crew released Torres, freeing him to seek work elsewhere well ahead of Friday's non-tender date.

Here's a look at some of the looming decisions:

STONE-COLD LOCKS

Nelson
Status: First-year eligible
2017 salary: $547,000

Knebel
Status: First-year eligible as a Super Two player
2017 salary: $539,000

Video: CIN@MIL: Knebel seals a 4-3 win for the Brewers

MLB Trade Rumors projects salaries north of $4 million for both Nelson and Knebel, but that won't make the Brewers shy away. Knebel is a special case. With two years and 151 days of service, he qualified as a Super Two, meaning he will have four years of arbitration eligibility instead of the usual three.

CAN MAKE A CASE

Perez
Status: First-year eligible
2017 salary: $546,000

Villar
Status: First-year eligible
2017 salary: $554,000

Hughes
Status: Third-year eligible
2017 salary: $950,000

Video: WSH@MIL: Villar hammers a two-run homer to right

Perez and Villar are each expected to see their salaries rise to the $2 million to $3 million range, but one can build an argument it's worth it. For Perez, the value is in his defensive versatility, not his bat. Only two players logged more than 100 Brewers plate appearances with a lower weighted runs created plus or weighted on-base average than Perez (78 wRC+, .298 wOBA) -- Villar and catcher Jett Bandy.

Villar's 71 wRC+ and .287 wOBA marked a precipitous fall from 2016, when he led the Major Leagues in stolen bases, hit 19 home runs and was so dynamic that the Brewers offered him a contract extension in Spring Training. If they were willing to offer Villar a reported $20 million extension off one good Major League season, doesn't it stand to reason that the Crew would invest $3 million or so in him after one bad season?

Hughes, picked up by the Brewers at the end of Spring Training after the Pirates cut him loose, provided steady bullpen production for a fourth consecutive season. He is a ground-ball pitcher, but he set a career high for a full season with 7.2 strikeouts per nine innings while posting a 1.22 WHIP. He's projected to earn a salary around $2.2 million.

IF THE PRICE IS RIGHT

Jeffress
Status: Second-year eligible
2017 salary: $2.1 million

Video: PIT@MIL: Jeffress strikes out McCutchen swinging

Jeffress has thrived in a Brewers uniform and struggled elsewhere, most recently in Texas after the Crew traded him to the Rangers with Jonathan Lucroy at the 2016 non-waiver Trade Deadline. If he is willing to take a pay cut, there is a chance Jeffress returns, though that would probably mean striking a deal before Friday's deadline.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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